quick reads

The big news: More than 70 dead in suicide blast in Pakistan shrine, and nine other top stories

Other headlines: Trump will sign a new order on an immigration ban soon, and Mylapore MLA R Nataraj said he will vote against Palanisamy in the TN floor test.

A look at the headlines right now:

  1. More than 70 people dead in blast at Sindh’s Lal Shahbaz shrine: At least 300 were injured in the explosion that occurred at a place where a Sufi ritual was being held after evening prayers.
  2. Donald Trump to replace suspended immigration ban with new executive order: The US administration wants the appeals court to pause the legal fight in the matter, after it refused to reinstate the restriction last week.
  3. Mylapore MLA R Nataraj says he will vote against Tamil Nadu CM Palanisamy in the floor test: The AIADMK leader said his vote would reflect ‘the will of the people’.
  4. Jodhpur: University professor suspended for inviting JNU’s Nivedita Menon to a conference: Rajshri Ranawat had an inquiry instituted against her the day after the event was held.
  5. The Indian government is trying to sabotage the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, says Islamabad: Foreign Office Spokesperson Nafees Zakaria said his country was the biggest victim of terrorism.
  6. Google, Yahoo, Bing must set up in-house tool to filter content on pre-natal sex determination, rules SC: The Supreme Court reiterated its order directing the search engines to identify and remove ads and information that violate the PCPNDT Act.
  7. Nagaland’s ruling party MLAs bow to pressure from protesting tribal groups, want CM removed: As many as 42 legislators of the 60-member Assembly have reportedly signed a memorandum recommending Shurhozelie Liezietsu’s name for the top post.
  8. A 7-year-old girl wrote to Google asking for a job and received a reply from Sundar Pichai himself: Chloe Bridgewater was inspired after seeing pictures of the tech giant’s office in Silicon Valley, which had slides, beanbags and go-karts.
  9. Mastermind Tariq Ahmed Dar sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2005 Delhi serial blasts: The Patiala House Court acquitted the two other accused in the case – Mohammed Hussain Fazili and Mohammed Rafiq Shah – of all charges.
  10. MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup is India’s new High Commissioner to Canada: The diplomat is expected to assume office soon, a statement 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.

The first collection of CinePlays feature stories from leading playwrights, like Vijay Tendulkar, Mahesh Dattani, Badal Sircar amongst others and directed by film directors like Santosh Sivan and Nagesh Kukunoor. They also star some of the most prolific names of the film and theatre world like Nandita Das, Shreyas Talpade, Saurabh Shukla, Mohan Agashe and Lillete Dubey.

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.