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Gunehar diaries #6 – the wrap up post

The Shop Art Art Shop Residency and Exhibition got over on 14th Jun. I returned to Goa last evening. And it’s time for a wrap up post. I still remember how I had felt first, on reaching the village  – “now that I am in Gunehar, I wonder what stories I am going to end up with, in the next three weeks” (quote from diary #1). As it turned out eventually, I didn’t end up making a story on any of my first ideas (house with the best view, village life, struggle of artists etc. – diary #2). Even the sniper project that I started in the second week (diary #3) did not lead to anything exciting other than a dramatic fight scene (which I started showing as a story in itself, but gradually just retained the most interesting parts of that video for a jingle that I made later). Diary #3 also mentions a “juicy conversation” (quoting below) and that finally did become a story [you can watch it here on 3 Minute Stories’ Facebook page].

…villager approached me…  …shared a lot about his life. Pretty juicy stuff for first meeting – how his first wife had an affair and dumped him, the reasons why he doesn’t like his father, a foreigner who has promised to adopt his children and take them to England and things like that.

Made DharmSadhu click a portrait of mine with a super-fake smile, one day; to be used for “Artist Profiles” posters (that never got made eventually).

The stories that I eventually did create and screened have their origins in my thought process by the end of second week –  “…find one specific subject in each generation category and then shoot him / her + do a bit of interview to put together something that at least resembles a story”.

The first story that I finished editing was on Maniram (sharing it below). To read up more on how this story happened, you can visit my blog on 3 Minute Stories.

By the time I wrote my last diary from Gunehar, I already had two more stories ready + 1 super duper cute jingle. You can watch Indira and Chhangu’s story on Facebook (the video description on FB also explains how the story happened). It’s a simple story about a woman and her hopes and desires from her teenage son.

The exhibition part of the residency was only two days away. So I started tidying up my shop (this residency was not only about making documentaries, but also about managing a space like a multimedia installation). I am not a space person, so it took me considerable time and effort. I am thankful to Eeint (the bottle guy from diary #5) who helped me with some good ideas about setting up the space.

3 Minute Stories Shop in Gunehar.
Because I didn’t like a single picture of my shop taken by anyone (after it was setup), I finally had to direct a photograph myself, with biwi as my cameraman. Biwi had come over for few days in the third week, then left for a trek in Manali and then, joined me again in the last 5 days of the programme.

The final week was more about screening my stories every time someone came to my shop. I also found enough time to edit a new story (the juicy one, mentioned above).

My village multiplex offered a variety of seating arrangements 😛 Maniram – protagonist of one story, stares from the screen at Shivang – the kid who features in another story.
Children were frequent visitors to my shop. The Italy Holioke was their favourite screening.


I would also go out once in a while during power-cuts (that were rare) or during rains to make images.

Ran into a guy who said he worked in Goa for many years, selling tshirts. He has a German girlfriend who wants to invest in a cafe / guest-house in Gunehar. He took me to his house and made tea for me as I clicked a picture of his niece and her neighborhood friend.
Terra’s landlord spends moments of solitude in his house, as it rains outside.
He introduces me to his new baby goat, after the rain stops.

Two days before the event / residency ended, there was a dance programme by the villagers and a trial Gaddi fashion show. There would be an even bigger function on the closing night, but I didn’t take any pictures then; so sharing the ones from this prior evening.

The hero of my 3 Minute Jingle from Gunehar.
The gathering was 3 to 4 times bigger on the closing ceremony two days later.
Gaddi fashion show models await their turn.
Not everything happens on stage. Some happen under it too. Especially for those who can fit in! 🙂
The young audience.
The old audience.

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After his own performance, God and His mother enjoy performances by others.
Ken’s 360 degree camera tries venturing into new territories, during the Gaddi fashion show.


A true God always finds His devotees.


