Aqueduct vs Theatre

Read this today in the TOI editorial (something interesting, for once!):

The Greeks, who had been in the area since around 1400 BC, and later the Romans, have left a lasting legacy in the form of magnificent buildings in the southern Anatolian region of Turkey.

The legend goes that in the 2nd century AD, there were two brilliant architects who aspired for the hand of Semiramis, the daughter of the king of Aspendos, a satrap of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. The king laid down the condition that the one who created the most remarkable public monument should marry the princess.

One of the suitors, whose name has unfortunately been lost to history, decided to build an aqueduct, for surely nothing was more important than a good water supply for any city. It turned out to be one of the most outstanding water conveyance systems in the world, and even the ruins impress the modern traveller (sic).

Our knowledgeable guide told us that aqueducts had to have very precise measurements of angle, calculation of flow of water, resting chambers at certain intervals where the speed had to drop, or else the tremendous force of the water could have flooded the entire city.

Zenon, the other architect, decided to build a grand theatre, with 40 tiers of seats, divided in 10 sections. There were 59 massive arches at the top, and 12,000 people could watch the entertainment on the magnificent stage below.

Behind the stage rose a two-storey building, 30 metres high, called the scena, meant for the actors to change and relax in between acts. This was exactly as high as the auditorium, and joined to it on both sides, which was the secret of the amazing acoustics Zenon had achieved.

The king had almost decided that the aqueduct would be the winner. But when he stood on the top-most tier to inspect the theatre, he heard a whisper, “Semiramis must be mine”, and looked around but could see no one.

Finally, he glanced down at the stage, where he saw Zenon, and knew that he had to change his mind; for although the aqueduct was impressive, this monument seemed the embodiment of perfection. The marriage of Zenon and Semiramis was solemnised in the theatre.

The aqueduct was used for over 500 years before it fell into disuse. But the theatre, although somewhat battered after several earthquakes over the centuries, remains intact, and is used to this day because of its still perfect acoustics — on account of which Zenon had won his princess.

Now, that’s an interesting story!

(PS: I think the correct spelling is traveler but not completely sure. If anybody knows for sure, let me know)

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The Odd Couple, Getting Lost, and A Proposal

Evam is coming back to town with The Odd Couple. The play promises to be another gut-buster with Karthik Kumar and Sunil Vishnu (who also played in ART, see my earlier post). The story is about two divorced men sharing an apartment in NY:clip_image002

Felix and Oscar are an extremely odd couple: Felix is neurotic, precise, and fastidiously clean. Oscar, on the other hand, is the exact opposite: sloppy and casual. What happens when the two friends are forced to share an apartment, and their differing lifestyles inevitably lead to conflicts- a full laugh riot for the audiences. Add to that their Saturday night poker gang friends: Vinnie- the dutiful husband, Murray- the cop, Roy-Oscar’s accountant and the sarcastic Speed, and the possibility of a date with the “Cuckoo” Pigeon sisters who live in the same apartment- you’ve got a chaotic entertainer for sure!

This Neil Simon situational comedy on one hand is about two opposite people (out of their marriages) deciding to stay together and the chaos and humour which is generated as a result, while on the other hand the story is about friendship, and loneliness — it gives us a glimpse into what makes us cling on to our friends even when they are so opposite to us and can drive us over the wall with their antics — the uncanny bond, which makes friendship such an odd-even relationship! Somewhere it also touches about how easy it is to lose people and how difficult to stay on and make things work — and sometimes you don’t get a choice at all!

The play is being performed with good intent — it is in support of Dare2Dream (find some information in this Hindu article), an NGO working for education in Bangalore. Another reason you should go. The event details are:

Date: Christmas Day, 25-Dec-07
Location: Chowdiah Hall, Bangalore
Time: 4 PM and 7.30 PM

Find some more details on the Evam site, and this document.

In other news, I had a tough time yesterday due to Google maps. We had wanted to go to FUGA for a party and FUGA is on Wood Street. Maps gave the correct address for FUGA as Wood Steet but a completely wrong location (See screenshot below — the location of FUGA that GMaps suggested is marked in “A” inside a red circle, while the actual location is somewhere near the big black dot on the map). Biggest trouble is that Gen Thimmaiah Rd (or Richmond Road as it was earlier known) is one way in the opposite direction (central Bangalore is one (way) big mess) and we had a rather tough time navigating back. There is more irony involved — the event itself was related to Google!

Google Maps Messup with FUGA

Needless to say, GMaps is an amazingly useful service. However, this means that address and landmark searches are still not 100% and you should take care before blindly trusting them (esp. if you are traveling to a place with lots of one ways).

