Human issues tackled on stage

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TO NDR Pranesh Maharaj Ashok Dhaneshwar Pranesh Maharaj, pictured, and Vivian Moodley are making strides in theatre.

POLART Productions. It’s a name you’re going to want to remember on the arts scene in Durban.

The company made waves with their production Bhagwan Gave Me This Life (God Gave Me This Life), a play in Hindi written and directed by Vivian Moodley and performed by Pranesh Maharaj.

After a successful run over the festive season, the play was staged again at the weekend and will probably tour Pietermaritzburg soon.

The company then staged Late Night with Mohammed Rafi, a tribute show celebrating the music great and documenting his history.

This, too, was successful and is likely to continue as a regular “late-night” feature at the Catalina Theatre.

Tonight caught up with Maharaj and Moodley to find out more about Polart and their plans for theatre in Durban, which include two plays in the near future and work on the film scene.

The duo explained that their objective was to celebrate the South African and human experiences.

Bhagwan Gave Me This Life tackles loneliness, ageing and depression; Beggar (to be staged soon) deals with marginalisation and judging people; and Cookie in the Kitchen (also to be staged soon) looks at the abuse of women.

“We want to tell South African stories, starting with Durban stories. Polart stands for ‘promotion of local artists’, and the name was put together with that in mind,” explained Maharaj.

“Bhagwan Gave Me This Life was a huge risk, but the success of it laid the foundation for us now to take some of our other works and give them a chance to live and breathe.

“Beggar is my work – it is cross-medium. We began by shooting the movie (of the same name). We will now show the movie, and at some point the actor will come out and continue on stage, with all of this happening in the same space and at the same time. Technically, it is not the easiest thing to pull off.

“Cookie in the Kitchen is in rehearsals. It’s a quantum drama because there is no real time to it… it’s so fluid. It deals with woman abuse.

“It’s happened – we know of these things happening, and we know that it will continue in the future unless people talk about it.”

Moodley said the success of their productions lay in the fact that the messages were universal.

“Bhagwan deals with the human condition. With Beggar, there’s a beggar in the street in every part of the world. With Cookie, it’s women’s issues. There’s abuse of women throughout the world… We are telling it from a South African woman’s perspective. The dynamics for South Africa are slightly different, but the message is universal.”

Moodley said that, when they staged Bhagwan, they didn’t consider it a risk, but through research and focus groups found a gap in the market.

“We were confident that, because it’s different, we would be successful. “Pranesh comes from a Hindi-speaking background, so we went with that first. But the plan is to have it adapted into Tamil.

“That’s already in the pipeline. It will be called Kadavul Gave Me This Life. Karthiegasen Pillay is assisting with the translation.”

Maharaj said they had engaged Sam Marais to star in another of their works, They Don’t Come By Here No More.

“He’s a beautiful artist as a singer and a performer. We’ve recently secured him for They Don’t Come By Here No More… It really is a chick flick in the theatre. You’ll watch it and realise the degree of sacrifice for love is the strongest point of this story.

“The other play coming later in the year is A Coloured Called Moodley and his conversations with God… It will star Vivian and be based partly on his life.”

Polart also has films in production: The Father, the Son and the Holy and Sita.

“They are both serious movies, completely different stories with a different take on what we see in the world. They are for the film festival markets,” said Maharaj.

“I think this route we’re taking is good, because the amount of support you get from film festivals is good. We are hoping that, through film festivals, film distributors will pick up our films and distribute them to bigger markets.”

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