Unfortunately, after all the amazing time that I had in Gunehar (sans the falling sick and accidental formatting of memory card once), the biggest shit that happened to me, was during the closing ceremony. 🙁

Maniram’s story had just started when 4T decided to change the angle of the screen. Yes, in the middle of the screening with thousands of villagers watching. I am sure 4T just wanted more people to get a good view. But everyone who has set up a home projector that has couple of wires going from here to there, knows that it’s a fragile setup and any lose wire can shut off the screening. While in a home setup, that’s fine because it usually doesn’t take more than 5 minutes to sort things out, in a public screening, it can lead to chaos. In my case, because of the abrupt and unplanned change in the way the screen was put up, I had to readjust my projector and in the process, the sound cable probably got loose from some point (and there were too many points). Sound stopped. And I could not figure out why, for about a minute. So yes, the screening stopped. So did my heart. 4T soon announced on mic that because most villagers had anyway seen my movies, it was ok.  And I guess it was indeed ok for many. But boy, what a heart-breaking moment that was for me (I can still feel the pain). I was in pain and I was angry. For many hours following that, I kept wondering how amazing it would have been, had 4T not tried adjusting the screen in the middle of a screening. But then, was it really his fault? He just forgot to take into account the fragility of the whole setup when he decided to do what he did. He only wanted more people to watch the screening properly.

The local singers took over the stage immediately and I zoned out, unable to focus on anything. I am sure majority of the villagers had indeed already seen the stories in some screening or the other, as 4T had rightly said. But I also knew many in the audience had not. And in any case, this was not about who had seen the stories and who had not. For me, it was simply the biggest gathering of audience who were watching it and that’s a difference experience altogether.

Eeint saw me dissolving in the background, and could read my expressions. He hung out with me for a while. Some villagers offered booze and I tried to feel normal again. But in spite of trying so for few hours, (I even went up the stage, dressed like a Gaddi and did a bit of drunk dance), I finally realized I had to deal with the fiasco on my own. I had to let it sink in, stop blaming anyone and move on. Shit happens all the time and that evening was just my unlucky day. While the rest of the artists partied till late night, I chose to skip my dinner and went to sleep. Sleep came very late. It was the worst possible way the festival could have ended for me.

During the last night, someone took away this chap’s cap and placed it on my head to make me look like a complete Gaddi. We did run into each other later and he got back his cap.
Real kids playing with painted kids in Gunehar. Artwork by Kaki and a team of Kangra miniature artists.

‘Where had you disappeared last night?’, Kaki asked me the next day. She added that everyone had missed me and all of that. I wondered if I should make an excuse. I didn’t. “I was not in a great mood yesterday”, I gave her an honest reply. I think she understood.

The bigger question is, does one fiasco really take away all the wonderful things that I experienced during my 4 week stay in Gunehar? No, it doesn’t.

So to sum it up, I would love to wrap up my Gunehar diary on a happy and positive note. My stay was about:

  • back to back hard work, doing something that I really liked doing;
  • creating films on purely personal stories for the first time;
  • screening my Gunehar stories for several days, both for villagers and visitors (who often complimented – but then I never take compliments too seriously – most people do it out of politeness anyway, don’t they? 🙂 )
  • consuming amazing food on most days (and a crazy variety) – thanks to my (now) friends from Goa;
  • getting to see, meet and interact with so many different kinds of artists;
  • McDowell’s No. 1 every single night :D;
  • and last but not the least, growing up some more, as an individual – with a new life experience.

May life be interesting always. Full of things to write and talk about, like this! Over and out for now!



What happened to Barabbus?

What happened to Barabbus? Neither Bible nor wikiAnswers will tell you that. But you can hear that out from Barabbus himself – played by Bala – starting this Thursday evening.

Play: Barabbus
Venue: Alliance Francaise de Chennai, College Road, Nungambakkam
Actor cum Director: Bala (he runs theatre Nisha)
06 November 2008 (Thursday) – 7 PM (one show)
07 (Friday) – 09 (Sunday) November 2008 -3 PM and 7 PM (two shows daily)
Tickets: 100 bucks (students get discount)

I am going for the Friday 7 PM show. CU there.


Play overview as put forth by Bala:

The play is based on a short novel by a Nobel Prize winner dude (Par Lagerkvist) that tries to explain what happens to Barabbas – the criminal, after the crowd chooses to crucify Jesus and spare his life. The play begins with Barabbas being freed. He is in a state of bewilderment, and something within him leads him to follow Christ to the cross, where he witnesses the death.  Afterwards, he tries to pick up the pieces of his life and wanders through town. By coincidence, he encounters some of the 12 apostles at a small cafe without knowing who they are, though they know who he is. When he discovers their identities, he is somewhat drawn to them yet repulsed by their poorly-concealed anger. In quick succession, he witnesses the stoning of a female friend, works as a laborer on a wealthy estate, and travels to Rome. There he sees Rome burn down around him, discovers that this was done on orders of the emperor to be blamed on the Jews. He is captured along with some Jews (some of whom he recognizes from Golgotha) and killed.

