I like to write and over the years this interest has kept on growing mostly because of positive feedback from friends. However mostly the writing was restricted to technical papers. But an incident prompted me to write about this extremely hilarious and fascinating story. Performing Arts Festival (PAF) is an inter hostel competition at IIT Bombay, where a pair of hostels presents an hour-long skit. The paired hostels completely own the performance, right from script writing, to dramatization, sets, sound, lights, music, and publicity to attract people to come and watch the show. This story, a laughter riot, is about the PAF presented by H6 and H9 in 1991. With an amazing story line, some never before seen incredible special effects, amazing light and sound effects, great actors, musicians, and dancers, in short with an abundance of talent, Moonstone was headed for a definite victory. Did they succeed?
Following is a short reproduction of a chapter from the book where the teams are deciding the theme for their PAF. It is just the beginning.
The first and foremost task to get going with PAF is to identify the theme or the story and also identify the variety of talent that will be shown as part of PAF.
The mood was upbeat in both H6 and H9 as both hostels took pride in the immense talent at hand, and loads of talent is what you need to win a PAF. The core team from H6 and H9 met, shook hands, and settled in for the pre-PAF planning meeting in H9. Even before you could blink, the theme got finalized. For some reason there was an obsession with an alien theme; alien to aana hi hai (alien has to come) was something that the core team said and decided right away.
What alien? Why alien? From where will it come? These are questions that come to the minds of the uninitiated, but our core team stalwarts felt these were too trivial to answer and jumped to the more interesting aspects of PAF.
PK, from Industrial Design Center (IDC), the reputed design institute housed inside the IITB campus, put forth an incredible idea that shook everyone and moved them to the point of ecstasy. He said, “IDC has made a hovercraft! Arey haan, Times of India ka reporter aaya tha (Oh yes! The Times of India reporter had come) and it is in the advanced stage of development.”
No alien has ever arrived on foot, right? So the idea was to have the alien arrive in the Convocation Hall over the center aisle, in a hovercraft, and land on stage. PK continued his thought process as others dreamed about it, “Public ke ooper se udte hue aaenge,” (We will come flying over people’s heads) and others were like “Wah wah” (Great! Awesome!). PK was probably already flying in the hovercraft in his mind at that time. Few there in the meeting tried to plant the seed of disbelief, but PK was 100% convinced that this was possible.
Imagine yourself in this scenario. Won’t you be excited with this idea? Everyone there in the meeting was visibly excited about this possibility, “If we can make this happen, what an opening it will give! No one can beat us then. Apna first aana to pakka hai!” (Our coming first is guaranteed!) The human mind doesn’t need a hovercraft to fly, does it? However someone amongst them was more prudent and had his feet firmly on the ground. He asked, “OK, Alien to aeyga, lekin phir kya hoga?” (OK, Alien will come, but what will happen after that?)
There will be as many ideas as there are number of people and numerous innovative ideas were discussed. When you call for ideas you expect them to be aligned to the basic theme, but here, everyone was so excited that there were too many ideas but no semblance of any theme whatsoever. Finally after going back and forth, turning and tossing ideas, some story began to emerge:
- The opening scene will be a funeral with a dead body lying on the stage.
- The alien will arrive in the hovercraft and resurrect the dead body. If you are wondering why, don’t bother as no one there bothered about it either.
- The hero (the resurrected soul), as a bonus, will get a stone called Moonstone that will grant him any wish.
- The hero will try to do some good, but it will be misunderstood and he will be beaten up
- Later, the hero will become greedier and greedier, and keep asking for things only for personal gain.
- His ego and pride will inflate to such a level that he will think that it is he who has the powers and not the Moonstone and then he will destroy the stone in one of his fits.
- And then everything will collapse and he would just deteriorate from there on.
“Wow! Theme is ready and is fantastic. We will definitely win this year’s PAF,” everyone concluded.
With such a brilliant theme, there was ample scope to showcase the available talent. Remember PAF was all about showing talent: singing, dancing, acting, music, sets, props, lighting, direction, etc. You name it and it was all managed by the team. With the theme in place, the next obvious question was who will do what? Two brilliant and talented people, Siva from H6 and PK from H9, were de facto and unanimously chosen as directors as they had good credentials of doing something similar in earlier parts of their lives.
I will jump ahead a bit here. If you have been to similar shows, you would know that the director typically is on one side of stage managing things and prompting people as need be. He has to keep the show running and get it done as planned. You would immediately notice a flaw here. Here we had Siva and PK both taking directorial roles.
Left Director is one who parks on the left side of the stage issuing commands independently. In this case it was Siva. Right Director is one who parks on the right side of the stage issuing commands independently. In this case it was PK. Moonstone set a unique precedence in the history of dramatics by having two directors independently directing the proceedings live on stage.
Since PAF was a talent show, we needed more than just directors, and individual track owners were selected. Let’s quickly meet all of them since in the days to come, they will play a key role in the making of Moonstone.
- Mhow – The narrator of this epic story and the great bard from H6 who handled the music
- Chipalkatti – The hero of the PAF since he was supposed be a great actor
- Rewa – Tall, lean, very fair person, and a certified comedian, was the alien
- Lulu – The hip mover from H6 was the Dance Director
- Lights-man – A guy from H9 who was given the task of handling the lights. (He requested that his name not be shared, so I will refer to him simply as the “lights-man” in this book.)
- PK – Right Director and the one who was going to handle the hovercraft
- Siva – