Touching the Sky
In HELLO FARMAAISH, astronaut Kalpana inspires Chawla of the flight of a group fantasy girls in village of Haryana
DAYS BEFORE HER 2003 journey into space, Haryana-born astronaut Kalpana Chawla told india today, “I have always felt connected to the whole universe… We often slept in the courtyard, under the stars… The sense of awe for the heavens started there.”
In Hello Farmaaish, a delightful new play directed by Yuki Ellias that’s the second work in this year’s Aadyam Theatre programme, a group of young Haryana village girls are struck by a similar sense of awe when they chance upon the news of Kalpana’s flight. Wanting to spread the word in their kasba, where a missing donkey makes big news, they take over a community radio station.
In their imaginative reports, however, Kalpana soon becomes a metaphor for the dreams of the rustic young girls to live in a different kind of world. In this invented place, men can get pregnant and babies can decide their gender when they grow up. There are no dominating mothers-in-law or female foeticide. Girls can choose chapati-making aliens as husbands and float freely in a sweet, starry world. Predictably, the men in the village object to the fantasy being broadcast over the radio, but the girls couldn’t care less. “Unki soch, unka bojh,” says Minaz, the boldest of them.
Cleverly conceived by co-writers Ellias and Sneh Sapru, the utopian world of these young dreamers is wonderfully created on stage by set designer Vivek Jadhav, who took inspiration from Salvador Dali. Soft, fluffy clouds hang, mid-air, over one part of the stage, while colourful flowers hug a tree-trunk in another. A ladder, perhaps symbolising the girls’ aspirations, helps them reach an antenna that needs constant tweaking. Large, flapping parrots and milk-white sheep created by Kapil Dev, impart a touch of innocence. This world, sometimes real, sometimes surreal, is magically lit up by Asmit Pathare. The colloquialisms of Vidit Tripathi’s Hindi adaptation add to the fun. And strong performances from Abhishek Chauhan as the hapless Bobby, whose radio station is usurped by the girls; Puja Sarup as a perpetually-pregnant, knowledge-craving Gita; and Priyanka Setia as the outspoken Minaz make the comic-serious fantasy come alive. Hello Farmaaish will be staged September 8 and 9 at St Andrew’s Auditorium, Mumbai, and September 22 and 23 at Kamani Auditorium in New Delhi.