'Andhar Nogori Choupot Raja' - behind the scenes

Click here for more rehearsal photos
Ranan is working on a new production - Andhar Nogori Choupot Raja, adapted and translated from the 19 century prahasana by Bhartendu, Andher Nagari Chaupat Raja
This will be Ranan's first production under a guest director, Vandana Alase Hazra. The production uses a Bengali script, English narration and Hindi songs, and will be Ranan's first multilingual performance piece.  

Adaptation and translation: Sugato Hazra and Vandana Alase Hazra

Direction: Vandana Alase Hazra
Assistant Directors: Amlan Chaudhuri, Debashree Bhattacharya
Cast:  Amlan Chaudhuri, Anindita Santra, Dana Roy, Debashree Bhattacharya, Indudipa Sinha, Jayati Chakraborty and Sneha Ghosh. 

The production will premiere in March 2014, and this page on the Ranan blog will be regularly updated with rehearsal notes, photographs and responses. Please do join the conversation!

About the Director

Vandana Alase Hazra - Vandanadi to all of us in Ranan - is no stranger to the company. She has followed our work since our very inception, has written about it and provided much needed critical feedback at every stage. She is a member of the Ranan Executive Board. She has conducted several workshops and discussion sessions for both the Ranan Repertory and Brindar, and we are delighted to welcome her as our first guest director. 

Vandana Alase Hazra is a Bharatnatyam dancer based in Calcutta. She contributes to the field of dance by performing, teaching, choreographing and writing. She has been performing regularly and also visits schools, universities and organizations to showcase her work through a range workshops, lec-dems and performances with and for the young. Born a Maharashtrian, living in Bengal and pursuing a South Indian dance style, Vandana has imbibed within her personality the ethos of various regional cultures.

An M.A. in Dance from Nalanda Nrityakala Mahavidyalaya, University of Mumbai, Vandana attributes her dance personality to the combined influence of traditional Bharatanatyam training under guru Shri T.V. Sounderrajan, teachers and dancers at Nalanda Nrtiyakala Mahavidyalaya, and her guide Padmashree Dr. (Smt.) Kanak Rele. Her interest in the poetry and vision of Rabindranath Tagore fetched her a fellowship from the department of Culture, Govt. of India in 1992, to work on ‘Classical dance and Relevance of Tagore’. Under this scheme, she has been researching the style of dancing that has developed at Shantiniketan and studying the possibility of choreographing Tagore poetry in the Bharatanatyam technique, as also the adaptability of the Bharatanatyam form and technique to accommodate an alien language and philosophy.
As learning continues, innumerable are the inputs from teachers and friends who nurture her aesthetic and spiritual faculties. Presently, she practices and perfects the art under the meticulous guidance of dancer Mandakini Trivedi of Mumbai. 

Scribbles from the Director - 29 December 2013

Vikram spoke with his laptop on-though it was our first meeting, he could not be joking, I thought. I had never before spoken to a person who took down most of the conversation…and he could then literally ‘show’ you what you said. Somewhere in the middle of the conversation I might have got enthusiastic about what I was initially hesitant about –and so I was there, registered on the laptop screen, already suggesting ideas and discussing possible scripts to work on Ranan’s new production as director!
Besides the lap-top conversation, this project proposal had a number of firsts! I would be working with a senior dance- theatre group, working on a ‘play’, directing it, translating a script from Hindi to Bangla. Likewise, I would be stepping out of the ‘Classical Dance’ arena - all of which are ‘firsts’!

Though I have had experiences working with theatre directors in the past, this was different and if not for Debashree and Amlan who gave me the courage, I would have missed this wonderful journey…

Ranan has done almost all their previous productions in English, most of them having  complex and  layered textual fabric. This time we wanted to:
a. do a production for children

b. work with a simple linear script

c. attempt a production in Bangla

d. try  a humorous content

Around the same time, I was reading A.K. Ramanujan’s Folk Tales from India and was   fascinated by the wealth of stories in India. I was looking for a suitable story which would lend itself to be enacted. Luckily I came across ‘In the Kingdom of Foolishness’, a Kannada story in one of the authors’ collections. I realised that the story had a version in Benaras too as it already existed as a ‘prahasana’ in Bhartendu Harishchandra’s Andher Nagari Chaupat Raja. And that’s how it got selected. This was great also because it was a musical!
So began the translation into Bangla.

Words like ‘devising’,  ‘choreographing’, and ‘blocking’ started getting meaning in action. I realized  there was a need to find a form and this search is still on.

- Vandana Alase Hazra

Scribbles from the Director - 31 December 2013

What to do of ‘taka ser bhaji taka ser khaja’ …what it perhaps means is things are cheap…. but then what it implies more strongly is the fact that vegetables and sweets (khaja) cost the same! That’s the fun more than anything else. Bringing this to present  day Kolkata does not carry the intended fun as ‘sabji’ and ‘khaja’ are already very similarly priced! ‘Taka ser rabdi taka ser bhaja’ perhaps! Need to check out the prices actually. Who knows? For the same weight they probably cost very near the same!! Hello, how close/far are we to/from  ‘andher nagari’?
The market scene is a lot of fun already…buying/selling…all for taka ser! Wondering how to put in the movements. Fingers crossed.

A dance rehearsal is so very different from a play rehearsal! Lord, I feel I work like an 
authoritarian when I rehearse with my little students for a programme!

