The 14th edition of the Qadir Ali Baig theatre festival is here, and this time too, a host of theatre groups from across the world are performing at one of the India’s largest theatre assemblies. Hosted in the memory of the legendary theatre artist Qadir Ali Baig, the festival has 136 theatre artists performing in different venues across the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad. With artists from across India as well as abroad, this year, the festival will stage plays that revolve around the theme of relationships.
It kickstarted on November 15 with My Father - His Exalted Highness -- a play that explores the relationship between a father and a daughter. Directed by Mohammad Ali Baig, the founder of Qadir Ali Baig Foundation, the story revolves around the last Nizam of Hyderabad and his relationship with his unmarried daughter. Mohammad says that he is happy to have begun the festival with his home production.
“The Qadir Ali Baig Theatre Foundation started as a tribute to my late father Qadir Ali Baig. The festival was aimed at exposing the Hyderabadi audience to some of the world’s best theatre groups. Every year, we have a pick of theatre groups coming in from Germany, UK, Africa, Pakistan, and Turkey. This year, we have an Argentinian group performing too. We also have puppet shows and theatre workshops which we conduct as a part of the festival. What began as a son’s tribute to his father has now become the city’s festival,” Mohammad tells TNM.
A still from the play 'My Father'
Mohammad says that this year has been important because the Qadir Ali Baig festival went international – it was held in three other countries including Singapore, London and Dubai. “This is the first Indian theatre festival to be held in four countries.”
It also saw the debut of the Argentinian play 74 days of Autumn, a story that deals with war and its consequences on relationships. The play had veteran Argentinian actor Anahi Martella in a solo act, bringing in perspectives of four people affected by the war.
The festival also saw veteran actors Shekar Suman and Suchitra Krishnamurthy enacting Manto’s work Ek Haan, exploring the relationship between a poet and an admirer.
One of the striking features of most of the plays at the festival is the ample female characters and narratives. For instance, if Atmaj is about a mother and daughter getting empowerment, Hello Zindagi tells you the story of female friendships. Miss Sekhsaria (an adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s The Millionairess), a romantic comedy on the life of a woman proud of her wealth, at no point tries to demonise her arrogance.
Ever since the inception of the Foundation, Mohammad says that there has been a considerable change in the way theatre has been perceived in the city.
“From 2-3 productions a year in 2014-15, now we have almost the same number of productions in a week. We have been able to revive a lot of old theatre groups that had lost steam, which were shutting down, and had lost audience. Neo-futurist groups have come up, and new venues have mushroomed in the city. Pick up a newspaper and one can see the increase in the number of theatre events happening on a weekend. I think, as a foundation, we have been able to influence a generation of performers and audiences,” Mohammad opines.
He also adds that until and unless theatre isn’t considered as a full-time profession, the art cannot reach its full potential.
“It is a serious job. You shouldn’t be just hanging out in a theatre between your work or college. For example, no one goes to Bollywood to just “hang out”. It’s as serious a job as being a scientist, an engineer or a bureaucrat. Government cannot be knocking doors to revive the art. How did the IT industry boom in this country? It’s the responsibility of the theatre practitioners to garner support and bring together people,” Mohammad says.
The Qadir Ali Baig theatre festival will be on till November 24.