“Theatre changes your life over a couple of hours,” says Harika Vedula, founder, The We _ Us Collective, curator and organiser of the Manam Theatre Festival that begins in Hyderabad this weekend, bringing together performers and artists from all over India with a few international performances as well.
“The idea behind was to celebrate culture and we are trying to do that with performing arts by including every form of art, be it music, dance, design, acting, and even puppetry,” she adds.
Over the next four weekends, Manam Theatre Festival will not only give the city of Hyderabad the massive opportunity to taste performing arts in its truest form, but also be part of other fringe activities such as workshops, conversations, story-telling sessions that are designed not only for adults but children as well. The agenda? To create an immersive experience that puts people back in touch with our creative side.
“One of the main aspects of Manam was to highlight diversity in theatre, any kind of theatre. I have been in this space since 2010 and over time I noticed an odd dissonance in the community. It’s no one’s fault, people are just happy in their comfort zones, the people they work with, the things they do, they don’t really want to break out of it,” Harika explains. The point is to engage and experiment, she says. “Do something that you are not used to, experiment with what is not familiar.”
The method behind the madness
Curating the festival was a tough task, it involved a lot of insight, perspective, back and forth, conversations and diligent planning. “It definitely does not just happen automatically. So many elements come into play, practicality, availability, suitability,” she says. But in the end, Harika says that it’s quite serendipitous how the four weekends happened in a way that one is so different from another. “When your goal is diversity, the one running factor that is important is that the performances be inherently well-travelled, relevant and engaging,” she adds.
The 37-year-old, who fell in love with theatre when she was about 11, says that what’s intrinsically magical about theatre is that it just changes your place in society, albeit for a few hours. “You get to put on some makeup, costume and just become someone else,” Harika says.
What's on the agenda
The lineup of performances at the theatre festival includes shows such as Shakkar Ke Paanch Daane by Kissago, a Hyderabad-based troupe, a play written by Manav Kaul, About Ram and The Nights, a puppetry-based performance, both performed by Katkatha from Delhi and directed by Anurupa Roy, Petromax Panchayat by Hyderabad-based Curtain Call theatre, directed by Surabhi Santhosh, Bali by Puducherry’s Adishakti, written and directed by Nimmy Raphel. Adishakti will also perform Bhoomi, directed and written by Vinay Kumar and adapted from Sara Joseph’s Bhoomirakshasa.
And then there’s Afghanistan Is Not Funny by the UK-based award-winning playwright Henry Naylor; and The Far Post, and Elephant in The Room by the Dur Se Brothers of Mumbai. Both the performances have been directed by Yuki Ellias.
Manam Theatre Festival begins on November 24 and ends December 17, and will be held across multiple venues in Hyderabad. Details and tickets here.