Bundelkhand Ki Virgin Machhliyan: An Interview with Sharmistha Saha

The theatre universe is getting ready to redefine storytelling and ways of showcasing ideas using augmented reality and virtual reality; Rasa Aur Drama catches up with a Mumbai based theatre group who try to experiment with the traditional way of storytelling which has turned out to be riveting. Qissa Kothi is a Mumbai based theatre group and they use alternate space to showcase their play and has so far made a great impact on the audience with their first show. ”We wanted our audience to be close to our performance….” says the director Sharmistha Saha.

Image Source: Facebook/ Click Image to go to Qissa Kothi's Instagram

Q) The name of your drama company is ‘Qissa Kothi’. Why did you choose the name and its origin?

Sharmistha Saha: Well, initially we didn’t have any name. We used to come together to do workshops, think of concepts and chat sometimes. We used to call people from outside to join us for workshops and finally our first performance happened last year. We were thinking of a name that highlights the kind of work we do. Qissa means stories and Kothi is actually a transformation of the word Kotha, a cultural space traditionally known to us with its complex politics.

Q) How did the writer of the novel inspire you to stage it as a play?SS: Well I read this novel in my college and it had a great impact on me. The form in which the novel was written was also exciting. Not only that, the novel talks about the abuse of power which caught my eye. I could easily imagine a play out of it and since then it was in my mind. As we were searching for stories a few months back, I had proposed this and everyone approved.Q) Any special memories during the process?

SS: Actually the whole process is special for us. The practice used to be very intense...we used to gather by 7:30 am sharp. I used to travel from Powai to Versova and since June we had rehearsals, workshops, residencies etc. The journey was exciting enough.

Q) How did you manage the whole team and keep them ticking without getting them or you demotivated?

SS: First of all our team consists of artists with different backgrounds, some professional actors, some visual artists and some researchers. Bringing them together and working in this six months tenure was interesting. While framing the play we used to do workshops based on bits and parts of the novel and the final script got made only a few days before our premiere. Actually, in the whole process, I was more like an editor because my teammates used to do everything and I would just put them together. I basically worked with the actor’s dramaturgy. It was a collaborative process.

Q) Could you tell us why you have used an alternative space for the play?

SS: To tell the truth those were familiar spaces and we had experimented with alternate spaces for our play ‘Her Letters’ and that seemed to workout.

Q) Did you feel any jitters while presenting the play for the first time?Ans: Well, basically I was nervous in the whole process and I am still when we do rehearsals because the play has to be worked on and each time new things come up. It constantly evolves.

Q) Did you think of any alternate names for the play or you were pleased with the novel’s title as well?

SS: The name was confirmed long back even before the play got made. If you see it’s an irony that we would be talking about fish in a drought hit place like Bundhelkhand. The writer of the novel used virgin fish as a metaphor for commodification of women. It is a straightforward political satire.

Q) Any future plans with the play?

SS: Ahh… we have some performances on the of 26th November then 3rd December and we have upcoming shows in Delhi. In the near future we are planning a dramatic reading with Nisha Abdulla, a playwright based in Bangalore. “So a big long schedule...” she said with an enthusiastic smile.

About the blogger: Venkat Karthik writes short stories, loves to read and is an all-out theatre buff. He catches plays and films often and is currently working on an event in Hyderabad. His home is in Pune.

Click his photo to contact him!

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