The theme of death is pervasive throughout the play, as it starts with the death of Christ and ends with the death of Barabbas. Death seems to follow Barabbas at every step. He somehow feels this, but does not try to run; he has nowhere and no one to run to. Nearly all the people he meets end up dying; often at the hand of others. Death is truly inescapable in the life of Barabbas, and he comes to realize near the end of the play that it is not how or when you die, but what you die for, something Christ tried to show him and everyone else.

Review theatre

Play Review: Doubles, Triples and Quadruples

It’s quite late to review it now. Hindu has already done that and I agree to the review more or less. I had also read about this play in Leftit’s blog (an insti junior, an ex-hostel-mate and a friend) who had seen the play in Bang where it was peformed earlier. Well, but then they say it’s never too late and so goes the review.

The play was okay. It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t great. It was honest. Actors were good. You know what? This play was like Jaane tu ya Jaane na. There was nothing wrong or painful in it. But at the same time, there was nothing really powerful enough to have an impact. You see the sketches (there were like six to eight of them by the way), the play gets over, you come back home and then you say to yourself: yeah I watched a play and didn’t get bored but at the same time, I also do not remember much of what I just saw. Got the point?

But, but, but. What did have impact and things that I did remember were the fillers between the sketches. Every time a sketch or two got over and the set needed to be changed, an actor would come up on stage and start telling some experience from his or her life. I loved TMK’s and Shakila’s. What they talked about was hilarious and cute at the same time. In fact everyone else’s monologue about specific life experiences was good except Kalayani’s who was the only other actress in the play besides Shakila. Her’s was boring. Actually on a technical note, Kalyani’s voice coming through the speakers did not sound good in any of her sketches. It was too shrill for the ear.

What else, what else, what else? I guess that’s about it. I like talking more about the quality than the content. If there is anything else that deserves a mention then it’s the high percentage of original content.

Final comments: good effort at writing orginal sketches, good acting, costly tickets by Chennai standards, amazing marketing but definitely not a classic.


This weekend’s play…

…is by Evam. I guess I might show up for the Saturday show.

In Evam’s words, the play “tries to capture Life’s moments in all shapes and sizes, a palate of varied colours and shades, an array of music compositions and inspired notes, a laugh, guffaw, giggle, roar, grin or a simple grin and smile“. It’s going to be more or less on the lines of story-telling by different characters on stage, much like Retell, and I guess I would like to see where it stands.

Anyone joining?


Hi Mamalla here

I am the Prince. No, wait. I was the prince rather. Yeah I know I missed my first monologue but I did come on time for my second monologue.

Shivakami, I swear by all that I hold sacred that I will wreak venegence on the Chalukyas. I will killllll Pulikesi and destroyyy his people. I will torture this city which held my darling captive. ………..

It would have been nicer if I had been able to show up for the first monologue also. But by the time I came back after changing dress from the green room that was little far off and aloof from the happenings on the stage, the scene had moved on. 🙁

It was nice fun performing in Bang. There were more than 100 folks. Bro had shown up too. And right now, I am all cozying up in uncles’s flat waiting for the mooli-paraantha to arrive soon from Chachi’s kitchen. By the way, I need to catch the train soon for Chennai. Tomorrow is the first day at job. Yayy. Hug me.


Post-Bhuto post

Before I begin, thanks everyone who turned up. Thank you so much. Muaah.

Alright, here I go. I don’t know about the acting bit, but I loved it when Prachi threw that look of disbelief at me when I told her it actually was me who was answering my own questions while playing Akrur Chowdhary, the ventriloquist who talked to an invisible guy, on stage. I actually pulled of ventriloquism. Heh. Nice. She thought Bala was shouting from Green Room. I can make for a good ventriloquist I guess. 😛

I was kinda nervous yesterday and let few words slip here and there, but more or less I managed to pull off a sufficiently tight performance. The body language could definitely have been used more effectively. With time, I shall improve.

