14th META Festival concluded with Red Carpet Awards Night

BeyondHeadlines Correspondent

New Delhi: With a maximum tally of 4 Awards each, the Hindi Adaptation of ‘Andha Yug’ by TAAM, Manipur bags Best Play and ‘Agarbatti’ by Samagam Rangmandal wins Best Director and Best Original Script at the 2019 META.

Innovative use of folk traditions and focus on socio-political issues in the nominated productions appreciated by jury members and audiences alike  

The theatre fraternity and audiences came together in the national capital for a red-carpet awards gala at the 14th Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards (META) Festival. Promoted by the Mahindra Group as part of its cultural outreach programmes, and curated by pioneering entertainment company Teamwork Arts, the week-long extravaganza came to an end as the past year’s best plays from across the country were awarded the coveted META at the Red Carpet Awards Night at Kamani Auditorium on recently.

Ashish Pathak receives the award for Best Original Script for Agarbatti from Mukund Padmanabhan

In India, theatre has had a historic, a chequered and a vast career, criss-crossing regions, languages and dialects: the colourful music of the nautanki, the dancing banjaras, the heart-tugging bauls, the dramatic jaatras, and, the wisdom of the sutradhaar. The annual Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards, which recognise excellence in theatre nationally, celebrate the diversity intrinsic to the rich cultural traditions of India. The META is India’s most comprehensive theatre awards and much revered in the theatre fraternity, recognising both on-stage and off-stage talent across 14 award categories, including the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award. 

The jury for the 14th edition of META comprised actor and screenwriter Akash Khurana, founder and former Executive Director of India Foundation for the Arts Anmol Vellani, popular Indian actress, singer and TV personality Ila Arun, eminent Indian actor, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Managing trustee of Nrityagram and one of India’s first professional female lighting designers Lynne Fernandez, former editor of The Hindu and curator of the annual thought conclave ‘The Huddle’ Mukund Padmanabhan, internationally-renowned dance historian, scholar, author and critic Sunil Kothari, and former Director of Yatrik, the oldest theatre group in the capital, and presently Director of the India Habitat Centre in New Delhi, Sunit Tandon.

Chillara Samara receives the Best Ensemble award from Sushma Seth

TAAM, Manipur’s Hindi Adaptation Andha Yug won the 2019 META for Best Play along with Prakash Mangaldin Singh winning for Best Stage Design, Sajida Saji winning for Best Costume and a tie win for Debarati Majumdar for Best Innovative Sound Design shared with Sumant Balakrishnan & Sudheer Rikhari from Loose Woman by Vismayah.

Matching TAAM Manipur’s awards tally of four, Agarbatti by the Samagam Rangmandal also bagged Best Director and Best Light Design for Swati Dubey and Best Original Script for Ashish Pathak as well as a tie win for Rukmini Sircar in her role as ‘Thakurain’, the widow of the Thakur leader who, along with 23 other Thakur men, was slaughtered by Phoolan Devi and her gang, for Best Actor in a Lead Role (Female) shared with Anjana Balaji for her role as ‘Janani’, the young daughter from an upper-caste family who dares to marry a man from the Chandala community, in the Tamil play Chandâla, Impure. Co-actor Dharanidharan U won the META for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Male) for his role as ‘Aaya’, Janani’s maid, confidant and the one who helped her elope, bringing Chandâla, Impure a total of two wins at META 2019.

Malayalam production Chillara Samaram from Little Earth School Of Theatre Kerala also won two awards including Best Ensemble and Best Choreography.

The META for Best Actor in a Lead Role (Male) was awarded to Shrungha BV for his portrayal of ‘Abhay’, one of the two male cousins at the centre of the intense Kannada family drama Kola by Theatre Tatkal from Bengaluru. Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Female) was bagged by Mallika Lokhande as ‘Gandhari 1’, the wife of Dhrutrashtra who grieves the death of her 100 sons, in the Gujarati Adaptation of Andha Yug by Rang Prayog from Vadodara.

The protagonists of Bhagi Hui Ladkiyan by the Agaaz Theatre Trust received a Special Jury Mention for their spirited and gifted performance.

One of India’s most progressive playwrights, Mahesh Elkunchwar was conferred the META Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to Indian theatre. In a message to META and to theatre artistes as well as audiences, he said, “I am very happy to receive this prestigious award.  META has been consistently honouring good theatre. It is a nice feeling to receive an award from people who genuinely love theatre.”

Hailing from Maharashtra’s Vidharba region, Mahesh Elkunchwar has been a towering presence in contemporary Indian theatre for more than five decades. He began writing plays in the 1960s, encompassed a substantial body of work which includes screenplays, critical and theoretical writing, and he became an integral part of the Parallel Cinema Movement. Mahesh has been at the forefront of the progressive movement led by ‘Rangayan’, which has included stalwarts such as Vijaya Mehta, Arvind and Sulabha Deshpande, playwright Vijay Tendulkar, and actor Shreeram Lagoo. His play, Wada Chirebandi, has been staged in Marathi, Hindi and Bengali, and has even been filmed for television. His other famous works are Sultan, Holi, Garbo, Yatanaghar and Atmakatha. Several of his plays have been translated and performed in English and Hindi as well. He is a recipient of the Homi Bhabha Fellowship (1976-78), the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for playwriting (1989), the Sahitya Akademi Award (2002), the Saraswati Samman (2003), the Brittingham Fellowship of the University of Wisconsin, U.S.A. (2005), and the Janasthan Puraskar (2011).

