Thursday, December 27, 2007

JAZZ at Prithvi, 3rd & 4th, Jan 2008

Shows at Prithvi Theatre on 3rd and 4th January 2008 - 6:00pm & 9:00 pm (on both days)

Back to Mumbai

After two successful shows down south, JAZZ once again returns to Mumbai. The play, which continues to enthrall its audience, was recently performed at St. Andrew's Auditorium, Mumbai, on Sunday, 23rd December 2007. With a total of six shows under its belt the play now moves into the New Year with a lot more shows scheduled.

The Journey so far......

JAZZ opened to a full house on 6th November 2007 as a part of Prithvi's ongoing Musical Theatre Festival. The response from the audience was not only encouraging but overwhelming.

Penned by Ramu Ramanathan, the play is based on research by Naresh Fernandes.
"I have been interested in this story almost all my life and especially since Jerry Pinto and I worked on the anthology, Bombay, Meri Jaan," says Fernandes. "It's also the story of Goan migration to Bombay."

Along with the play was born Denzil Smith's 'Stagesmith Productions', under whose banner the play continues to flourish. With a hope to make the JAZZ journey wholesome, Denzil Smith along with Naresh Fernandes, set out on a quest to document Mumbai's acquaintance with jazz.

What began as research for a play...
ended up as material for an exhibition, Jazz - The Bombay Connection, which previewed at Zenzi on 15th November 2007.
The collection of photographs, sourced from family albums, flyers and the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower archives, points towards Mumbai as the epicenter of the migrated and traveling musicians. The collated pictures throw up names of some noted musicians—Mickey Correa, Chic Chocolate, Anthony Gonsalves, Lucila and George Pacheco— who created and sustained
Bombay's jazz era from the 1930s until the 1960s.

After the two premier shows at the Prithvi Festival, JAZZ played for the Celebrate Bandra Festival on November 27 th, 2007. As notes:
"It was a day to remember as the play started an hour late due to a power failure in the city. However, it must have been the magic of the Jazz era - that the audience waited.
The show ran to a full house which had the who's who of Mumbai's theatre and music world."

Away from home turf...

JAZZ was very well received in Bangalore and Chennai, where it was invited for the Bangalore Habba Festival and The Park Festival respectively. Standing ovations and repeated cries of 'ENCORE!!' only added to our confidence.

The play now navigates a long journey hoping to relive the spirit of Jazz with our gracious audiences.

As Etienne Coutinho, Director of JAZZ notes,
"This is a story that was waiting to be told, lying buried under the colossal commercial Behemoth called Bollywood. In this provocative context, the story of JAZZ funnels the lives and times of a group of musicians into one man.
For me, directing the play has been a journey of discovery - distilling out the essence - so that what is left is the spirit and truth. I enjoyed the experience. Hope you do too."

The play is being performed on the 3rd & 4th Jan at Prithvi Theatre (6:00pm & 9:00pm on both days.) For further enquiries, contact: Akanksha Gupta at 9820581863.

Images from JAZZ

picture 1:
The mentor played by Bugs Bhargava Krishna.

picture 2:
The pupil played by saxophonist Rhys Sebastian Dsouza.

picture 3:
Shaukat Baig plays member of the Malignant Migraine Club.

picture 4:
Ella Atai plays one of the paramours.

What the critics have to say

"The video photography was exquisite. Perfectly chosen faces and dredged recollections were edited to form a seamless narrative.
A vigorous Goan community came alive in multi-perspectives and meshed voices…
...Designing his own sets and lights, director Etienne Coutinho raised the word-ruled, music-drenched text to signify things beyond sounds, sparking an unquenchable spirit in the present, rimmed by the lights and shadows of the past. An experience for lovers of jazz, theatre and life.”
- Gowri Ramnarayan, THE HINDU

“The play weaves the past into the present with gravelly-voiced Bugs Bhargava Krishna embodying the bitter-sweet stories of the musicians, actors on video playing their friends, fellow-musicians and wives, and Rhys Dsouza, grandson of Sebastian Dsouza, showing us what the saxophone can do.”
- Shanta Gokhale, MUMBAI MIRROR

"Bugs Bhargava Krishna has you bewitched, bothered and bewildered and having hit the right note never goes off it... [He] delivers a performance that would make ‘em say, he’s got chops."
- Pragya Tiwari, MUMBAI MIRROR

“Young Rhys Sebastian D’Souza, (grandson of the jazz musician Sebastian D’Souza) is obviously gifted…”
- Eunice D’Souza, MUMBAI MIRROR