For those, who want some more entertainment, listen to this Mallu Proposal Letter that I recorded (of course, it was a forward .. I did’nt write it myself, just recorded it!):


The text:

Madam:
I am an olden young uncle living only with myself in Thiruvananthapuram. Having seen your advertisement for marriage purposes, I decided to press myself on you and hope you will take me nicely.
I am a soiled son from inside Kerala. I am nice and big, six foot tall and six inches long. My body is filled with hardness, as because I am working hardly. I am playing hardly also. Especially I like cricket and I am a good batter and I am fast baller. Whenever I come running in for balling, other batters start running. Everybody is scared of my rapid balls that bounce a lot.
I am very nice man. I am always laughing loudly at everyone. I am a jolly gay . Especially ladies, they are saying I am nice and soft. I am always giving respect to the ladies. I am always allowing ladies to get on top.That is how nice I am.
I am not having any bad habits. I am not drinking and I am not sucking tobacco or anything else. Every morning I am going to the gym and I am pumping like anything. Daily I am pumping and pumping. If you want you can come and see how much I am pumping the dumb belles in the gym.
I am having a lot of money in my pants and my pants is always open for you. I am such a nice man, but still I am living with myself only. What to do? So I am taking things into my own hands everyday. That is why I am pressing myself on you, so that you will come in my house and take my things into your hand. If you are marrying me madam, I am telling you, I will be loving you very hard every day. In fact, I will stop pumping dumb belles in the gym.
If you are not marrying me madam and not coming to me, I will press you and press you until you come. So I am placing my head between your nicely smelling feet and looking up with lots of hope. I am waiting very badly for your reply and I am stiff with anticipation.
Expecting soon,
Yours and only yours Kutty

There is a disclaimer to go with this. Please don’t consider this either as racist or in bad taste. This is all in good humour. I have some very good Mallu friends — really talented and brilliant — and all they did was laugh :-)

There is also an update on my technical blog about Fran Allen’s talk. Check here.

ART by Evam

I went to see ART by Evam yesterday, again a part of Bengalooru Habba. The play originally written by Yasmina Reza, a French actress and playwright. The play is about three friends, who have moved a little apart with time, but the death nail comes when one of them, Sarge, buys a painting. And before you think it’s a serious play, the painting consisted of white diagonal lines on a white background, and Sarge paid a whopping two hundred thousand Francs for it (yes, that is 200,000!).

The play was hilarious. Marc, who was completely against Sarge, and thought he had lost his mind, and was acting pompous, was extremely sarcastic, and Yvan, the bummer who was getting married in a week’s time, gave such amazing expressions that the audience couldn’t help laughing. There was this whole story about contentions between his biological mother, his step mother, and his fiance’s step mother about their names appearing on the wedding card. Marc’s sarcasm and Yvan’s innocent expressions made the day!

The play depicted the relationship becoming sour — Marc’s superiority complex, Sarge’s antagonistic attitude end up almost leading to the breakup of the friendship. The play ends in a sort-of a happy ending, but did leave a few strands for the reader to figure out.

The acting was superb — Evam has been doing this production for the last three years and it showed. The actors were very natural, and Karthik Kumar as Marc and Sunil Vishnu as Yvan were brilliant. The subtle querulous sarcasm, and Yvan’s dumb yet innocent antics lit up the stage. The set itself was pretty elaborate, using more than 30 carton boxes as I had said earlier, to distinguish between the houses of the three friends. The lights worked very well in sync (with only one slip) and it spoke volumes about their practice. I myself was in splits, falling off my seats ever so often. A must watch, if it ever comes around.

I got to talk to Sunil after the play — we had talked when they were here last time with Five Point Someone, and then they came again with And Now For Something Completely Different (but unfortunately, I was away at the time). They are coming back to Bangalore on 25th Dec with another play, and I hope to see them again!

Some more reviews of ART: The Hindu Dinesh (He has a picture of the set also)

Aside: If the text was too much for you, and you share my interest in Web 2.0 and the rest of the random things on the internet, you might like this video:

Aside-2: If you ever get sick of computers, see here for some alternate uses.

MahadevBhai

Went to see Mahadevbhai, performed by Working Title productions Mumbai at Chowdiah today as a part of Bengalooru Habba. Mahadevbhai is the story of the freedom struggle told through the eyes of Gandhi’s aide Mahadevbhai Desai. A solo performance by Jaimini Pathak (who had directed a play I saw sometime back “Thukra’s Dream”) who is shown as a budding actor, with a link to Mahadevbhai through his granduncle, and who discovers him and Gandhi through conversations with his grandfather.

