The Crow lives in a tower overlooking an ancient monument where jinns come out on moonless nights to swim in the lake. The Crow knows the darkness mirrors its own blackness. The Crow can veil itself and see all that goes on in Hauz Khas Village. Is it a bird? Is it an occult symbol? Or is it a theatre collective’s new workshop-plus-performance venue?
Tower Of Song (And Dance)
Theatre-makers Nayantara Kotian and Prashant Prakash -- whom you may know from Bangalore's own drama circuit -- will answer these and other questions once you wend your way past the restobars and lehenga stores into HKV’s residential areas, where they've just put the finishing touches on a new theatre space in an extraordinary home. Nayantara is an award-winning filmmaker, director, playwright and designer; Prashant is an actor; and Crow is their theatre company that’s found its home in a minar in the village.
At the end of a tiny lane is a beautiful, Rajasthani-style carved wooden doorway. Step inside, close the heavy doors and you’ll need to make a quick decision: go up or down? A rope functions as a bannister; each of the short steps culminates in a landing. One has a fountain. One set of doors leads to a sunless room; a third way leads to a nook that seems to be waiting to become a library.
A rope functions as a bannister; each of the short steps culminates in a landing. One has a fountain. One set of doors leads to a sunless room; a third way leads to a nook that seems to be waiting to become a library.
A landing leads to a compact seating overlooking a quiet corner of the Hauz Khas monuments. Below are a couple of graves, perhaps of lovers. And betwixt them, a young living couple stealing a kiss oblivious to your voyeur’s gaze. Are you a visitor or a character in a play?
Nayantara and Prashant - whose past-life connections are to Bangalore and Mumbai - will be working here for the next six months, producing theatre, events and working towards building a community.
Both tasted early success with their play The Skeleton Woman, created at Quaff, the theatre company they founded with actor Kalki Koechlin. They came up with Crow, in turn, exclusively to build immersive theatre as a genre. Their first event, held in late January, was a storytelling workshop that aids world-building for science fiction. Next up is Nayantara’s design workshop, in which she’ll take her participants through elements of theatre design including costume, makeup, and creating site-specific performances.
Their first event, held in late January, was a storytelling workshop that aids world-building for science fiction.
Participants will experience a range of sights, sounds and smells through in-situ performances. The first of these, to be held on Valentine’s Day, is called The Hungry Hearts Supper Club, and will be about being single and surly, or just loveless and cynical in the city. No mushy music here: instead you’ll meet the host, Siren, who has used her charms to lure young sailors. Her assistant Impling is the maître d' of the supper club and guests include an over-zealous exterminator, a zoologist who studies magical animals and a goddess of fashion.
Prashant also promises that the four-course meal to go with it will be delicious, and play a part in unfolding the narrative a bite at a time. Participants will eat, engage with the cast, meet other singles, and cynics - and perhaps add a plot twist to the existing storyline.
“We want to bring people who have interest in performance, design, experiential storytelling,” says Prashant, “It is a chance to experience storytelling in a very visceral sort of way.” Even the director and the cast, they say, want to be surprised by the way the audience responds. “We have to be spontaneous, actors have to be able to improvise,” adds Nayantara. The unpredictability is like the tower, or the eye of the crow: it keeps you on your toes.
A version of this story first appeared on BPB Delhi. This story was contributed by Karuna John, an independent journalist and editor based in New Delhi.
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