"I was moved inexplicably by the whole experience… When I see a play of this calibre, I am convinced that good theatre is still alive. "
-Vasanthi Sankaranarayan, Film historian and art critic

"A play so scathing and mercilessly funny in its indictment of Bollywood.Ramu’s script – with its iambic rhythms and cunning rhymes – is well exploited by Bugs Bhargava Krishna. His sense of timing and exuberant delivery brings to mind the frenzied, swinging beats of classic Jazz… Heaps of intelligent humour call for a memorable theatre experience. "
- Ankit Soni,

"[27th November 2007] was a day to remember as the play started an hour late due to a power failure in the city. However it must have been the magic of the Jazz era - that the audience waited. The show ran to a full house which had the who's who of Mumbai's theatre and music world. "



There's jazz, there's rock n roll.
There's sax, there's violins.
Slipping in slivers of Dixieland stomp, Portuguese Fados, Ellingtonesque doodles, cha cha cha, Mozart and Bach themes.
There's Mumbai, Bombay, India.
There's egos, failed futures, alcoholism.
There's love, passion, bounced cheques.
There's show-biz, razzmatazz.
And some of the biggest names in popular culture from C Ramachander to Laxmikant Pyarelal to Shankar Jaikishen to RD Burman.

The Director's Note

It was Bernard Shaw who said,
Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh.
In this provocative context, the story of jazz funnels the lives of a group of musicians into one man.
His journey from grave to stage is one of angst and exhilaration. His solemn funeral service is played out against intimate details of relationships he shared.
The stark treatment in staging draws you in to his mindspace which is inextricably woven with the present.
Interactive black and white projections have been inspired by the images from the same Jazz era, conjuring up characters, relationships, loves and times.
And the story flows between the stage and the screen, between the mentor and the pupil. Between death and life..

For me directing the play has been a journey of discovery- distilling out the essence - so that what is left is the spirit and truth.
I enjoyed the experience. hope you do.

Etienne Coutinho

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The group: Stagesmith

Stagesmith was born on 6th November 2007.

Stagesmith has been born because the time was apt for musings on topics such as the nature of dialogue, performance, and thought.

The Stagesmith game-plan is simple. We hope to stage infinite plays whichare concerned with: the nature of time, infinity, mirrors, dance & music, reality, politics, and identity.

A number of our plays shall focus on fantastic themes, such as a play whichcontains every play in the world; about a playwright who recalls all thelines in every play in the world; an artifact through which an audience cansee every play in the universe, and a year of time standing still, for an actor giving his 18th Curtain Call.

Stagesmith hopes to tell more and less realistic stories of life in Indiaand Bharat and Hindustan - and elsewhere. We want to narrate stories of folk heroes, ordinary workers, under-dogs, musicians, clowns, historical figures.

We want to mix the real and the fantastic: fact with fiction.Stagesmith wants to dream the impossible dreams; along with you, our audiences.

Denzil Smith

The Writer's Note

The best things in life are a fluke. I was attending a sombre session between Girish Karnad and Mahesh Dattani at Prithvi, and as luck would have it Denzil Smith is present. I tell him, I think I've an idea for a play. And I strut off. That day, Denzil and me exchange, 101 sms'. We set up a meeting with Naresh Fernandes, who showers us with a feni, pattice, cookies, and a lec-dem with video clips on his favourite subject on earth: the influence of Jazz in Bollywood. For me, that is the beginning of JAZZ.

That is also the beginning of that old feeling I know nothing, This is the same feeling which had surfaced during Mahadevbhai, 3 Sakina Manzil, Three Ladies of Ibsen, Cotton 56 Polyester 84.

I've been told by a theatre elder, "theatre requires patience, passion and persistence to research, collaborate and constantly produce work for over 20 years." And as a rule, I believe what elders tell me.My relationship with Denzil Smith, is that of an audience member and an actor. I've seen him in plays good and indifferent and one movie with Amitabh Bachchan. He's at his best when he reads the words of Dom Moraes - to a bit of blues. Driving around Mumbai with Denzil (wherein I was late for every single appointment) is a process and an education. I familiarise myself with the names which rattle out from other peoples’ tongues. I learn my vocabulary (and I am still learning) of jazz, which is minimal, controlled, through rhythm, and sound. We rummage (and scan) through hand-written letters, sketches, photographs, reviews and posters, as well as music.