The play was quite educative since it refreshed quite a few history lessons I had forgotten — the Champaran and Bardoli satyagraha, the Dandi march and the agitation against the Rowlatt Act (on the same lines as MISA and POTA). However, more than the history lesson, it was the human character it gave to the leaders of our freedom struggle is what I liked. Gandhi is not a chapter in History, but a living person delivering speeches, writing letters and fasting unto death for Hindu Muslim unity. Similarly for Mahadevbhai, a scholar in his own right, who is dedicated to Gandhiji as Hanuman was to Ram, his personal aide and secretary, who maintained one of the most detailed accounts of the freedom struggle in his 27-volume personal diary (I would like to read that sometime!).

It also brings to light what Gandhiji stood for — equality for everybody including one self (being able to stand up against the British and not write in servile language), his Dandi March which was not just an agitation against the government, but the act of the march gave it a life of its own, his fast unto death against untouchability which is perhaps the reason why the curse has reduced so much in our society. It also brings out subtle sarcasm in Godhra being the venue where Gandhi and Jinnah jointly addressed Hindus and Muslims together for the first time, and the attitude of the M.B.A. (Mujhe Bahut Aata hai) elder brother, and the British-obsessed history teacher Ms. Priscilla.

Jaimini Pathak carried off the performance really well. Keeping the audience engaged for 2 hours alone is no mean feat, and Jaimini Pathak and director Ramu Ramanathan are very well deserving of all the praise (it was the 111th performance!). By interspersing Mahadevbhai’s life story with his own, and the conversations with his grandfather and his history teacher ensure that the play gets a graph, and the audience some entertainment. A very good performance, which you must visit if the play comes to your city.

Tomorrow is Art by Evam Productions from Chennai, and I was chatting with Sunil, one of the actors and co-founder of Evam, and he mentioned that they are going to use 30 carton boxes as props. Hmmmm, I need to check that out!

More coverage (from the past): The Hindu IndianExpress

Films and Festival

Films featured high on my Sunday yesterday. I attended the Filmcamp‘s workshop on ScriptWriting in the morning at BrewHaHa. Sanjay Nambiar (hopefully I put in the right link here) walked us through the script for The Shawshank Redemption. I don’t think I can start capturing all the details here — but for me the biggest take-away was that you need to be quite detail oriented and be succinct at the same time while writing a script, because the rest of the cast and crew is going to rely on you to give them an idea about what they need to do. It should capture details about location, props, even lighting sometimes. However, it should not be too instructive lest it might limit the creativity of the rest of the rest of the team. The right balance between detail and leaving things open is something one can only get if one has participated in a full project perhaps. I have seen scripts of plays, and they are usually quite similar. For instance, along with all the dialogs that have to be prepared upfront (before you even sign the actors at least in the West!), you might also describe camera angles, voice-overs and so on. Unless you do that, you would not be very kind to producers :-)

What I was left wondering is that if the film is an adaptation of a book, how much changes, what they keep and what they leave out. It was a far more technical discussion than I had expected — and as such they didn’t discuss what differentiates good scripts from bad in terms of content and storyline.

Then, in the evening, I went and watched Om Shanti Om, and unlearned everything. Kudos to SRK and Farah’s guts actually, since they admit all over the movie that the storyline doesn’t make sense. And SRK’s usual overacting (even Kirron Kher — what happened to her?) and Deepika Padukone’s almost non-existent role (they could just have used a portrait! She was so over-hyped; she didn’t even have a role!!) didn’t help things either. The one single joke that I liked best was Soorat Barjatya noting down the ‘No Sorry. No Thank You.’ dialog he later went on to use in Maine Pyaar Kiya. The whole movie felt more like a show-off exercise by King Kong Khan (not to be confused with the other KKK). In fact, SRK has himself admitted this in the past, and I am at my wit’s end trying to understand what women find attractive about monkeys:

Shah Rukh Khan recently quipped that he felt ‘like a monkey’ out to entertain movie buffs!

“I am like a monkey who dances to the tunes of the director, producer and script writer, to entertain cinegoers,” Khan says.

“I even dance in my bathroom in front of the mirror!” Khan exclaims.

In other news, Bangalore is abuzz with Bengalooru Habba and there are some great performances. I am especially excited about the English Theater being held at Chowdiah, right beside my home. If you haven’t seen Kanyadaan yet, then you must most definitely go (see the earlier review I had written of the play). The best part about the Habba is that the passes are free and available at Cafe Coffee Day outlets around Bangalore. Don’t miss this!

Butter and Mashed Bananas

A review of Butter and Mashed Bananas, written and directed by Ajay Krishnan (Harami Theatre) which performed at Ranga Shankara this weekend on my personal blog.

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