Waiting, Watching, Writing


Four writers are creating impromptu fiction based on people and activity around them at the National School of Drama.

If a surveillance camera could speak, what would it say? All of us have looked at people in cafes, the Metro, college campuses or traffic signals and wondered about them. Wondered if the person we're watching is a lawyer, actor, terrorist or potential spouse? Would a surveillance camera feel the same way? At the National School of Drama (NSD), where the 15th Bharat Rang Mahotsav (BRM) is drawing in hordes of people, a unique experiment may answer this question. Four writers are sitting in and around the crowded food hub, watching people, imagining stories about them and typing these out on laptops wired to giant screens. The texts are fed instantly on to screens, enabling people to read fictional notes about themselves in real time.

Called "Meeting Point", the project is a brainchild of Argentinian author and theatre director Mariano Pensotti, and a part of the Parallel Cities segment of BRM. "You could call the writers literary surveillance cameras. They improvise based on what's happening around them, they cannot stop to think before writing or it would get boring. The work has to be immediate in a stream of consciousness style," says Stefan Kaegi, curator of the show that has earlier been held in Berlin, Zurich, Buenos Aires and Kolkata among others. Parallel Cities, which comprises performances in public spaces, is presented by Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia and Max Mueller Bhavan.

For a short while on Thursday, when the four-day-long project began, Kaegi hammered down his impressions of the activities around him on a laptop. A group of giggling students smoking beedi near the NSD Students' Union building had inspired a tale about people lost in a smoky haze filled with non-material things. A photographer, who came into Kaegi's line of vision, was also incorporated into the story. "He becomes a person, who tries hard to capture the women's hazy, immaterial world with his camera but keeps failing," says Kaegi.

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