Jan 9 2011, Sunday, 11:30 AM
Short Film – Maya Bazar, 1 hour by KM Madhusudhanan
The opening frame shows an artist painting his face. For too long.
The subsequent scene shows people in costumes on stage enacting what appears to be a mythological story. The dialogues are not audible but soon you know it does not matter. The theme of the film is not the play but a theatre company.
“This is film on Surabhi, a 120 year old travelling theatre company from Andhra Pradesh. The film also explores the traces of Parsi theatre, silent cinema from the Phalke era and the paintings of Ravi Verma in the design of the theatre company’s sets and costumes.”
While there is enough information available on the net on Surabhi, I shall pen facts that I learnt from the film.
Surabhi is a travelling theatre company that enacts stories from the inexhaustible reservoir of Indian mythology.
All of them belong to one family. These two put together make them unprecedented.
All tricks are their own and have never failed even once.
Although it was common for men to play the roles of women, this troupe had women among them.
In some of their performances the collection was 3-5 rupees, and expense to put up the show was 500 rupees.
Even if there is just one person in the audience, they perform. They have never dismantled the set without performing.
They use cheap make up since they need loads of it to dab on their faces and all over their body.
It is harmful for their skin - it eats into their skin – but they cannot afford other paints/make up as they need a whole lot of it.
Once, a pregnant woman played the role of a pregnant woman on stage. She went into labour on stage and gave birth to a baby girl.
While the subject of the film is a very interesting one, the film itself is slow moving, boring and does not do justice to the people whose story it is attempting to narrate.
Firstly, the film does not develop into a story but presents facts. It is too slow moving. Some of the frames showing people applying make-up last too long.
Most importantly, the film does not talk about the difficulties the troupe faced, how it overcame them, moments when they thought it was almost over, crises, victory stories, awards and recognitions....these omissions make the film rather bland.