- 25 Nov 2016
A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. The same can be said of art in general. The power of the arts to start conversations we might not otherwise have, to sneak past our intellects and enter our souls and change our perspective is vast. Forplay studio based in the city is a collective of artists, actors, writers and technicians who are one step closer to building a healthy, sustainable and vibrant community in Kochi. They work under their own banner and are keen to share their space and collaborate with fellow artists.
They are all set to perform their first production – Harold Pinter’s The Lover at their performance space on 8th Cross Road, Panampilly Nagar this week. The play has Santhy Balachandran, Sanal Aman and Anand Iyer playing the characters of the 1962 play written by Harold Pinter. Sanal had played the lead in ‘Unto the Dusk’, a film that won the Rajatachakoram at IFFK and the award for the best Indian feature film at Bangalore International Film Festival previously. Anand is a professional photographer and stand-up comedy artist. Santhy has a doctorate in Visual Anthropology from University of Oxford.
The play that opens with the lead character Richard casually enquiring about his wife’s lover has a seductive game marked by wit, imagination, and intrigue. The play features music by the noted sound artist Jophy Chirayath along with Bimal Thankachan and Tom. A conversation with the members of the crew Seljuk Rustum and Santhy Balachandran had warmth that only artists could offer.
Why theatre in Kochi?
Seljuk: It’s not just theatre. We do everything from our jamming sessions to recording at the 3:1 audio station, Since we have people like Sanal in our team who is already a recognized actor associated with a lot of other directors and artists. So it’s quite logical for us to choose theatre.
How do you expect Kochiites to respond?
Santhi: We don’t really expect anything from the first play. The idea is to connect to a lot of people and make a mark for ourselves along with bringing together some good theatre loving people. It’s a space for them to meet, interact and create new things. Theatre is just one aspect of it. The other sessions are to do with music. Artist from different domains will have a place to collaborate. There is a theatre loving crowd in Kochi, but English theatre and home grown productions don’t really happen here. It’s usually people from abroad and other cities that perform plays here. There have been attempts before, but they somehow did not sustain here. Generally it is mostly Malayalam theatre.
What’s unique about Forplay productions?
Seljuk: We intend to engage audience that enjoy English plays. Unique factor here is that the artists are entirely from Kochi who have donated our time and skill to promote art.
Why The Lover?
The play was chosen by Sanal who is also directing it. He came across the play while doing his studies at the National school of drama. It has just 2 characters, and a third character that comes in for just 3 minutes. In terms of logistics it would be easier to handle a play that doesn’t require a huge cast crew, besides being a great play in terms of writing. It’s amazing regarding the nuance each word carries and can be interpreted in many ways. It is way ahead of its time when it was written as it handles sexuality and morality and how a married couple sustain their romantic interest in each other. Sara is a strong female character willing to do what it takes to keep the spark in her marital relationship alive and I find myself lucky to play her.
Do you think Kochites will relate to this theme?
Santhi: The theme is very universal. It’s something that most couples go through at some point of time. There is an initial flurry of excitement when at first and people will be able to relate to things that they do to sustain that interest in each other, even though it is not something spoken about a lot.
What are the challenges to establish such an initiative?
Seljuk: The challenge is to showcase a substantial piece which has value out of the space that we’ve built. It’s a matter of communication to get people to invest in art and to communicate the idea that we are about bringing together artists. We’ve been very lucky to have people wanting to contribute, but it is very difficult to find sponsors for an event, probably because this is so new. This is our first production, so once we have set a wave in motion; it’s easier for people to understand what we are trying to achieve here.
What are the next projects in line?
Santhi: We are doing 3 more plays with actor Surjith Gopinath from Neelakasham Pachakadal Chuvanna Bhoomi and a series of mini documentaries named Forplay Talks as an archive featuring artists in conversation with each other about their creative practice.
Have you seen the future?
Seljuk: We are not actually anxious about the outcome. We need money only to get things moving. We intent to just reach a point where the group would sustain itself rather than aim to make a huge profit, Art for us is not to make a living. We live to make art.
Words by: Arun Kishore
Photos from Forplay Productions