Touch­ing the Sky

In HELLO FARMAAISH, astro­naut Kal­pana in­spires Chawla of the flight of a group fan­tasy girls in vil­lage of Haryana

India Today - - LEISURE - —Al­pana Chowd­hury

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.

Photo by NEVILLE SUKHIA

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