quick reads

The big news: RBI staff accuse Centre of interference after note ban and nine other stories

In other headlines: 30 jallikattu supporters were detained in Madurai, and khadi commission chief said using Gandhi's picture in calendar is not a compulsion.

A look at the headlines right now:

  1. RBI’s image got ‘dented beyond repair’ after demonetisation, employees’ union tells Urjit Patel: In a letter to the governor, the United Forum of Reserve Bank Officers and Employees alleged ‘unwarranted interference from the Finance Ministry’.
  2. Jallikattu supporters baton-charged, 30 detained in Madurai on the first day of Pongal: Tamil actor Rajinikanth extended his support to the banned bull-taming sport on Friday.
  3. No rule that only Gandhi’s picture can be used, says khadi commission chief: This whole controversy around Narendra Modi’s photo being used in the calendar is ‘unnecessary and out of the context’, said VK Saxena.
  4. David Guetta concert in Mumbai rescheduled for Sunday, Greater Noida show moved to Delhi: The tickets meant for Friday’s show in Mumbai will be valid for the rescheduled event, organisers said.
  5. Zakir Naik’s NGO challenges Home Ministry ban in Delhi High Court: The Centre has been asked to produce relevant records to explain the need for an immediate ban on the Islamic Research Foundation.
  6. WhatsApp denies report on alleged security backdoor that allows conversations to be intercepted: The Facebook-owned messaging service said that it had been transparent about government requests it received to override its end-to-end encryption.
  7. US Congress approves budget measure to begin repealing Obamacare: The House of Representatives voted 227-198 to draft a legislation by January 27 to abolish the health care Act.
  8. ICSE exams to begin on March 10, ISC papers on January 30: The Council for Indian School Certificate Examination rescheduled the tests as some of them clashed with the polling dates.
  9. N Chandrasekaran will take the company to new heights, says Ratan Tata: The former TCS chief’s appointment as the new Tata Sons chairperson was a ‘well-deserved recognition of his proven leadership capabilities’, he said.
  10. Lord Snowdon, renowned photographer and Princess Margaret’s former husband, dies aged 86: He died peacefully in his house, a family spokesperson said.
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In a first, some of the finest Indian theatre can now be seen on your screen

A new cinematic production brings to life thought-provoking plays as digital video.

Though we are a country besotted with cinema, theatre remains an original source of provocative stories, great actors, and the many deeply rooted traditions of the dramatic arts across India. CinePlay is a new, ambitious experiment to bring the two forms together.

These plays, ‘filmed’ as digital video, span classic drama genre as well as more experimental dark comedy and are available on Hotstar premium, as part of Hotstar’s Originals bouquet. “We love breaking norms. And CinePlay is an example of us serving our consumer’s multi-dimensional personality and trusting them to enjoy better stories, those that not only entertain but also tease the mind”, says Ajit Mohan, CEO, Hotstar.

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The idea was conceptualised by Subodh Maskara and Nandita Das, the actor and director who had early experience with street theatre. “The conversation began with Subodh and me thinking how can we make theatre accessible to a lot more people” says Nandita Das. The philosophy is that ‘filmed’ theatre is a new form, not a replacement, and has the potential to reach millions instead of thousands of people. Hotstar takes the reach of these plays to theatre lovers across the country and also to newer audiences who may never have had access to quality theatre.

“CinePlay is merging the language of theatre and the language of cinema to create a third unique language” says Subodh. The technique for ‘filming’ plays has evolved after many iterations. Each play is shot over several days in a studio with multiple takes, and many angles just like cinema. Cinematic techniques such as light and sound effects are also used to enhance the drama. Since it combines the intimacy of theatre with the format of cinema, actors and directors have also had to adapt. “It was quite intimidating. Suddenly you have to take something that already exists, put some more creativity into it, some more of your own style, your own vision and not lose the essence” says Ritesh Menon who directed ‘Between the Lines’. Written by Nandita Das, the play is set in contemporary urban India with a lawyer couple as its protagonists. The couple ends up arguing on opposite sides of a criminal trial and the play delves into the tension it brings to their personal and professional lives.

Play

The actors too adapted their performance from the demands of the theatre to the requirements of a studio. While in the theatre, performers have to project their voice to reach a thousand odd members in the live audience, they now had the flexibility of being more understated. Namit Das, a popular television actor, who acts in the CinePlay ‘Bombay Talkies’ says, “It’s actually a film but yet we keep the characteristics of the play alive. For the camera, I can say, I need to tone down a lot.” Vickram Kapadia’s ‘Bombay Talkies’ takes the audience on a roller coaster ride of emotions as seven personal stories unravel through powerful monologues, touching poignant themes such as child abuse, ridicule from a spouse, sacrifice, disillusionment and regret.

The new format also brought many new opportunities. In the play “Sometimes”, a dark comedy about three stressful days in a young urban professional’s life, the entire stage was designed to resemble a clock. The director Akarsh Khurana, was able to effectively recreate the same effect with light and sound design, and enhance it for on-screen viewers. In another comedy “The Job”, presented earlier in theatre as “The Interview”, viewers get to intimately observe, as the camera zooms in, the sinister expressions of the interviewers of a young man interviewing for a coveted job.

Besides the advantages of cinematic techniques, many of the artists also believe it will add to the longevity of plays and breathe new life into theatre as a medium. Adhir Bhat, the writer of ‘Sometimes’ says, “You make something and do a certain amount of shows and after that it phases out, but with this it can remain there.”

This should be welcome news, even for traditionalists, because unlike mainstream media, theatre speaks in and for alternative voices. Many of the plays in the collection are by Vijay Tendulkar, the man whose ability to speak truth to power and society is something a whole generation of Indians have not had a chance to experience. That alone should be reason enough to cheer for the whole project.

Play

Hotstar, India’s largest premium streaming platform, stands out with its Originals bouquet bringing completely new formats and stories, such as these plays, to its viewers. Twenty timeless stories from theatre will be available to its subscribers. Five CinePlays, “Between the lines”, “The Job”, “Sometimes”, “Bombay Talkies” and “Typecast”, are already available and a new one will release every week starting March. To watch these on Hotstar Premium, click here.

This article was produced on behalf of Hotstar by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.