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Theatre Interview: Director Niranjan Pedanekar chats Bengal Tiger at Baghdad Zoo

Image Credit: Vyom Studios


Director, actor, and writer Niranjan Pedanekar opens his new play 'bengal tiger at bagdad zoo' at Pune natyasattak 2018'.the play is written by rajiv joseph and has been nominated for the pulitzer prize 2010. Rasa Aur Drama caught up with the director in an email interview. rangdrishti theatre presents this production.

Q1) Can you tell Rasa Aur Drama about your last work ?

Niranjan Pedanekar: My last play Exile was based on the writings of the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. It attempted to relate the poet's experiences of exile to those of urban professionals stuck in a place where they did not want to be (say, work or traffic) and away from a place they wanted to be (home, family, hobbies). We tried to use a flatbed truck to simulate the experiences on a bus stuck in traffic.

Q2) What absurdities made you want to do this play; in life, or everyday happenings?

NP: War is always around us. Humans in some part of the world always seem to be at war. They get in a war, often unwillingly, and have to bear the unintended consequences of war. They just happen to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time. But war changes their lives in unimaginable ways. This play talked about a tiger stuck in a zoo inside a burning Baghdad of the Gulf War in 2003. Such an innocent life at peril, away from its rightful home, a forest in Bengal. I found this placement absurd and yet very real. The play is a take on the situation through the eyes of a tiger, which invariably has to resort to metaphysical intuition to make sense of things, which seem so absurd.

Q3) Does war makes man introspective?

NP: Should it? Yes, it should. But it doesn't. Because we still keep on building nations, states, parties, and all sorts of divisive boundaries to satisfy the instinct to preserve identity. Through the play, we realize that the tiger is instinctively vicious to its prey, and unaware of its identity. When it confronts its identity, it poses a lot of questions which are actually applicable to humans at war.

Q4) The Sadaam reign has come and gone. The US invasion of Iraq is a chapter in history. How will a play from the Broadway starring Robin Williams enrich the local audience?

NP: The play tells a story, and raises a lot of questions which are not just related to war but to life in general. There a several underlying themes running in the play, so mixed that it is difficult to separate them from each other. I am sure that the story with its underlying humor and explosive situations would be of interest to anyone who watches Hollywood films, and its complexities would be of interest to lovers of experimental theatre. Speaking of history, we still watch the Mahabharata, don't we? [smiles]

Niranjan Pedanekar

"War is always around us. Humans in some part of the world always seem to be at war."


Q5) “What if my very nature is in direct conflict with the moral code of the universe?" Could you tell us more about the sentence by the playwright Rajiv Joseph?

NP: The sentence is an innocent question posed by the tiger. For the first time, (SPOILER ALERT) now in his afterlife (SPOILER ALERT ENDS), it is questioning its inner thirst for violence to hunt and prey. Do we pose a similar question ourselves? Say, is our tendency to consume in direct conflict with the moral code of the universe? Or do we not care?

Q6) Have you seen any other works of the director: Moises Kaufman?

NP: Kaufman is a Tony award-winning director and I have read about his plays and reviews. But have not had the opportunity of watching any of his plays in person.

Rehearsals at Jyotsana Bhole Sabagruhaga

Q7) Do tell us about the production process?

NP: We announced auditions on Facebook and got 130+ entries. We then had a casting workshop with 15 actors followed by an 'unlearn' workshop for a couple of weeks. We then attempted to use under-reading to start up the scenes and get a skeleton in place. Currently, we are fine-tuning the scenes and will soon start with the rehearsals.We have explored a number of techniques such as psychological gesture, Laban movement efforts, isolation transfer, musical gesture, practical aesthetics and the Meisner technique. Actors have developed the characters according to what they found suitable for themselves and the scenes.


About the Blogger:

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Deepak Sinha writes on theatre at My Theatre Cafe and now at Rasa Aur Drama. He loves to cycle and play basketball. He loves to organize TEDx conferences and is an organizer at TEDxPune.

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