Ibsen thrives among Indian collegians

New Delhi: Creative ideas are pouring out of the capital`s amateur stage. Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, one of the modern dramatists to have influenced Indian theatre, has made inroads into the college drama circuit with a festival.

Five premier colleges in the capital will stage their interpretations of the 19th century playwright`s masterpieces Sep 22-26 at the ‘2010: New Ibsen Event For Colleges’ as a prelude to the annual Ibsen theatre festival scheduled for November.

The festival will be presented jointly by the Royal Norwegian Embassy and the Dramatic Art and Design Academy - a non-profit platform that promotes theatre and performing arts - at the LTG Theatre.

"We want to give Delhi students a platform to display their talent. We want the film industry scouts to identify them - as it happens in the college theatre festivals in Mumbai where directors and technical experts search for potential new faces," Nissar Allana, director of the Dramatic Art & Design Academy (DADA), told reporters.

The five plays adapted from Ibsen`s works include ‘O Ibsen’ by students of Maitreyi College, ‘Doors’ by Miranda House, ‘The Tame Duck’ by Kirori Mal College, ‘Frihet’ by Kamala Nehru College and ‘The Mannequins in Elysium’ by students of Lady Shri Ram College.

Ibsen, born in 1828, is often called the father of modern drama. He is known for plays woven around powerful and unconventional women.

Along with Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw and Bertolt Brecht, he influenced post-Independence Indian theatre, with their "return-to-the-roots" ideology creeping into the works of modern playwrights like Vijay Tendulkar, Sambhu Mitra and Girish Karnad.

"Doll`s House" was the first Ibsen play staged in India by a Kolkata-based theatre company, New Theatre Commune, in 1945-1946.

"Ibsen`s play has a lot of latitude in the way it can be interpreted. The colleges are adapting them unconventionally to make it relevant to today`s milieu," Allana said.

DADA is helping the colleges "with professional and technical support" to stage the plays and also giving a grant of Rs.75,000 for costumes and decor.

The Dramatics Society of Matreyi College, Abhiyekti, will probe freedom and human spaces in Ibsen`s drama through their interpretation, "O Ibsen".

"Ibsen could see the hidden and bitter truth behind the social customs, wedding laws, property laws and the structural problems of the patriarchal families of his time. But he was human as well. His characters did not fit into the conventional social mould. We want to reach out to those locations where the characters do not feel suffocated," said a spokesperson for the organisation.

Two playwrights come together in the Miranda House production, ‘Doors’.

Ariel, the dramatic society of the college, has created a dialogue between Ibsen`s ‘Dolls`s House’ and Indian theatre personality Mohan Rakesh`s ‘Adhe Adhure’.

Ibsen`s ‘The Wild Duck’ has been adapted as ‘The Tame Duck’ in the production by Kirori Mal College. It uses the ancient story-telling tradition to Indianise Gina, the protagonnist`s dilemma, in Hindi. Gin refuses to break out of the confines of her home, content to stay within the walls she had erected for herself in the Ekdal household.

‘Frihet’ (freedom in Norwegian) is a story of the journey of women in Ibsen`s plays by Kamala Nehru College. The play, divided into three segments, explores the journeys of Ibsen`s women characters. They are all fighters - either striving to reconcile to circumstances or to change the system, each in a different way.

In the ‘Mannequins in Elysium’ by Lady Shri Ram College, three of Ibsen`s women - Nora, Hedda and Helena - receive a contemporary makeover in a triangular tale.

The plays will be judged by a special jury.

"The annual Ibsen festival in November might include the best play in its repertoire," Allana said.