V.K. SANTOSH KUMAR
Most Marathi theatre productions in the past six months have been readings of plays written before the Covid-19 pandemic or dramatic monologues by actors.
A group of artistes in Singapore, the United States and Ireland changed that trend on Sept 26.
They staged a play, Lockdown Chya Polya (Roti in Lockdown), live on Zoom which was watched by more than 200 families in Singapore, India, Japan, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and Sweden.
"We believe ours is one of the first, if not the first, play written specifically for online performances in the Covid-19 period," said Gautam Marathe, who wrote the script and conceptualised the play along with director Swapna Mirashi, who is based in Cincinnati, US. "It is about people in lockdown by people in lockdown for people in lockdown.
"The idea came from online theatre reading gatherings organised under Natyaranga, a theatre interest group under the Maharashtra Mandal Singapore (MMS). We realised that if the theatre performances have moved online, the stories also need to.
"This actually liberated us to cooperate and showcase without geographical boundaries."
The 50-minute one-act play, which was put out on Zoom by MMS, is about conversations, relationships and life's simple pleasures.
It is laced with humour and captures the drama in an ordinary Indian family during the pandemic.
"From conceiving the idea, it took us about three months to script and stage the play," said Gautam. "We did about 30-odd rehearsals with the actors (Geetanjali Joshi and Gautam) and technical crew (Varun Ambike and Shubhen Phanse) in Singapore, the director in Cincinnati and the music director (Akshay Awadhani) in Dublin, Ireland.
"Lockdown Chya Polya is an example of what this 'life in constraints' has given us - the ability to collaborate on creative projects beyond borders and time zones."
The actors and the tech crew themselves change the camera angles during the live performances to give the audience an immersive view.
"The dialogues were excellent and the online presence was very well coordinated," said Mr Mandar Joshi, an automotive research and development leader in Pune, India, who watched the play.
"The concept of screening a drama online was totally new to me but I think the actors did a fabulous job and my family enjoyed it from our home."
MMS president Ashish Pujari said: "The story of a middle-aged couple separated by the lockdown is common, but the script captured nuances that are atypical of the Marathi culture which increases its appeal to the audience.
"The entire play was put up by MMS members and we are very proud of them and our achievement in honing such talent in Singapore.
"Looking at the response to the first show, we have decided to stage a second show for the regional audience."