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Let’s connect over Chai-Wai and theatre

National and international personalities come together for online sessions by Mumbai’s Coconut Theatre. Dharitri Ganguly explores the possibilities

All the world’s a stage. The global pandemic has left all of life’s performers numb, struggling to express ourselves amid the atmosphere of negativity and uncertainty.

To fight these demons amid the lockdown, theatre artistes have taken stage virtually to alleviate the sense of helplessness.

And in these trying times, Coconut Theatre, from Mumbai, thought, “Online theatre, why not?”

Adil Hussain

The group, a wing of Coconut Media Box, has taken on Chai-Wai & Rangmanch – 2020,  an ambitious and challenging project during this worldwide lockdown.

It involves an array of new and classic plays with eminent story-lines, performances and star casts, all under one roof.

Theatre practitioners of seven countries worldwide have taken part in this project.

A session has been arranged every day with a theatre expert from India or abroad, Coconut Theatre’s Facebook Page at 6pm.

Veteran actors, award-winning playwrights and directors, make-up specialists, music composers, designers, choreographers and technicians share their golden experiences and their inspiration.

Their experiences are set to  inspire aspiring theatre students, amateur theatre artists, writers, directors, music composers, choreographer, make-up artists, designers, technicians and theatre groups and the entire theatre fraternity.

Prakash Belawadi

These sessions are open for all and no registration is required.

The first episode of Season 1 was held on April 25.

These sessions have been a great source of infotainment.

These informative sessions keep the theatre audience entertained and the number of viewers keeps going up every day. In spite of different time zones, viewers prefer to watch these sessions live.

For example, a gentleman from California, USA, wakes up at 5am daily just to attend the live sessions.

Because of its national and international reach, a few international theatre experts have already approached Coconut Theatre to host their sessions on Chai-Wai & Rangmanch – 2020.

The speakers come from various cultures, age groups.

Apara Mehta

Some of them took up the challenge in spite of not being tech savvy and accepted the invitation willingly for the online session.

Senior theatre experts, some of whom are above 80 years of age, took part in this willingly.

Stalwart theatre and Bollywood personalities like Makarand Deshpande, Sonali Kulkarni, Mahesh Dattani, K.K. Raina, Lillete Dubey, Rakesh Bedi, Ananth Mahadevan, Raghubir Yadav, Lubna Salim, Darshan Jariwala, Siddharth Randeria, Ila Arun, Aanjjan Srivastava, Kewal Dhaliwal, Alok Chatterjee, Salim Arif, Saif Hyder Hasan, Asif Ali Beg, Tiku Talsania, Sachin Khedekar, Sandip Soparrkar, Vijay Kenkre, Nina Kulkarni, Jayati Bhatia, Suchitra Pillai, Vipul Mehta, Jimit Trivedi, Rajoo Barot, Ramesh Talwar, Chandrkant Kulkarni, Padma Shri Awardee Waman Kendre and Balwant Thakur, C. Basavalingaiah, T.S. Nagabharana, singer and actress Pallavi MD, Prakash Belawadi, Nina Tiwama, theatre and bollywood actors Sharman Joshi, Rajpal Yadav, Rajat Kapoor, Adil Hussain and Ananth Mahadevan, eminent writer Ranjit Kapoor and Saumya Joshi, actor Sumeet Raghavan, director Parvez Akhtar, actresses Apara Mehta and Bharati Achrekar have already done their sessions or will do very soon.

Pallavi MD

The topics to be discussed in the sessions from July 20 to 26 include Finding your rhythm, Challenges and Opportunities for Performing Art during Pandemic, Conflict in Drama, Learning Acting: Teaching Acting and Responsibility of Art Practitioner.

Global theatre experts like writer-director David Woods from Australia, international production designer Neil Patel (production designer of Mughal-E-Azam-The Musical) from USA, Megan Furniss – playwright from South Africa, actor-director Glenn Hayden from Australia, writer-actor-director Jessica Litwak from California, USA, writer-director Ana Cândida Carneiro from the USA, three-times Tony Award Winner Scott Pask from USA, actor-director Motshabi Tyelele from South Africa and renowned writer-director Jeff Baron from the USA have also been added to Coconut Theatre’s repertoire.

Ananth Mahadevan

Indian theatre industry has minimal support from the audience, corporates and other bodies compared to Bollywood, sports, music and other digital entertainment platforms but this venture has showcased phenomenal results. Indian and International theatre fraternity have appreciated the initiative and series of sessions.

The theatre, film and television actor Rakesh Bedi told NewsFileOnline.in: “It was extremely enjoyable because they brought so many theatre stalwarts, actors, directors on one platform for so many days, almost without any gap. I really enjoyed sharing my story, and listening to others. People take interviews of people involved in films, but no one asks about the theatre practitioners. Not only that, to get first-hand knowledge from such stalwarts will be extremely beneficial for those who are planning to take up theatre, or have already started their journey.”

Eminent personalities such as Padma Shri and Sangeet Natak Akademi award winner Rita Ganguly, Bansi Kaul, Manoj Joshi, M.S. Sathyu, Neelam Mansingh, Satish Alekar, Dadi Pudumjee and Sangeet Natak Akademi Award winner Dolly Ahluwalia, Prasanna Sir, music director Kuldeep Singh, professor Ashok Bhagat, Suresh Sharma (director , National School of Drama), Amod Bhatt, Anjana Puri, Sanjay Upadhyay, Rohini Hattangady, Nadira Babbar and Himani Shivpuri have done their sessions.

Salim Arif, a renowned writer and director, said: “This gave us an opportunity to look back and talk about issues which are important for us and the theatre. Secondly, we got to know a lot about each other, how they are feeling today. It was nice to know their points of view. I guess it’s a great documentation of most of the important theatre practitioners of India.”

Rashmin Majithia – Managing Director, Coconut Media Box LLP

“I think what it has done, at least for me, is that it has pulled me out from this doom and gloom,” said Saif Hyder Hasan, playwright, director and producer. “And I think they have built up a brilliant think-tank. Such a consolidated effort, every day without fail. It is a great commendable effort, and a first of its kind.”

Actor and director Ananth Mahadevan, who has a session scheduled for July 24, said: “It started off as an idea to talk to theatre personalities in different departments, but after a phenomenal response, it turned out to be a kind of a masterclass that deserves to be archived. These sessions can be kept as reference material that will help a lot of people who plan to get into theatre or theatre enthusiasts. This has turned out to be much bigger than what it has started off.”

Rashmin Majithia, the managing director of Coconut Media Box LLP, said: “The objective is to connect the entire theatre fraternity locally and globally on one platform to emphasise avenue of learning and also to build a career. Our vision is to achieve 100 and more sessions before July 31. This archive will be available shortly on Coconut Theatre YouTube Channel at  no cost.”

Team NewsFile