But my work is weighed down by uncertainties. Should I reclaim the past? Or should the past resonate in the now? How does one demonstrate the playing of jazz? Coz at times, jazz can be so simple. An improvisation while fooling around after a rehearsal or a bit of jamming or a new sound which forms the back-bone of a piece. How does one show that on a half lit stage?Meanwhile Denzil has fixed one more appointment. This time I'm attentive. I sense, music is in everyone's blood. Also, I sense in every household I visit, generosity. Interviews of Leslie Coutinho and Anthony Gonsalves bring little details to my notice. I can hear new rhythms and newer formulations. I see sorrow. Someone takes me to see a run-down studio. I see the remnants of equipment. Then we move around, there is dust. The beauty of that studio - the musty.

Ramu Ramanathan

The Context

Within two decades of jazz taking shape in the melting-pot city of New Orleans, it found a home thousands of miles away in a city that also prided itself of mixing up cultures and serving them up with a new twist: Bombay. The city first heard jazz on phonograph records but by the mid-1930s, a string of American bands was playing in Bombay. They included outfits led by Leon Abbey, a dapper violinist from Minnesota, cornet player Crickett Smith and the pianist Teddy Weatherford. Smith and Weatherford soon inducted Indians into their bands, leaving the city a syncopated legacy that still lives on.

In 1949, a Bombay Swing Club brochure listed more than 60 jazz bands, starting from the Alexandra Band led by C de Noronha to the Zoroastrian Symphonyans. The list includes outfits headed by such legends as trumpet players Chic Chocolate and Frank Fernand, saxophonists Micky Correa and Hecky Kingdom and pianists Lucila Pacheco and Mike Machado. Many of the city's jazz musicians played a vital part in creating Hindi film music. These musicians formed the bulk of the orchestras that played the music, and some – like Chic Chocolate, Fernand and the violinist Anthony Gonsalves – worked as arrangers, or assistant music directors as they're listed in the credits.

Typically, the producer would organise a 'sitting' at which the composer (most often a Hindu), the lyricist (usually an Urdu-speaking Muslim) and the arranger would flop down on comfortable cushions to listen to the director narrate the plot. When the director indicated the point at which a song was necessary, the composer would hum out a melody or pick it out on his harmonium. It was the arranger's task to note down these fragments, which the composer would later piece together into an entire song.

But even then, the composer would craft only the verse and the chorus. The arranger was responsible for fashioning the melodic bridges, for shaping the parts for individual instruments and often even wrote the background music. The arranger wasn't merely a secretary. The Goans drew on their bicultural heritage to give Bollywood music its promiscuous charm, slipping in slivers of Dixieland stomp, Portuguese fados, Ellingtonesque doodles, cha cha cha, Mozart and Bach themes. Long before fusion music became fashionable, it was being performed every day in Bombay's film studios.

Naresh Fernandes

The Credits


Bugs Bhargava Krishna
Rhys Dsouza

Supporting cast:
Priest: Lionel Pereira
Man 1: Ashley Nazareth
Man 2: Neal Pires
Man 3: Shaukat Baig
Woman 1: Clara Pereira
Woman 2: Yvette Braganza
Woman 3: Anisha Fernandes
Woman 4: Annabel Ferro Dsilva
Woman 5: Ella Atai
Woman 6: Marita Nazareth
Old Man: Gopi Kukde
Old Woman: Ursula Da Costa

Playwright: Ramu Ramanathan
Based on research by Naresh Fernandes
Director: Etienne Coutinho
Producer: Denzil Smith
Music Composer: Merlin
Asst. Director/On Lights: Amogh Pant
Production & Light Design: Etienne Coutinho
Lighting Consultant: Viraf Pocha
Costumes: Asif Ali Beg
Production co-ordination: Akanksha Gupta
Pooja Pant
Sudeep Modak
Sudeep Naik
Sameer Lukka


Director of Photography: Ramesh N
Camera: Pankaj Singh
Lights: Rajkumar
Sound: Dinkar

Dezadd Dotiwalla
Rajesh Raoulo
Ashok Vishvakarma
Editor: Parag Dilip Sheth


Pooja Bhatt
Anil Kably/Matan Schabracq (Zenzi)
Neale Murray (Fountain Head)
The Production Terminus
Chandar Patil
Johnny and Ursula Fernandes
Irwin & the Vaz Family
Anthony Gonsalves & family
Alvino & Jenny Pacheco
Sunil Shanbag
Rajeev Agarwal & Tarun Agarwal (RAJTARU Studio)
Ravi Dubey
The Taj Mahal Palace and Tower
Greg Booth
Ashok Ranade
Vivek Menezes
Nakul Mehta
Sanjna Kapoor
Blossom Coutinho
Staff at Prithvi Theatre