From Text To Stage – Strategies for Adaption

Neelam Mansingh Chowdhry is hailed as the doyenne of Punjabi theatre. However, that often seems rather reductive. Undoubtedly, one of the most significant voices in the modern Indian theatre trajectory, Neelam’s work is an ongoing interaction between the ideas of tradition and modernity. Felicitated with the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 2003 and Padmashri in 2011, some of her most noted productions include Kitchen Katha, Nagamandala, Yerma amongst many others. Her decision to perform in Punjabi was connected to her journey in language. Neelam has endeavoured and quite rightly so to free Punjabi language from gross distortions often encountered in Hindi films. For her, language directly connects to cultural memory, imagery, history and sound.  She also credits Abraham Elkazi and B.V.Karanth as major influences in shaping her creative aesthetics. During a recent interaction at FLAME University organised by the Centre for South Asia, Neelam held forth on the process of adaptation from text to stage. She has worked with a wide array of texts ranging from Tagore to Lorca and opined that improvisation is key in the process of adaptation. Neelam also mentioned that despite of pre-existing texts, the real author of a play is the actor.

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