Tuesday, July 23, 2024

‘Har Din Naya Drama: Reconnecting with the theatrical legacy’

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In an exclusive interview with The Pioneer, Shailja Kejriwal the Chief Creative Officer – Special Projects at Zee Entertainment Enterprise, opens up about their recent initiative Har Din Naya Drama

Amartya Smaran

Theatre is one of the oldest art forms. Before radio and television took over the entertainment space, people sought refuge in watching theatre plays. To date, all aspiring actors prefer honing their skills in theatre workshops. Unlike cinema, all the events that take place in a play must be watched in one go. There’s no room for errors as everything happens in front of a live audience. Henceforth, the feedback is instant — sometimes showered by love and at times brutally heckled. More or less, it’s like putting oneself in a vulnerable position.

In an effort to revive the rather alienated art form, Zee Theatre has come up with the Har Din Naya Drama initiative, where the platform would be presenting one play every single day to their viewers. But wait! Aren’t we supposed to watch these plays live — in an auditorium or something? Well! To clear your doubts, we have Shailja Kejriwal with us, who’s the Chief Creative Officer – Special Projects at Zee Entertainment Enterprise.

Giving us some clarity about the initiative, Shailja explained, “Well, don’t we often use the sentence, Har Roz Naya Drama Laga Hi Rehta Hai in our homes? So, the idea was to use this thought in the title with a little humor and wit and connect it to the curation of theatre and tell the audience that we would be bringing a new teleplay every day. We also wanted to convey that we had created enough content to present something new and fresh every day. In this era of multiple entertainment choices, we are bringing an option that is truly unique and encompasses diverse human emotions and genres ranging from humor, satire, tragedy, and thrillers.”

In a technologically advanced world, it is only natural to turn a blind eye to the rich history and heritage of the theatre world. Taking us on a trip down memory lane, the Creative Officer recalled, “Our theatrical heritage goes back to ‘Natya Shastra’ and ‘Mahabharata’ where, if you remember, there is a mention of Arjun enacting the part of Brihannala during the one-year incognito exile of the Pandavas.”

“The crux of Har Din Naya Drama is a reconnection with this inexhaustible literary and theatrical legacy and we hope to curate stories from every region and language. The dramas we are presenting are also significant for archival purposes,” told Shailja and continued, “For instance, someone in Kolkata may never have seen a great play like Hamida Bai Ki Kothi or a young person may never have read Ismat Chughtai, but these teleplays will introduce them to stories they have not had access to. Also this way, a play even after its theatrical run remains accessible and lives on forever. Har Din Naya Drama will showcase plays in Hindi, to begin with, and will also hopefully offer dubbed regional stories subsequently.”

As part of its initiative, the platform has put together a bunch of cult classics from a wide range of genres like dramas, comedies, thrillers, and musicals. “We have curated works of all-time greats like Tagore, Vijay Tendulkar, Jaywant Dalvi, Mohan Rakesh, and Girish Karnad and showcased contemporary voices like Purva Naresh which are successfully encapsulating the issues of our times. From Makrand Deshpande’s long-running Sir Sir Sarla to Tagore’s Chokher Bali to Piya Behrupiya which is a resplendent Indian adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, we are presenting teleplays that are entertaining as well as issue-oriented,” informed Shailja.

The younger demographic has gotten used to watching visually appealing content. All thanks to social media, we have a short attention span of about 15-20 minutes. So, how is Zee Theatre planning to match up to the level of other forms of content that is being produced? “We are not competing with web series or Cinema. We are trying to archive theatre in the best possible way. Therefore, teleplays don’t have multiple sets like a series or cinema would have. They are shot in one stage set with multiple camera set-ups. We want to keep the essence of theatre in these teleplays and give the audience the feel of theatre plays. Also, theatre is more about the stories, while we make sure it is shot in a perfect set,” reiterated Shailja.

Finally, the visionary creator wrapped up the interview by contemplating the future of the theatre industry, “If you were to document the history of Indian theatre, it would go all the way back to the 1st century CE. Theatre continues even today to exist as a medium of protest, a purveyor of mythology, literature, modern thought, and political & social inquiry. It is still alive on the streets, in the theatres, and now on the small screen directly in people’s living rooms. Even during the pandemic, people were performing on Zoom and even the consumption of our teleplays grew manifold. In fact, digital theatre is augmenting the love for live plays, and I see it growing from strength to strength rather than diminishing.”

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