- Vandana Alase Hazra 

In the Kingdom of Foolishness - 26 January 2014

"Once upon a time in the kingdom of foolishness, both the king and the minster were idiots. They didn’t want to run things like other kings. So they decided to change night into day and day into night. They ordered that everyone should be awake at night, work in their fields and run their businesses only after dark; and they should all go to bed as soon as the sun came up. If anyone disobeyed, they would be punished, with death. The people did as they were told for fear of death. The king and the minister were delighted at the success of their project

Then one day a guru and disciples were travelling..."

[These lines from A. K. Ramanujan's translation of a folk tale open Ranan's production of Andhar Nagari Choupot Raja. The text is taken from A. K. Ramanujan's collection of folk tales from India - A Flowering Tree.]

a photograph of B. V. Karanth's 1979 production from the archives of the National School of Drama, Delhi

"...a real, real long way to go….and fast..." - 28 January 2014

Well to start with, I was essentially a Kathak dancer only when the acting bug bit me in high school. My first play 29 Minutes Being Ourselves, evolving around the life and times of Anne Frank in a contemporary setting, got us noted in the Annual British Council drama festival and later fetched us the first runner up at Smarakosh.

Since then ‘acting’ became a part of my co-curriculum. With some other theatre workshop enthusiasts at Padatik after passing out from school, we formed a group named Uddipan and staged intimate theatre pieces like Protokkho and Porokkho (multilingual) and Bondhu (adapted from the well known shrutinatok-Priyo Bondhu). In the meantime, I was also a part of XTS (Xaviers Theatrical Society) and acted in various plays directed by Mr. Ashish Siddhant.

A good 9 years later, after having lived in many cities paying regular visits to their theatre mecca (Prithvi Theatre in Mumbai, Rangshankara in Bengaluru), I am back in my city and have become a part of Ranan.

In the beginning, I was like a silent spectator watching and listening to what others had to do
Sneha rehearsing at Ranan
and say. Lost and nervous. And half present. Because the play which had been selected was a difficult one. A very difficult one for me.  All this while, I had been playing roles where either it was dark and emotionless, or had simply been myself or some other symbolic entity. All bordering the philosophical areas. But this play was about being a person, a fictitious as well as a ‘real’ person and living his life. This play was a comedy hence timing was the backbone. But slowly after a lot of hard work… errr by Vandana ma’am and the other veterans, I started grasping the character.  And I have a real, real long way to go….and fast.

Here I want to talk about my experience working with Ranan, which is for the first time. The first thing I notice here is that instead of our performance adhering to the script, the script is modified as we find it comfortable during our rehearsals. Next is that we are experimenting with each of our scenes which finally results in getting the best product, and so what we begin with may turn out to be something entirely different in the end. This has helped the play to be rich in ideas of various types as they come from various people. This is a different experience for me altogether as we all rack our brains even while we do our acting bit. So that we do not end up being mere puppets. The encouragement to visualise the role ourselves and make it our own has helped me personally to do whatever little I am doing presently.

Hoping to learn more and gain more in the coming days and praying that we all do a great job. 

- Sneha Ghosh

from Anindita Santra - 28 January 2014

Well this is my first theatre work with Ranan... I have pursued many interesting things from our director Vandana di... she treated us just like her own children. From each rehearsal I’m improving my acting skill. Apart from this I have learnt ethical values of life.

And Andhar Nagari reminds me of this picture…

new photos added to our rehearsal album -  February 2014

Click below the photographs to link to the album. New photographs of rehearsals in progress and set design sketches in the making...

 rehearsal photographs...

rehearsal photographs...

the first teaser trailer is out -  February 2014 

Click to view the first teaser trailer of the production!

Our first test audience - students of Brindar! 9 February 2014

So today we had our first showing of Andhar Nogori Choupot Raja. We were delighted as our rehearsal space was filled with our honoured guests ranging from 4 years of age to 14. This is our first attempt in Ranan to create a production specifically aimed at young audiences. So of course we had to see how we were doing! We invited the students from Brindar (Ranan's kathak training wing under Debashree Bhattacharya) to watch a special rehearsal, and the results were delightful.
Dana Roy - torn between watching the rehearsal and watching the audience!
It always brings out an extra something to have any guests watching a rehearsal, and today we certainly had an added zest in response to the little giggles coming from our audience that started filling the space. And though we were a little rough around the edges (it was our second run through of the whole play) our audience did exactly what it was supposed to. React. 

Responding to their reactions certain scenes tightened, in other moments laughs were drawn out, surprising moments emerged. One did also note the bits which drew less rapt attention. Yes, there is still much polishing to be done, but it's nice to know the overall package created is something that was much enjoyed. 
click here for more images

Of course there were parents there as well, who were very generous with their praise and helpful with their suggestions. The children however are what I am more interested in. They are less verbal with their responses, true, yet there is a certain shining of eyes, a certain awakening of a glow that emerges in moments. That is what we must learn to draw out more.

Thank goodness we still have a month till opening night (I suppose that was the point of having a children's showing a month before). We still have work to do, lots of loop holes to sort out, maybe restructure a little to get the energy up a little earlier in the play, props and costumes still to be made. Perhaps though, now, we'll do these things through the added lens of a child's eyes.

- Dana Roy

[video snippets of this exchange will be up soon. watch this space!]

A Video on the music of Andhar Nogori -  March 2014

Andhar Nogori Choupot Raja - features original, live music and songs. 
This process video gives a little glimpse into what all the song and dance is about!

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