29th May 2008 - Theater Workshop by M S Sathyu

Today's workshop was conducted by M S Sathyu sir. Most of the time was taken by the film "Red Shoes". An excellent movie in my opinion. Sathyu sir gave a small introduction explaining the rationale behind the movie. The movie is set in a theater company; thus giving an insight into the dynamics of a theater troupe - the selection process, setting the score for a play, the costumes, the sets design and many more things. Sathyu sir talked about the time he met Hein Heckroth - in Frankfurt I think, in 1960s. Heckworth was holding an exhibition of his paintings which were very large sized. In a moment of comic relief Heckworth confessed that these paintings were nothing but the canvas that were spread on the stage to ensure that the paint does not soil the floor.

Red Shoes is based on a fairy tale in which a dancer wears a pair of magical red shoes. Even after she gets tired and wants to stop, the shoes to do not let her stop and in the end the girl dies. Red Shoes depict the protagonist's career in the movie and the expectation from the troupe owner that once selected to be part of the group, the girl should concentrate only on the work and should not waste time on things like love.

Sathyu Sir tried explaining it with the example of Meena Kumari and Kamal Amrohi and how he controlled her life totally. It really is enlightening and a pleasant experience to talk to people with experience. Sathyu Sir watched this movie in 1948. He talked about how Technicolor works - three strips of films with affinity to three different colors are overlapped with great precision. He talked about effects in theater and cinema and how we have come a long way from the 1950s.

He mentioned the theater and studio houses during the independence struggle and how they played their part even while exercising restraint to avoid getting banned.

He also talked about Utpal Dutt's maiden venture into theater which flopped miserably. They had to come up with a new play to avoid closure. It is at this time that their play Angaar gained popularity because of a particular scene with special effects. The scene involved gradual filling up a coalmine with water and the coal miners dying. The effect was achieved using transparent plastic along with colors that gave the shimmering effect water. Which just means that there was not a single drop of water on stage.

He also talked about Uday Shankar, a renowned dance exponent and elder brother of Pandit Ravi Shankar. Uday Shankar made a movie called "Kalpana" which told the story entirely through dance.

While I was searching for more information on Kalpana, I came across this link which lists the favorite movies of some highly accomplished film personalities. Do take a look.

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