The Academy for Arts Research Training & Innovation

Arts Collaboration

Grant Period: Over one year and six months

Daksha Seth, dancer/choreographer, and Devissaro, music composer/stage designer, have been consistently involved in creating and designing new productions that stretch the boundaries of the performing arts. Inspired by Imtiaz Dharker's Postcards from god, they approached IFA to support the conceptualisation and premiere performance of a stage production based on the poems. The performance is envisaged as an evocative collage of the spoken word, music, movement and projected image. While the performance uses all these elements, it strains against the boundaries of dance, poetry and music to evolve a production that is a creative meshing of these disciplines. Imtiaz's collection comprises short poems which stand on their own, but are nevertheless connected by a narrative thread that unifies the collection. The proposed performance would mimic the structure of the book and consist of short pieces that also make up a coherent performance. Several possible interpretations of the text, and combinations of text, music, movement and projected image will be explored.

The performance is conceived with three of four versatile performers, drawn from the disciplines of dance, theatre and music. The performers are capable of crossing the boundaries of each discipline. A selection of poems from Imtiaz's collection will serve as reference points for the evolution of the performance. A dance segment could develop a mood or psychological state of an earlier poem, and a music segment could simply provide a soundscape for projected images. As the dancer/choreographer in the project, Daksha would bring a 'wide kinetic palette' to it. The choreography will not be limited to literal interpretation of the text, but will respond in ways that are more intuitive than intellectual, highlighting subtext or mood.

Devissaro will explore a flexible mix of live and recorded music and sound effects. The score will be written for four musicians, a keyboard player, a bass guitarist, a percussionist and a female vocalist. While the vocals will be performed live, much of the instrumental backup for the vocals will be recorded. The visual landscape of Postcards will combine projected images (video and stills), with imaginative staging and lighting, and will be determined collaboratively by Devissaro and Imtiaz. Imtiaz brings to the project, besides her poetry, her experience as a film and video director and visual artist. With his expertise in photography, stage design and lighting, Devissaro will to try and balance the opposing demands of the different visual elements explored in the production.

Postcards will essentially speak in a woman's voice. Most of Daksha's work over the years has been focussed on the male dancer, because AARTI (The Academy for Arts Research, Training and Innovation) the performing arts academy that Daksha and Devissaro have set up, has been more successful in attracting male dancers. Female artists from outside AARTI would give Daksha a much needed opportunity to work with women artists on a production in which the woman occupied centre stage.

The project would comprise a series of collaborations between the primary collaborators, Imtiaz, Daksha and Devissaro, and between them and the various performing artists that come into the work process at various stages. The collaboration will happen in three phases leading to the performance: a short interaction of three to four months in Mumbai, ‘development and rehearsal period of three to four months in Thiruvananthapuram, followed by the final phase in Mumbai leading to the inaugural production in NCPA. However, the performance is expected to go through several revisions subsequently, before it assumes a finished form. Other project outcomes include a CD and cassette of the Postcards soundtrack and a video version of the performance suitable for telecasting. Though the audio and video recording are part of the project budget, the additional costs for producing CDs, cassettes and a professional video would need to be acquired from other sources. The intention is to give the production a life that extends beyond live performance.