Sajida Sahi receives the award from Avijit Dutt and Swarupa Ghosh For Best Costume design for Andha Yug (Hindi adaptation).

This year’s edition of the festival saw a record-breaking 414 entries sent in for various categories. These were viewed by an eminent selection committee, comprising well-known theatre practitioners. Like every year, this year’s shortlisted plays were diverse and exemplified the best of India. For a week in the capital’s Shri Ram Centre and Kamani Auditorium, the META Festival staged the nominated plays of 2019 featuring productions in Bundeli, English, Gujarati, Hindi, Hindustani, Kannada, Malayalam and Tamil, with several of these performances running to packed houses.

Jay Shah, Head, Cultural Outreach, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd, said, “We have witnessed a fantastic array of plays this week at the 14th Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards 2019. From unique interpretations of stories from the Mahabharata to the realities of living in an urban neighborhood basti told through the narratives of four young, spirited girls to scathing narratives of the widows of the Behmai massacre to tragic consequences of love in the midst of class and caste divides: this year’s selection of plays have been diverse in themes, styles and languages. We at the Mahindra Group could not be more proud of this year’s META.”

Sanjoy K Roy, MD, Teamwork Arts & Festival Producer, said, “Each year META brings together stories of resilience, struggle and passion from across the country. The productions from small towns and buzzing metropolises showcases Indian theatre’s strength and diversity.”

Hosted by renowned award winning actor, director, and producer and one of the pioneer RJs of India, Mantra, the META Awards Night saw the presence of several stalwarts and influencers including Dr. Akash Khurana, Avijit Dutt, Denzil  L Smith, Ila Arun, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Lynne Fernandez, MK Raina, Mukund Padmanabhan, Prakash Shukla, Rajiee M. Shinde, Shobhaa Deepak Singh, Sita Raina, Dr. Sunil Kothari, Sunit Tandon, Sushma Seth, Swaroopa Ghosh, Veena Bakshi, Vikram Phukan, Vivek Nayer and many more illustrious names. Performances by The Revisit Project with their groovy music and exciting fusion in raag jog taal and teen-tal by The Project Ganganis, a sixth generation musical family from the Jaipur Gharana, further enlivened proceedings.

After the successful debut of Learning@META last year, the Festival also featured a series of Workshops and Panel Discussions during the non-performing hours of the festival. These panel discussions, curated in partnership with the Drama School Mumbai (DSM), were extremely well received and featured META-nominated stalwarts in conversation with theatre students, practitioners and enthusiasts. The workshops are an extension of META’s endeavour to nurture Indian theatre and build a community of practitioners dedicated to the craft. It is also aimed at enhancing public engagement with theatre and developing an appreciation for the multitude of skills and techniques involved in putting together quality theatre productions. This year, the workshops were held on stillness in body movement, vocalization, script-writing and on-stage storytelling by theatre practitioners like Anirudh Nair, Hetal Varia, Koumarane Valavane and Jehan Manekshaw, as well as panel discussions focused on the idea of starting up and running theatre companies featuring Neel Chaudhari from The Tadpole Repertory; Anurupa Roy from The Katkatha Puppet Arts Trust;  arts manager, performance-maker Programme Head at Drama School Mumbai, Ragini Singh Khushwaha; Sanyukta Saha from The Aagaaz Theatre Trust; Anannya Tripathyi, Dhwani Vij, Neel Sengupta and Rahul Tewari from Third Space Collective; Sanjna Kapoor from Junoon Theatre; Akhil Wable from OddBird Theatre & Foundation; Hemant Bharat Ram from Shri Ram Centre and Sudhanva Deshpande from Studio Safdar.

Here’s the complete list of winners that won hearts and stole the show at the 14th META Festival this year:

Lifetime Achievement AwardMahesh Elkunchwar –
Best Actor in a Lead Role (Male)Shrungha BVKola
Best Actor in a Lead Role (Female) (Joint Winners)Rukmini Sircar Anjana BalajiAgarbatti Chandâla, Impure
Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Male)Dharanidharan UChandâla, Impure
Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Female)Mallika LokhandeAndha Yug (Gujarati Adaptation)
Best DirectorSwati DubeyAgarbatti
Best Original ScriptAshish PathakAgarbatti
Best PlayTAAM ManipurAndha Yug (Hindi Adaptation)
Best EnsembleChillara Samaram
Best Innovative Sound Design  (Joint Winners)Debarati Majumdar Sumant Balakrishnan & Sudheer RikhariAndha Yug (Hindi Adaptation) Loose Woman 
Best Costume DesignSajida SajiAndha Yug (Hindi Adaptation)
Best Stage DesignPrakash Mangaldin SinghAndha Yug (Hindi Adaptation)
Best Light DesignSwati DubeyAgarbatti
Best ChoreographyArun LalChillara Samaram



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