Software Engineer by profession & Co founder of Playtonik Productions from Bengaluru, Deeban has been heading the Production Portfolio for The Hindu Theatre Festival for past 2 years now! Whenever he is not haggling with vendors for reducing transportation costs for the sets transfer, Deeban annoys his team with his vast knowledge of Bollywood songs and equally cheesy dialogues!
The Hindu Theatre Festival comes around once every year in August. And it has been a sensory treat for me to be so close to doing something that I am passionate about for a few of weeks in a year. The rush, the crowd, the mistakes, the anticipation, the thrill of energies that are exchanged by performers and the crew and the exhaustion that is a part of every festival is something that has made me grow and learn so much. Over the last few years working on the festival has given me the opportunity to witness some of the best plays touring the country, unfold on stage, and participate in their entire setup process.
This year was slightly different from all the other times I have handled Production for the festival. I was asked to coordinate and head all the production activities in multiple cities (Bangalore & Hyderabad). It was challenging on a different level. But something that my insides did not want to back down from.
What does this even mean?
It means that I am on multiple calls (literally, hundreds 😊) with the troupe’s production managers, and people who were in charge of the production activities in different cities and making sure that everything was sticking to the schedule.
Tasks primarily include:
- Getting entire or part of the sets that are constructed locally.
- Sourcing the furniture and props required for the plays.
- Coordinating with different vendors for the above and any other cool or not so cool tech requirements like Snow Machines, Smoke and Haze Machines.
- And during show days, helping the troupes with stage setup, packing-up and backstage support.
We had three plays this year for Bangalore and Hyderabad:
- Barff by AGP.
- Khwaab Sa by The Company Theatre and
- Black with Equal by Masque.
This was the most exhaustive and the most interesting round of THTF production for me and possibly for others as well. In the previous editions I had seen that the theatre companies would have chosen to travel with their sets or be very minimalistic in their format, but this time my team’s involvement started 2-3 weeks before the actual show day as the collective production requirements of the groups were very elaborate and we wanted to get everything arranged and ready for seamless show days. Also, this was the first time for me when all the plays did overnight setup.
Barff a thriller set in the picturesque Kashmir, was the play with the most elaborate setup. They had huge sets, snow machines, smoke and haze machines and I was initially nervous as the sets got constructed locally in Bangalore and there were too many elements, but it was a relief as everything just worked out as per the director’s and the team’s requirements. And what a fabulous set it turned out to be, which worked in complimenting a power packed performance by the actors.
And it, of course, not surprisingly, got the standing ovation from the audience.
Barff sets in the making and after
Khwaab Sa from The Company Theatre, was an adaptation of Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and was performed as a Contemporary Dance and Musical comedy. Though very minimal on set design and set items on stage, (like with an infinity white cyclorama and a drum set right at upstage centre), but with the last minute requirements and some reworks due to wrong specs, my team and me were nimble footed and on our toes till the last minute before the actors went on stage.
The final play was Black with Equal by Masque a satirical black comedy, was a laughter riot. From production requirements perspective they just needed some furniture which was arranged. But every play comes with its own sets of surprises. They had a very interesting cyclorama (transparent plastic fiber 4ft x 4ft panels spanning across the whole stage) and it took us the maximum amount of time due to some setbacks in installation. But it was fun collaborating with the Black with Equal team in putting these panels together and getting the cyclorama up and leveled *Sigh of relief* at 6:00 am in the morning.
The next day or rather the same day Black with Equal included rehearsals for backstage team due to sharp set changes between scenes and intermission including moving a dead body off stage :-)
With all this action and laughs Black with Equal surely ended the festival with a high for the audience and for us.
Fervent gratitude is required at this stage as none of this would have been accomplished without my fantabulous Production team in both the cities, teaming up, staying as late as 6:00 am in the morning for setup to reaching the venue early in the mornings and taking care of the production requirements during the day till showtime to packup of the sets which have to be done in the night after the show was over and the audience have left. Whew. That was a long list in itself. A huge thank you to evam for asking me to be a part of this amazing experience.
I guess all of us took the message that goes out during evam’s briefing huddle – “We should treat the Hindu Theatre festival as a wedding in the family and the performers as our guests,” to our hearts and no matter what… Atithi Devo Bhava. 😊