Theatre Critics Conference

The impact and state of theatre in India during Covid-19

(11:30 - 1:00 Pm)

Neelam Mansingh

Neelam Mansingh Chowdhry has a Master’s degree in the History of Arts as well as a diploma from the National School of Drama. In 1979, she moved to Bhopal and began working with Rang Mandal, a theatre repertory attached to the multi-arts complex, Bharat Bhavan. In 1984, she moved to Chandigarh, where she set up her own theatre group, called The Company. Neelam simultaneously started teaching in the Department of Indian Theatre, Panjab University, of which, she was also the Chairperson. The Company has participated in major national and international festivals. Some of her well-known plays include Kitchen Katha, The Suit, Yerma, Nagamandala, The Mad Woman of Chaillot, Little Eyolf, Bitter Fruit and Naked Voices. The recipient of several awards including the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 2003, and the Padma Shri (2011), Dr. Chowdhry is currently Professor Emeritus, at the Panjab University.

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Quasar Thakore Padamsee

Quasar is a theatre-holic and lover of all things theatrical. Since 1999, he has directed and produced over 25 plays with QTP; including A Peasant of El Salvador, Project S.T.R.I.P., So Many Socks, Minorities and many others about contemporary social concerns. Internationally, he has worked on Tim Supple’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the aerial drama Mind Walking. He is a founding member of Thespo - a youth theatre initiative and at present, he is also serving on the festival committee of Tata Literature Live! The Mumbai LitFest.
He works as a lighting designer, stage manager, leads workshops and is a passionate crusader for the survival of theatre in the public consciousness.

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Rashmi Dhanwani

Rashmi Dhanwani is the Founder of the Art X Company, a strategic consultancy for the cultural sector focused on strategy, audience development and sector research. Prior to founding Art X, Rashmi has worked with NCPA Mumbai, Breakthrough in Delhi, the newspaper Daily News and Analysis (DNA); Kalaghoda Arts Festival, and The Goa Project. She holds a Masters in Cultural and Creative Industries from King’s College London. She has also been a recipient of the ARThink South Asia Fellowship (2011-12), a participant fellow at ‘The Academy—a program of Carnegie Hall, The Juilliard School and the Weill Music Institute’, a scholarship grantee of the JN Tata Trust and Charles Wallace India Trust, and a 2017 Global Fellow of the International Society for Performing Arts (ISPA), New York. Rashmi has also founded Arts Culture Resources India, a network and platform for cultural professionals in India and South Asia.

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MK Raina

M. K. Raina is one of India's most celebrated theatre actors and directors. Having graduated from National School of Drama in 1970, with the Best Actor award, he has been working in the theater and film industries since 1972, all over India, across languages and traditional styles. His association with rural and urban theatre forms across the country has helped him develop a unique style of storytelling. M.K Raina has produced over 130 plays in 13 languages.

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Sanjoy K. Roy

Sanjoy K. Roy, an entrepreneur of the arts, is the Managing Director of Teamwork Arts, which produces over 25 highly acclaimed performing arts, visual arts and literary festivals in multiple cities across the globe, including the world’s largest free literary gathering — the iconic annual Jaipur Literature Festival. Roy is also the founder-trustee of Salaam Baalak Trust, working to provide services for and rehabilitate street and working children in Delhi. He works closely with various industry bodies on policy issues within the cultural space in India and is the Co-chair of the Art and Culture Committee of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry. He was also a part of the Earth Day Network’s official Global Advisory Committee, for the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in 2020.

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Censorship and Self-censorship

(2:00 - 3:30 PM)

Lara Jesani

LARA JESANI is a lawyer committed to civil rights and human rights’ advocacy in the courtroom and outside of it. She has been practising law in the Indian courts for over a decade, and now primarily practices in the Bombay High Court and the National Green Tribunal. Lara has taken up cases of human rights violations, in particular constitutional, environmental, development and anti corruption matters, death penalty / criminal cases and in defense of human rights defenders. Lara holds a Masters in Political Science and a Masters in Law. She closely works with various civil society organisations, collectives and networks. Her advocacy has led her to engage with numerous performing artists.

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Dr. Aravind Ganachari

Dr. ARAVIND GANACHARI is a historian-scholar and was the former Head of Department of History, at Mumbai University. He has documented and published on a wide variety of topics pertaining to the British rule in India and has written about key freedom fighters and nationalists during the independence movement. Dr. Ganachari has studied Marathi drama in the colonial period, particularly from 1860 to 1926, and has also worked on the evolution of the law of sedition. He has several articles, essays, papers and books to his credit. Dr. Ganachari has spoken at various universities in India and across the world and has also been guest faculty at some, including Christ Church College, Oxford, Columbia University, Georgian University, Barrie Ontario, Canada and at Loughborough University, Leicester.

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Anjum Katyal

ANJUM KATYAL is a writer, editor, translator and critic. She is the author of several books on theatre and performance such as Habib Tanvir: Towards an Inclusive Theatre and Badal Sircar: Towards a Theatre of Conscience. She has been Chief Editor, Seagull Books, as well as Editor, Seagull Theatre Quarterly, Calcutta. She has been involved with the publication of the New Indian Playwrights Series of post-independence regional playwriting translated into English, and a host of other theatre titles. She has translated Habib Tanvir’s Charandas Chor, Hirma ki Amar Kahani (The Living Tale of Hirma), among other plays. She is currently Curator, NEW festival, Santiniketan, and Consultant Director, Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival.

