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I have been following the fortunes of Yours Truly Theatre (YTT)for a while now, in keeping with my interest in the young theatre groups of this city. Yours Truly has been a pioneer, in Bangalore, in staging Interactive Theatre, where the audience takes on an interactive role in the staging of the play, rather than be passive spectators to a preconceived ending. Now they have several other initiatives, too, such as plays for children, students, and for underprivileged people,
I’ve watched their last play, "Common Man", but had missed the earlier shows of "Bhagwan Dhoondo", and so decided that I’d go and see the fourth show, at ADA Ranga Mandira, on the 29th August, 2010.
"Bhagwan Dhoondo" has a loosely structured first half, that introduces characters that are not fully clarified, except in the state of their existence in the city, and in the second half, the compere, Ranji David, takes responses from the audiences and picks one of these characters. Based on the inputs from the audience, the denouement is staged by the cast,.consisting of Abhijit Madhawaraj, Chetan Nataraj, Nandini Rao, Ramya M, Ranji David, Shalini Goel, Sumit Acharya, Sudarshan Ranganath, and Vishal Bhandary.
One thing that struck me immediately was that the visual idiom of YTT has progressed a lot since I last witnessed one of their performances. They had always used colourful props like scarves and umbrellas, but in the present production, several props and red-motifed costumes were in evidence, and abstract concepts such as individuals joining the herd mentality of wanting "more" were expressed tellingly with the aid of one huge covering into which the actors disappeared. Cloth props were also used to great effect; a shroud-like covering was used to highlight characters, and make a statue in the park! I must congratulate Kuheli Mukherjee on her innovativeness with costume design.
The light design by Ranji David, and the light execution by Deepak Trivedi, were both impressive. Situations and characters were highlighted, and the use of smoke on stage truly made a palpable stage aid of the light.
I must mention the music, performed by the Carnatic band Agam. The theme song lyrics by Nandini Rao and Sumit Acharya were very good indeed, and the music was excellent. It added considerably to the appeal of the play. The singing truly evoked the melancholic state of most of us as we lose sight of our personal "Bhagwan"….what it is that will make us happy and fulfilled.
In fact, I would say this production was more in the musical format, with choreographed movements to the music as well.
The sound co-ordination by Ameet Bhuvan was good, too, we never had any "breakdown" moments…but I have to mention that the tendency of the cast, to yell all the time, was unintelligible in two senses…one, the words became unintelligible to the audience; and two, we could not understand why the yelling had to go on all the time. Perhaps they had received feedback about the acoustics of the hall, and wanted to pitch the dialogue into the furthest corners; but in the process, they detracted a lot from the performance. "What did they say?" my neighbour kept asking me occasionally.
However, this did not deter the audience at all; there was a full house that evening, and the audience was very involved with the proceedings, and when Ranji, as the sutradhar, appeared to ask which of the stories they should choose, the audience voted enthusiastically, and gave a lot of inputs about the way the story should go. In fact, they entwined the stories of two of the characters, so that the girl met the painter and a romance bloomed, and then each of them went their independent ways.
At the end, Ranji had all the members of the cast and crew, and the volunteers, on stage, in a creditable allocation of praise to each of them. However, he should have introduced each member of the cast! Ranji, when we have enjoyed the play, we wouldn’t mind a few extra minutes, getting to know the names of the cast, as well as those of the crew! (Let me mention the "beyond stage" members here: Shanthakumar G is the Show Manager, with Aditya, Ajay, Chidambar, Debpriya, Komal, Pooja,Rajsekar, Raj, Roopa, Sabyasachi, Srinath, Sudeendran, and Vikas.)
I am already used to YTT’s thoroughness in the off-stage preparations; they always produce a good brochure, that gives the details of their various activities. I have another suggestion for YTT, too; Ranji was asking the audience to leave their names and email ids for further contact. If they had a small detachable part on their brochure which audience members could fill in and leave at the counter, they would have a uniformly templated list of people who would form their database for future contact. As of now, YTT’s Facebook page has over 600 fans.