What everyone loved yesterday was the last part of my story where I played the land-lord. The bihari accent and the body language that came out for the land-lord Suresh Mastuddi, struck a wonderful cord with everyone out there (though sadly, the turn-out was unsatisfactory). All in all it was fun playing four characters and creating five different voices in twenty minutes.

Retell Redone was obviously better than Retell and no, not because I was there in one of the shows (LOL, wish I could say that though) but because this time they/we (whatever applies :P), had nice music and vocals going on. Ipe on flute, Varun on veena and Jaya on vocals added a lot of class to the entire two hours show. If you missed this stuff, you missed something man, you really did. In the review for Retell, I had written how Bala could have done better. In Retell Redone, you should have seen him; so cute. But Sumukhi, of course was just the best! Bow to her! Her acting simply touched the heart once again, because as always it came out like so much of a real thing. Anaro Bano has to be the cutest Iraninan mother.

Ok. Done. Time to move on. I still feel like narrating the entire script to me every half an hour. 🙂 The play season is not going to end for me. See me in Pondicherry coming weekend playing the role of Prince Mamalla in Gowri Ramnarayan’s Flame of the Forest.

Sivakami, in kutto ke saamne mat naachna. Mai aa raha hoon Pulikesi, mai aa raha hoon.


Watch me perform Bhuto…

…in the last show of Retell Redone at 7 PM this Sunday (29th June 2008) at Alliance France, Nungambakkam Chennai. Tickets come for 100 bucks (50 for students with i-cards) and can be picked up directly at the venue. If you want me to block it for you, let me know and I will gladly do so.

Retell Redone is nothing but Retell being redone. 🙂 LOL! Okay, alright that was a dumb statement to make but anyway.. so yeah.. I had blogged about Retell earlier. I had also reviewed the play. The play consists of six short stories, one of which I am doing now (for just one show). Ironically, I had rated Bhuto 2/10 the last time I saw the play. 😛 LOL, seriously, what can be more ironical than doing some stuff that you yourself didn’t like?

You know what, let me just be frank and do some self-analysis here. Why did I accept this role?

Varun had performed Bhuto in the previous shows and will be doing it for the other three shows of Retell Redone (totally there are two shows on Sat and two shows on Sunday). Now, he has been doing theater for quite some time now (quite some years actually) and he no doubt, is a good actor. So am I trying to prove that I will be able to do better acting than him? LOL! I really don’t think so.

Forget about controlling my body-language (over which most of these theater guys have beautiful command), I am busy most of the times simply trying to speak normally without any vague accent creeping in. I am an actor, I know it, and pretty natural one on that (heh, how much more can one praise oneself? 😛 ), but theater needs much more than just acting dude. Like every art, there is a lot to be learnt. So well, yeah, coming back to the original question, why the fuck did I still pick up the role then?

Heh, the answer is simple da. Varun ain’t free on Sunday evening! 😛

When Bala, the director, asked me (I don’t know why he did that indirectly though), if I would be interested in doing that one show, I just said yes. Now, the tricky question is this: is it justified to promote my performance, just because ‘I’ am doing one show, even when I’m performing something that has already been performed by someone who, in my own opinion is obviously a better actor, and especially when I myself did not like Bhuto?

But what to do? Ego re! I can only wish that you guys who come to watch me, don’t get disappointed. Although I so wish so, I actually have no bloody reason in this world to believe why that should happen. All I know is that I am going to have fun doing that on stage. All I hope for is that you guys have fun too.

Hey, wait a second. There is another reason too. Shit, how could I forget Sumukhi! Did you check out the review by any chance? If you did, then you must have read this observation that I had to make for another story performed in Retell, with Sumukhi in the lead:

Pomegranate lady and her sons: The 100 bucks that I paid to watch Retell was worth it all just for this single story.

So, the best thing about turning up for the show would be that, even if Bhuto still sucks, you still get value for your money. 😀 Now, tell me my dear phrand, do you have any reason not to show up? 🙂 Chalo, map shap dekh lo neeche aur aa jaana time pe. And if it makes you happy, rehearsals are going good.



Play review: Wedding Album

Pre-review fart

This play wasn’t shown in one of the regular auditoriums in Chennai. It was put up in Le Royal Meridian, a five start hotel in the city. There were three kinds of tickets with three different rates: 2k, 3k and 5k. Of course, I didn’t pay for it or for that matter no one paid for it. Yes, I watched it for free. How? Well you should have journalists as your friends and then you might as well get invited to such free parties.

