On the streets of the Old City in Hyderabad, young theatre actors tell the Palestine story of oppression. The energy of the actors and their performance are hard to miss as the audience is engrossed in watching them perform . Their play Hamesha Sameida (meaning Forever Steadfast) a collaborative effort between actors of Jana Natya Manch in New Delhi and actors from The Freedom Theatre (TFT) in West Bank, Palestine, has been creating an impact in the 11 cities across nine states of India.
With a cast of 10-14 people which includes six Palestinians, the play has been co-directed by Sudhanva Deshpande and Faisal Abu Alhayjaa of TFT. “We have a set of performances; a short piece where actors of Katkatha present a wordless performance titled ‘The Occupation’. It is aimed to communicate to the Indian audience what it means to occupy. This is told in three parts of land, sea and the olive tree,” points out Sudhanva Deshpande. The main performance includes the 25-minute performance titled Hamesha Sameida, which tries communicating the Palestine situation. The play in Arabic and Hindi creates quite a seamless experience. “There are many Arabic words that have seeped into the play that tells the story,” he adds. The central piece showcases a scene which talks about memory and the Palestinian identity. “There is a trunk of memories in the play and things come out of it. First comes Kofia, a Palestinian scarf out of the trunk. Then comes a picture of martyr and finally the olive tree. The whole scene is structured around these. The play ends on a note of resistance against oppression and pressure,” he explains.
The excitement among the actors is high, affirms Sudhanva.
“The actors are young people in their 20s and during the training workshop, the feeling was absolutely marvellous. Also we have performed inside halls and out in the street. The street performance was really exciting as common people do not usually come to watch a play. The fact that we were able to hold their attention is testimony to its success,” he smiles.
With the play staged across India, language is not a barrier, observes Sudhanva. “The play is very visual and has been built with an awareness that it will be travelling to places where Hindi is not common. There are many Arabic words but people understand the content looking at the scenes,” he elaborates.
The group has been on the road since December ’15 and have travelled to Lucknow, Bhopal, Kozhikode and Bengaluru. From Hyderabad, they are going to Kolkata and then to Patna. Sharing the experience of the Palestinian actors, Sudhanva states, “Everything in India was new to them. It is the first time that they have travelled in a train. “They were like, ‘Are we spending the whole night in the train? Are we eating food on the train? It is a big thing for them because they could never think of travelling anywhere to anywhere without the sight of army and without being checked, stopped or made to wait endlessly,” he recalls.
The group will showcase their final performance in Delhi. “The friends in Delhi have not seen the performance yet. They are eagerly waiting for it,” he concludes