“What if the one thing you were afraid of was your own mind?” and whether you could ever escape your own mind are some pertinent questions raised by Vaayusastra’s upcoming short play ‘The Escape’. The play is a part of their Three-day Theatre festival ‘Feathers’ and directed by debutante Tanya Patil under the guidance of Jagadeesh Kanna , the proprietor of Vaayusastra. It is being staged at Naveena Koothupattarai, a non-profit performance space striding to preserve Tamil folk arts and culture.
Who is Vaayusastra?
A Chennai-based organization that tries to combine the divergent fields of aeromodelling and theatre, the members of Vaayusastra divide their time between spreading love for aeronautics in children’s’ spaces (through storytelling and theatre) as well as producing series of short plays. It is predominantly made up of theatre artists, part time actors and script writers as well as aeronautical engineers handling the technical aspects of workshops. ‘The Escape’ was created as a collaborative venture between Vaayusastra and Tanya Patil, a second year student at Christ University.
‘The Escape’: A father-son battle in the war between reality and illusion
‘The Escape’ attempts at representing the distorted reality perceived by a schizophrenic in the backdrop of a society that does not understand or acknowledge psychological disorders. The father, essayed by Karthik Sridhar, portrays the hegemony of ‘logical, scientific thinking’ over ‘psychological fantasy’. With a father who fails to understand his own son’s living nightmare, Tanya depicts the struggle that almost every patient with a mental disorder goes through today in the ‘coming of age’ Indian society. Cut off from society and cast out by his own father, the story traces the son’s faltering mêlée against the disorder as his worst nightmares and monsters-under-the-bed come alive in his head.
Tête-à-tête with Tanya Patil
When asked about why the play was unscripted she responded “Being a neophyte to Chennai and Tamil, the language barriers I faced here gave me the idea of having an unscripted play.” The human predicament is not bound by language and can be expressed through anything from silence to gibberish to a cacophony of noises. A mental disorder transcends cultures, ethnicity and languages. “I also felt that the imposition of a script in this case hampered the acting process and restricted the artistic freedom of the actors.” She continued “That’s when I thought of creating a play in the form of a conversation between prototypes of these two personalities”. What followed this conceptualization was intensive facilitation of character building within the framework of the story to the point where the actors could converse with each other in character and embody the story. Every rehearsal of the play is idiosyncratic and the conversation is ever-evolving as well as fluid.
A student of Theatre and Psychology, Tanya aspires to bring the two fields together through her work in ‘The Escape’ and beyond. “Psychology is vastly unexplored territory despite the recent upsurge of interest in the field. When brought together, it creates phenomenal ventures like drama therapy and surrealistic theatre”. A strong believer of the concept of knowledge activism, she hopes to be able to integrate accessible entertainment with awareness about mental disorders and combat the stigma attached to mental disorders even today.