The Silence of Screams: Neelam Mansingh Chowdhry unveils memory and the contemporary with ‘Trunk Tales’

By Sukant Deepak

New March 24 (IANS): The straight, clean lines of the whole. Mirrors. The water. The actor is about to dive inward for a reveal. Not a great tragedy, but a series of tiny explosions… here, contemporary stories buried every day have come out of the vault, to be forgotten again. There is no respite, but then the director never promised any.

Theater director Neelam Mansingh Chowdhry’s latest production, “Trunk Tales,” tackles several themes head-on with a solo performance by actor Vansh Bhardwaj. Without the comfort of a bound storyline, the spin-off lays bare the austerity of water, food, body and gender policies. What happens on stage in a particular anti-poetic mode sways violently, almost seductively, but then the piece was wartime crafted crudely painted in the landscape of normalcy.

Supported by the Goethe-Institut and Ranga Shankara, the scope of the hour-long production never exceeds its scope – at once sharp, precise, delicate and heavy.

Chowdhry is clear that it’s hard to define how an idea is laid down and what she does to get it out and sew it on stage.

“I think there was something about water and it started from there. I started collecting material. It was a very organic development. Some notes pick up light while others remain silent behind the scenes. I think it started with a series of improvisations, but it is not a play, just a series of processes that define the creation of the language of performance. It has a lot to do with aesthetics and storytelling and the body of the actor. I work a lot with memory and the politics of the food that I had in my house came to life. Now the key is how make everything cohesive when various memories start dancing in front of you. You sew it up and make something out of it. It’s part of the whole journey you go on to create a There’s a constant chiseling,” says Padma Shri Honors recipient Chowdhry. and Sangeet Natak Akademi, d have the last piece will soon travel to different parts of the country.

With the play’s many stories intertwining without ever dominating one another, the director feels that when you use a word over and over again, it loses its meaning.

“So I wanted to touch different ideas, let the audience ‘see’ them…it was important to keep everything simple and not grand. That’s how my imagination takes me.”

For those who follow this director’s work, the move from major productions — ‘Kitchen Katha’, ‘Yerma’, ‘Nagmandla’, ‘Naked Voices’ to her latest ‘Black Box’ and now ‘Trunk Tales’ does not mean not run away easily. She says it’s a combination of circumstances, funding, but also her own report at the time.

“‘Ghum Hai’ had an elaborate cast, musicians… and it’s not that I don’t want to do such pieces. Funding hasn’t been made available for many years and my band has survived thanks to the grant from the Ministry of Culture. I’ve been talking about it for a long time. Now we get small grants from private institutions and we try to stay afloat with them,” says this Chandigarh-based director who runs ” The Company” since 1983.

While some theater troupes, particularly in Mumbai, enjoy the patronage of big industrial houses, Chowdhry feels she is completely out of place in this space.

” What are you talking about ? People say my work is very dark. Frankly, I don’t know what they mean by comedy. understanding of the world in which I live. I’ve done big productions like “Nagamandala” and “Naked Voices” for institutions, after all, only a big institution has the kind of money that allows it. But unfortunately, they are no longer interested. .”

The director, whose productions have been invited to major theater festivals around the world, including the UK, Japan and Germany, is rarely invited to show her work in her hometown of Chandigarh, a place where many many mediocre directors tend to bring all the elements of street theater to the stage ensuring a shouting match.

“Yeah, I don’t get any support from the city. You can get a Padma award, but people here still don’t respond. There’s this conspiracy of silence. Even artists don’t come to my shows when they come are taking place in my private auditorium. In fact, “Trunk Tales” was supposed to be performed in Chandigarh. It was so insulting that three days before the show I was told on a WhatsApp text that it was not going to happen. what more can I say?

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