Vaibhav Abnave

Extending Arts Practice

Grant Period: Over one year

As a playwright, theatre director, and filmmaker, Vaibhav Abnave has been concerned with convergences between theatre and cinema. This grant addresses Vaibhav’s concern by supporting him to adapt the writings of Marathi playwright Mahesh Elkunchwar into an experimental biographical film that explores notions of experimentation in theatre.

Elkunchwar is one of the most important playwrights in the history of modern Marathi theatre. He has often been controversial, misconceived and misrepresented. His works extend theatrical realism into the realm of expressionalism, surrealism and absurdism without remaining just at the level of formal innovation.

In contrast to conventional biographical documentary films that most often only touch upon facts and opinions about an artist, Vaibhav would like to explore and connect the complexities of the artist’s mind, life and ideas by innovating with the documentary form as well. He aims to make a poetic and reflexive film that not only paints a portrait of the complex and restless mind of a creative artist but also challenges conventional issue-based documentary/fiction film work happening in the Marathi language context.

The film will move seamlessly across the narrative of Elkunchwar’s life in a non-linear manner, juxtaposing real situations, people and space with the playwright’s theatrical characters, situations, and locales. In a way, Elkunchwar’s theatrical vision of taking off from Realism and going beyond it, extending its frontiers, would form the core narrative strategy of the film. Vaibhav will attempt to blend Elkunchwar’s life and theatre, the interior and the landscape, the memories and the dreams, this world and the other world, and the real and the metaphysical. At the same time, the film will attempt to locate Elkunchwar on a larger canvas within the tradition of modern Indian theatre and modern Marathi theatre.

Instead of using the spoken word to move the narrative ahead, Vaibhav plans to rely largely upon the silences, the smells, the sounds, the musical motifs, the real as well as theatrical locales, and the images as ‘transitions’ or ‘connectors’. Scenes, situations from his life, plays and essays will be improvised and enacted by a set of trained theatre actors on the proscenium stage as well as in real locales.