Hundreds of plays in the form of dance dramas are made in India every month, be it Hindi, English, regional languages or even Hinglish. In the dance and theatre world, people talk from the heart and each story is written and performed from the soul. Many stories are traditional and are based or inspired by mythology but there are few dance dramas which are frictional and more importantly based on mental illness or raising some sort of societal issues.
Jannat Central is one upcoming dance drama which is premiering at the prestigious Prithivi Theatre in Mumbai soon. This interesting dance play is about a dancer father and his schizophrenic daughter. The play has a blend of various Indian and international dance forms that have been woven into a dramatic and emotional story. This play will take you through Kathak, Cuban Rumba, Brazilian Samba, Japanese Butoh, Contemporary, Hip Hop, Belly Dance, Sufi and much more. And all the dance forms are filled with loads of laughs, joys, tears and fears.
To make such a dance play, one needs a mind that not only has deep understanding towards classic theatre but also has in-depth knowledge of dance. No one but the super-talented Trishla Patel could have done this. She is not only the director of this dance drama but has written this touching story which has been co-directed by Shashank Vishnu Dutt and produced under the banner of TPOT Production.
I feel proud to say that over a decade ago, Trishla had learnt Ballroom and Latin dances under my guidance and I was truly humbled when she approached me saying that she wrote Jannat Central keeping me in mind and she was very keen I play the central role of the worried dancer father who tries to revive his daughter through dance, using dance as a form of therapy.
Trishla directed her first play for the group, RAGE. It was called Dream Catcher and opened during Writers Bloc 1. It was a co-direction with Faezeh Jalali. With its success, the direction bug bit her and she started her journey into the world of direction and writing. Thereafter followed Don’t Look Now, Love All, Kumbh Katha, Chaar Small and Zinga Zinga Roses and before turning an independent director, she assisted in other theatre productions. She is also an actor who has worked with renowned theatre groups like Ansh, Theatre Unit, Arpana, Motley, Little Prithvi Players etc.
TPOT Production is a theatre group formed by Trishla and her husband, Vishal Capoor. TPOT Production has done a number of plays like Kumbh Katha, Chaar Small, Six Characters In Search Of An Author and a co-production with Aarambh Theatre called Aaj Rang Hai. A number of platform performances like Love All and many children’s play like Zinga Zinga Roses, Wolf, Growing Up have been made under TPOT Production.
After knowing Trishla for so many years, I finally asked her a question which I am sure many already have for her. Theatre-people are considered serious then why this fun-filled name TPOT Production? To which she said, “Sandip sir, we decided to name it TPOT because in theatre, a lot of ideas get discussed over a cup of tea. Some are good, some bad but tea stays the same and joins the good and bad almost like ying and yang.” Just this thought says a lot about Trishla as a person who not just looks at a thought or an idea but sees what inspires it and where it is germinated from.
I remember a few times I crossed my line and stepped out of my actor’s shoes suggesting a few alterations in her script as well as dance routines and she without battling an eyelid, accepted the changes positively and implemented them too. Such directors are rare to find who are not rigid and open to accepting changes and welcome new ideas with open arms.
When I pointed this rare quality to her, she humbly put it all onto her teacher, her guru, theatre maverick Pandit Satyadev Dubey. She said, “My guru always inculcated the need of positive theatre in me. That’s why I am like this and my TPOT Production means ‘t’ which stands for theatre and the ‘pot’ for a pot of ideas or ‘pot’ for positive energy in theatre. I want shadow of Dubey sir’s thoughts to always fall on our group and bless us.”
Trishla believes in encouraging people of all ages to pursue the arts in order to preserve a certain level of well being in the individual thereby maintaining a cultural balance in society with a dash of fun.
Jannat Central also stars India’s supermodel and my dancing partner, the super-gorgeous Alesia Raut as the young mother, dashing Mithun Purandare as psychiatrist and a young bunch of dynamic actors — Jaya Virley, Anna Ador, Shashank Vishnu Dutt, Manali Panchal and Aastha Deorah.
The production team consists of Vedika Sai, Ajinkya Hukerikar and Anuj Rampal. The dramatic costumes for all the dances and scenes are designed by the very creative Priyanka Kaul, lights are by Shawn Lewis, sets by Peddy Maurya, sound by Kedar Bhagat and Manoj Chinmanani, posters by Varun Kapoor and backstage management by Prashant Amlani.
The imagination and thoughts of Trishla have been perfectly executed through dance choreography by graceful Kathak dancer Smriti Bhandari for Indian dances and multi-talented Ashutosh Arya for all other international dance forms.
The story of Jannat Central takes the audience through a whirlwind of emotions but the most beautiful part of Trishla’s dance drama is the idea of using various dance forms to show different feeling. The birth of the child is shown through the Cuban dance of love, Rumba; celebration is shown through Samba; the trauma of the mind is showcased through the unique Japanese dance Butoh; modern ways of cleansing thoughts are through hip hop at a disco; dream of father-daughter meeting by Polish Polka; souls reaching the divine through Sufi dance; prayer before a dance is done through Kathak and many more such creative ways of bringing in dance on stage.
Mostly for all my previous dance dramas, I have been the creative head but for the first time, I worked under someone else’s guidance and I must say it has been a complete privilege to be learning under my own student. Trishla Patel is one director who has time and again proved herself to be better than the best and with this first dance drama by her TPOT Production, she is yet again out to show the world that she is one marvellously gifted director who knows how to balance the idea of dance, theatre and at the same time talk openly about mental illness people go though.
And more importantly, how an art like dance is as good as medicines and can cure almost all issues and problems of life. Today, with this article, I would like to wish Trishla Patel and my entire team all the best for a show that will make people get up and notice dance in a complete new avatar.
Sandip Soparrkar is a well known Ballroom dancer and a Bollywood choreographer who has been honoured with National Achievement Award and National Excellence Award by the Govt of India. He can be contacted on [email protected]