TDL@UsPaar Day 9: Tu achha likh, bura likh… par likh!
Note: In February 2023, Tamaasha Studio Foundation announced a Residential Workshop for Playwrights. Four playwrights – Debi K, Nikhita Singh, Gurleen Judge and Chanakya Vyas – were selected to share drafts of full length plays they are looking to work on.
Over the course of 9 days at Us Paar, the Arts Residency space run by Tamaasha, the 4 playwrights will receive mentorship and guidance from Shanta Gokhale (writer, critic, historian, translator and columnist), Aditya Nigam (professor at Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi), Sameera Iyengar (creative producer and theatre person), Deepa Ganesh (writer, translator, journalist), Rajeev Naik (scholar, critic, playwright, poet), and Vaibhav Abnave (independent researcher and filmmaker).
The four scripts will also be briefly workshopped by Quasar Thakore Padamsee (theatre director, co-founder of QTP India) and Neel Chaudhuri (playwright and director) with actors Dheer Hira, Chakori Dwivedi and Rishabh Kanti. The program has been designed by poet, playwright and director Sapan Saran and co-founder of Tamaasha Theatre Sunil Shanbag.
The Drama Library was asked if we would like to document this process and share daily updates of the discussions, dissections and decisions. And of course we jumped at it.
So here we are, at Us Paar, inviting you to observe and participate in this journey through actor and writer Phalguni Vittal Rao’s daily diary entries.
Has it been nine days already?!
I didn’t want to leave the quiet solitude Kashid offers and go back to a city, which in a span of nine days also became the most polluted in India and second-most in the world. I lost track of time while I was here. I was so far away from the clatter and cacophony of the city; I could drop into what Mary Oliver described as the ‘summoning world’ in her book Blue Pastures. It’s where one can follow the tug of the longing to be in communion with one’s creative spirit and allow oneself to be led by instinct. One’s sense of linear time falls away (which is what happened during this residency!).
On the final day, participants shared what it has been like for them. Gurleen said, “It was a real luxury of time and space to seriously consider your work and discuss it with such rigour.”
“It was reassuring that while there are things that don’t work (in her script), there are things that can be improved or worked upon,” she added. “For my second draft, it is far clearer about what can be achieved.”
For Chanakya and Nikhita, some of the most exciting and engaging parts of the workshop were when conversations flowed and lingered on at the dining table with other playwrights, long after discussions with mentors ceased for the day. “I only thought about my play and the three other plays during this time,” Nikhita shares.
While the nine days were intensive and filled with lots of fun, laughter and valuable lessons, there is always scope for improvement. Chanakya felt that while there was a lot of discussion on the themes of the plays, there was perhaps not enough on the craft of writing. “You can get very enamoured and miss the craft and tools of writing,” he said. He suggested that perhaps having a moderator among the mentors could help. This is something Debi suggested as well. In fact, she promised Sapan to send her a list of suggestions for future iterations of the residency.
It felt strange having to bid goodbye to Rajeev, Vaibhav, Deepa and the participants until it was just Chanakya, Sapan, Dheer and I. The space suddenly felt empty. I could no longer hear people doubling up with laughter from the dining space, most likely over a joke Rajeev cracked or one of Sunil and Shanta’s tales of their encounters with Satyadev Dubey. All we had now was ‘Dubey’ the crocodile (so, yeah, fact check: it’s a crocodile, not an alligator. Alligators are not even found in India, I found to my dismay) and the dogs at Us Paar. By now the puppies had gotten used to us. They’d wag their tails every time they saw me, but they’d still hesitate to come near me. Maybe, that’ll change when I’m back here in March. More on that later.
The last nine days also got me thinking about my own writing practice. I find it hard to sit down and write for a couple of hours at a stretch. I mean, in the course of writing these 500 words, I must have taken a dozen breaks. At first, Miley Cyrus’ song Flowers kept ringing in my head, and then I decided to chat with the Microsoft Bing AI chat bot, which apparently behaves like a depressive teenager, but I found out that it’s being tested in a few countries and India isn’t one of them, so I thought why not try ChatGPT but then it asks me to sign up and I’m like do I really need emails from another web service? No, I don’t so then I realize my cooker isn’t functioning properly so I go to get it repaired and on the way back I remember I need to buy milk so I do that and then I get home and it’s dinner time. I get my dinner out of the fridge, heat it up, eat it while watching The Last of Us, remember to throw the trash out, wash that ever-growing pile of utensils in my sink, I wonder if I should watch Jab We Met, I mean Shahid and Kareena made a good pair and then I remember I really need to finish writing this.
You see how tricky this is for me? I truly want to start and finish writing a full length play this year. It is on my list of things I want to do this year. It’s up on my wall, so it’s legit. I guess I’ll have to live by what Rajeev Naik said: Tu achha likh, bura likh… par likh!