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Sudhanva Deshpande

SUDHANVA DESHPANDE is an actor, director and organiser with Jana Natya Manch, one of India's pre-eminent political theatre groups. He has over 4,000 performances to his credit as an actor. He works as Managing Editor at LeftWord Books. Sudhanva’s book on the momentous staging of the play Halla Bol, which claimed Safdar Hashmi’s life, is a must-read for not only its vivid, first-hand account of the events of the fateful day, but also for the author’s deep understanding and fine ability to connect the event to the larger social and political landscape of the country, while presenting a terrific case study of the power of performance.

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Deepa Punjani

The curator and moderator of the panel, DEEPA PUNJANI has been closely engaged with theatre and theatre criticism for several years. She represents the Indian National Section of the International Association of Theatre Critics (IATC). Deepa’s M.Phil thesis (2004) studied the work of select Indian women theatre practitioners in the broad context of feminism and gender representation on the Indian stage. Deepa is a lawyer by profession and also writes about legal issues. In her latter role, she is keenly interested in dialogues between the judiciary and civil society, and in the intersection between law, politics, and culture.

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The need for critics

(4:00 - 5:30 PM)

Gayatri Sinha

Gayatri Sinha is an editor, art critic and curator based in New Delhi. She is the founder director of Critical Collective, an initiative for communication in the arts. She has edited a number of theatre titles including, Voices of Change: 20 Indian Artists (Marg 2010), Art and Visual Culture in India 1857- 2007 (Marg Publications, 2009); Indian Art: An Overview (Rupa Books, 2003]; Woman/Goddess (1998); Expressions and Evocations: Contemporary Indian Women Artists of India (Marg Publications, 1996].
Gayatri has curated extensively in India and abroad including at the Musee d’Ansembourg, Grand Curtius Museum Belgium, Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, India Art Fair, and Korean International Art Fair, among many others. For leading private galleries like Sakshi, Espace and Vadehra Art Gallery, and institutions like Birla Academy, she has addressed issues on the state of Indian polity in a period of violence and flux. As an art critic, sha has written a column for the Indian Express and The Hindu, and has worked on monographs on the artists, Krishen Khanna, Adimoolam and Himmat Shah.
Gayatri has also given lectures across the world on Indian art including at the Museum of Modern Art, Arken Museum, the Hong Kong International Art Fair, and National Gallery of Modern Art, etc. She is also a visiting professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University and at the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai.

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Ananda Lal

Ananda Lal started practising theatre hands-on with the Kolkata-based group, The Red Curtain, in 1973. A graduate of Presidency College and the University of Calcutta, he soon realised his fascination for the art form and went on to do a Ph.D. in Theatre from the University of Illinois, USA.

Upon his return to Kolkata, he started working at Jadavpur University, from where he retired in 2017 as Professor of English. At Jadavpur, Professor Lal taught drama and introduced a practical theatre course in which he directed students for public performances every year for 25 years.

In 1978, Ananda Lal began writing on theatre, for the Kolkata newspaper The Hindustan Standard. As a theatre critic of The Telegraph (1986-2018) and now of The Times of India, he has reviewed more than 3000 productions. His most important books include, Rabindranath Tagore: Three Plays (the first English book exclusively on Tagorean drama), Rasa: The Indian Performing Arts, Shakespeare on the Calcutta Stage, The Oxford Companion to Indian Theatre (the first reference work on this subject in any language), Twist in the Folktale: Three Plays, Theatres of India, and Indian Drama in English: The Beginnings.

He has directed over 30 theatre productions, and worked on many others, such as Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream (directed by Tim Supple) for which Professor Lal did the dramaturgy, and lectured widely abroad and at home on Indian theatre. He also wrote the teleplay of a nine-episode serial on ‘Two Hundred Years of Bengali Theatre’, for Doordarshan, and translated into English plays by Tagore and Utpal Dutt.

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Mayank Shekhar

Mayank Shekhar is a film critic, writer and journalist. His work as a cinema curator includes the Jagran Film Festival and the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival. He’s been on several film juries, including MAMI and the National Awards. A part of the founding editorial team of Mumbai Mirror, Mayank has written extensively for it as well as for Hindustan Times, where he served as national culture editor. He was the first film critic to receive the Ramnath Goenka Award for excellence in journalism in 2006, and was chosen among emerging film critics from across the world, at the Berlinale (Berlin film festival) in 2008. Mayank is currently the Entertainment Head at Mid-day.

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Deepa Gahlot

Deepa Gahlot is a journalist, critic, columnist, editor, blogger, author and curator. She writes extensively on cinema, theatre, the arts, women’s issues for several publications and websites. She has won the National Award for Best Film Criticism, edited several cinema journals. Her work has appeared in anthologies on women’s studies and cinema–Bollywood Popular Indian Cinema, Behind the Scenes of Hindi Cinema: A Visual Journey through the Heart of Bollywood, and Janani. She has also worked on numerous books including, The Prithviwallahs (co-authored with Shashi Kapoor), and biographies of Shah Rukh Khan and Shammi Kapoor. She also headed the Theatre and Film department of the National Centre for the Performing Arts, Mumbai for seven years.

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Mukund Padmanabhan

Mukund Padmanabhan is a Professor of Practice at the newly-established Krea University, where he teaches Philosophy and related subjects. He has been the Editor of The Hindu and its sister publication, The Hindu BusinessLine.

A journalist for most of his working life, Mukund is an M-Phil in Philosophy and worked briefly as a lecturer in the University of Delhi before switching to journalism. He was an adjunct faculty of the Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines, where he taught law and advanced writing to postgraduate students. For The Hindu Group, he has curated two festivals of theatre and music — The Hindu Theatre Fest, and The Hindu November Fest. He also works on an annual thought conclave on behalf of the newspaper called, The Huddle. He is on the board of trustees for the CPB Foundation, which organises the Chennai Photo Biennale.

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