An actor, playwright, director and dramaturg, Hemang Nandabalan Yadav is going to direct Guru Ka Bhraman, an adaptation of an RK Narayan story. A satire on astrology, the play is about three individuals and their hidden secrets.
Guru Ka Bhraman, like all of RK Narayan's stories, depicts the comedy and tragedy of everyday life; of how destiny plays an ironic role in our lives; of how one's actions may consciously or subconsciously change the lives of others; of how we repent for years the crimes of yesterday; of how we reconcile ourselves to truth and lies.
Named the Best Performer for the 2007 Writers Festival Read Competition, Hemang went on to write and direct plays such as A Noah play, All the Crazy People, under Wisdom of Monkeys. Maya: Demon Architect and Letter to Juliet for Bellepoque, Not 50, 700!, Sambavam and many others.
As the resident playwright and director of Ai Tong School’s Drama Club, he has also staged many children’s plays. Connected to India (CtoI) had a tete-e-tete with the director.
CtoI: Have you been writing and directing Hindi plays for other festivals and/or your own productions?
Hemang Yadav: No, this is my first time directing a Hindi play! I've directed many English plays and a few Tamil ones. I don't speak Hindi, although I understand it a little bit. There are periods when I happen to be with Hindi speakers a lot and have been watching Bollywood movies. During these moments I understand Hindi a little better. Other times I lose touch!
CtoI: Singapore’s arts and culture scene seems to have heated up a lot in the last few years, there are too many shows for NRIs to go to, in this context do you think a Hindi theatre festival is too bold a step?
Hemang Yadav: Not at all, because I believe the NRIs are really hungry for more theatre! This has been made evident by the immense support shown to Dastak. Two of our shows are sold-out. This just goes to prove that you can't have too much of a good thing. The theatre scene needs to heat up even more in response to the immense demand.
CtoI: Dastak seems to be the Twitter of theatre; communicating/telling the story in 10 minutes. How challenging is it?
Hemang Yadav: Yes, 10-minute plays are definitely challenging. The plays have to be very precise. They must get to the point quickly, but still, demonstrate character depth and sufficient complexity of the plot. However, the challenge is ultimately stimulating, pushing us to be even more creative, to find new ways of staging and telling a story.
CtoI: What is going to be your next project?
Hemang Yadav: I'll be working on a full-length English play - a modern interpretation of an Indian myth.
CtoI: How do you accurately portray the modern world on the stage?
Hemang Yadav: I think rather than seeing it as a matter of accuracy, I'd rather see it as a matter of relatability. There are so many ways of seeing the same idea, event or person. No one way is necessarily more accurate than the next. To paraphrase something mentioned in The History Boys, a good story is like a hand reaching through space and time, patting yours, and telling you 'I've been through this too. You are not alone.' If you can have that effect on even one audience member, then you have done your job. To someone your portrayal of the modern world was accurate.
CtoI: How challenging it is to showcase the story by RK Narayan when the audience is aware of the storyline?
Hemang Yadav: Again, the challenge was more creative stimulation than annoying difficulty. Though the short story is relatively well-known, there have been a few adaptations that have tweaked the story in interesting ways. The basic story is wonderfully raw, a short devastating sketch of everyday life, which is RK Narayan's speciality. We too have adapted and devised using the basic premise, so we can promise there will be twists and surprises for the audience members watching the play!