For an equal footing

Equal, the biennial festival of Rangashankara consolidates ideas for a just world from diverse voices and art forms

Panel discussions, plays, poetry, mehfils and art — all at Ranga Shankara’s biennial festival Equal, which brings theatre along with many diverse art forms.

“Its aim has been to explore how differently these art forms look at the ‘idea of equality’ and this year the festival is curated by Maraa, a Media and Arts Collective,” informs Ekta Mittal, co-founder, Maraa.

For the second edition of the festival, there have been a few additions. The art installation, for instance, will be introduced this year. Conceptually also, “if the festival was centred around gender last time, the second edition is interested in the intersection of gender, labour, caste, sexuality and land,” explains Angarika Guha, Arts Program Manager, Maraa.

“The festival does not present the usual theoretical or Constitutional understanding of equality but challenges each of us to think ‘if we are truly ready for an equal world’,” adds Angarika.

“Ranga Shankara will be 15 years old,” says Arundhathi Nag, Founder, Ranga Shankara. Despite its huge achievements, she felt there was a nagging feeling of inadequacy in the content of plays and the arts speaking out in unshackled creativity about “inequalities”. “Inequalities in geographies, in constituencies, communities, genders and so much more. Hence we felt the need to create a space that will keep the questioning spirit at its heart and goad the creative community as well as society into converging on issues and trying to encourage consciousness and dialogues on them , however unsettling and uncomfortable those issues might be.”

The festival, for Angarika, challenges people’s prejudices and actions. “Whenever we come across the term, ‘inequality’, we tend to think it is something imposed upon us from the outside. The boundary between victim and perpetrator is not that rigid. It is these kind of binaries that the festival forces us to confront. The art installation at the festival compels us to move out of our complacent zones and reflect,” she explains.

Performances at the festival feature lived experiences and memories of violence from both feminine and masculine point of views.

Being true to its theme, the festival not just features established artistes, it consciously makes sure there are performers from marginalised and local communities.

What’s on?

The three-day festival will begin with “Aurat! Aurat! Aurat!”, based on stories by Urdu writer Ismat Chughtai. The play, which is in Hindustani, is directed by Naseeruddin Shah. The 110-minute play will be on September 13, 7.30 p.m. It will be followed by a mehfil by Pelva Naik, a dhrupad vocalist , 9.30 p.m.

The keynote address will be delivered by activist Aruna Roy on September 14, 11 a.m. It will be followed by a panel discussion — Censored Body: Faith, Desire and Identity. Panellists for the discussion are Kalki Subramaniam, Zeeshan Hasan Akhar and Swarnamalya Ganesh. It will be moderated by Kirtana Kumar.

An interactive storytelling session will be in the evening at 5 p.m. Aagaaz Theatre Trust, New Delhi presents Bhagi Hui Ladkiyan, directed by Dhwani Vij in Hindustani. A mehfil by Waai Singers — Seeking the beloved through Shah Latif’s poetry is at 9.30 p.m. Lend me your ear: Oral history and memory as evidence, a panel discussion on September 15, 11 a.m. has H.S. Shivaprakash, Du. Saraswati and Manjula Hulikunte. It will be moderated by Preethi Nagaraj. ‘Poems of Love and War’, a poetry panel with poets Ayaz Rasool, Tenzin Tsundue and Sumana Roy is curated by Vanamala Vishwanatha.

Rumi Harish’s Freedom Begum will be staged at 3.30 p.m. ‘Songs of Soil’ will be presented by Narayanaswamy and Uma after the play.

Nerves, a performance piece is at 7.30 p.m. The festival concludes with a Carnatic rendition by vocalist T.M. Krishna, 9.30 p.m.

The art installation – Threshold/Chowkat/Hosilu — will be exhibited on all the three days. Only the plays at the festival are ticketed.

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