I call it a party because, they offered free booze before the play and during the intermission and then free dinner after the play (free as in it came along with the pass/ticket). This kind of stuff is called supper play theatre (about which I read today in Week| web-link). And believe me, nothing can beat enjoying all this for free. I had no clue that this was how it was going to be till I actually entered the hall inside the hotel. Thankfully, I had put on a shirt yesterday (usually I am always running around in country clothes). But well, I guess I was the only guy in chappals there! 🙂 Being amidst all the richie rich fat asses sometimes does start getting uncomfortable. Free party and slight discomfort come as a package I guess.


Nice acting. Most of the actors in this play were folks I had already seen on TV, like this dude from Shanti who had played Raj G J Singh, or this lady who I had seen as Saif’s girl friend in Dil Chahta Hai. The play has been written by Girish Karnad and was fast moving. Overall it was good, but I would have surely appreciated it more had it been staged in a normal auditorium. It was really difficult to see the actors on stage, with all those tables lying around. My neck started aching soon as I tried my best to keep my eyes focussed on the stage.

By the way, it was directed by Lilette Dubey, the actress who played Nasiruddin Shah’s wife in Monsoon Wedding (MW). Her daughter (who must be my age) was in yesterday’s play too and I guess even she did some role in MW.

So yeah, the play was good and enjoyable but I am not sure how many present there were there because of the play. I mean who pays so much money to watch a play even if its a good one? The whole event to me was like a social gathering of the rich, where few empty-pockets like me get a chance to cash. 🙂

PS: Play plot

It was a two hours long play mostly revolving around the marriage of a middle class educated girl. She is being fixed in a marriage with a US based guy of her own caste and is she is happy about it. Her elder sister too was married off to a NRI hubby and she is in home now to prepare for the marriage. Her bro who is working for this marriage is caught himself in a sub-plot as an elderly couple who are family friends with this family show up to lure him into marrying their daughter. The play is not much about the story but more about the kind of conversations people in a family have: between mom and married daughter, mom and unmarried daughter, two sisters, mom and baai, mom and dad, brother and mom and on and on. The marriage thing going around only provides a nice background for these conversations to keep going.


ASAP Funny Festival

Theater enthusiasts can catch up with the following comedy plays, all by different directors. All the plays will be performed at Sivagami Petachi Audi, Chennai from 7:15 pm in the evening.

May 16th – “COMPULSION CONFESSION INTERROGATION” by MTC Productions Directed by Mithran Devanesan

May 17th – “LOVE HURTS” by Stagefright Productions Directed by Freddy Koikaran

May 18th – “LAUGHTER WITHOUT FRILLS-4” by Masquerade Directed by KK

May 23rd – “MAHENDRA SABHA” by Theatre Nisha Direced by V.Balakrishnan

May 24th – “TWICE AROUND THE PARK” by Boardwalkers Directed by Michael Muthu

May 25th – “RUN FOR YOUR WIFE” by ASAP Directed by Amit Singh


Play Review: Retell

Retell was a play of six short stories performed by different actors. Here’s a quick review of all six of them.

1. Patol Babu – Film Star: The story was okay and Bala was good. Not a bad start but not too impressive. Bala can, and has, done way better things before. I would give this piece an overall rating of 4/10.

2. Bhuto: Avoidable. No one liked it for sure. I would give it 2/10. By the time this one ended, everyone’s expectations went down quite a bit.

3. The Pterodactyl’s egg: Very funny and entertaining story about a freaky guy who carried with him a small portable time machine. Naresh did a wonderful job. I would give it 5/10.

4. The Shemiran bus: Bad boring and irritating. Everyone lost track of the story. 2/10.

5. Pomegranate lady and her sons’: The 100 bucks that I paid to watch Retell was worth it all just for this single story. Sumukhi who played the old lady played it so well that you almost felt like going to the stage and hugging her. Lovely. Loved it. Everyone loved it. Straight 8/10.

6. The Encounter: Fairly good given that it was a very serious play. This probably had the maximum scope for direction because it had maximum number of actors, and this definitely was the best directed story. 5/10.