Mumbai-based director Atul Kumar’s new production, Taking Sides, is set in a very cold Berlin as real-life footage shows a series of concentration camps as well as breathtaking classical music being conducted by great maestros. What complicates the scene is that the conductors of these delightful pieces were supporters of Adolf Hitler or active members of the Nazi Party. It is this divide between soaring art and the moral choices of artists that Taking Sides explores.
The play, which started being made during the pandemic and opened in Pune in 2022, is traveling to different cities in India. It will be performed in Delhi for the first time on September 1 and September 31 and Jaipur on September 3.
Based on a 1995 play by Ronald Harwood, Taking Sides is presented like a courtroom drama in which Wilhelm Furtwängler, considered one of the most accomplished and influential orchestral conductors of the recorded era, is being interrogated on his Nazi loyalties. “Every artist is a human being and, as a human being, you have to have a political conviction.… I think that was naive on my part, but every citizen must express his political convictions,” says Furtwängler, played by Kumar.
“Furtwängler goes into the spiritual realm of music. He says that no fascists, murderers, torturers, nobody, can touch you when you are in the realm of a single performance of a great masterpiece of Beethoven or Bach,” says Kumar. Major Steve Arnold, essayed by Sukant Goel, asks, “Have you smelled the burning flesh of those gas ovens and the graves where they threw people? While they were doing this to millions of people, you were standing there and making music.”
In two acts, audience members witness the argument between art and politics, right and wrong, and the different sides of morality. The play offers no conclusion, enabling audiences to carry the debates onward after the play. As with all plays by Kumar, the show begins even before the performances do — as audiences walk in. In the case of Taking Sides, the audience members have to choose a side. The play is designed for a traverse stage, with the action unfolding in the centre and the audience seated on two sides. “They can sit anywhere they want. After the interval, they are free to exchange their seats,” says Kumar.
Dharmendra abused house help, his mother got house help to abuse him back: Sunny Deol remembers anecdote
‘I want him to crack JEE but don’t want to lose him in the process’: Worried parents shift to Kota due to rising suicide cases
He had first watched the film, Taking Sides, more than 20 years ago and it stayed with him. Taking Sides comes after Kumar’s other dark, political plays, Aaeen, on the Constitution of India, and Baaghi Albele, which is based on a story set in Nazi-occupied Poland. The director says that this was not a conscious decision. Best known for the rollicking Piya Behrupiya, which had its last show recently after more than a decade, Kumar is now creating highly-political dramas.
With Taking Sides, Kumar also steps into realism. His theatre has, until now, been about farce and stylised, over-the-top movements.“Taking Sides is like an argument piece where the characters sit and talk and one has to be very careful about pauses and breaths. It’s the kind of work I have never done before so it was exciting as an actor and director,” he says.
📣 For more lifestyle news, follow us on Instagram | Twitter | Facebook and don’t miss out on the latest updates!
Credit: Source link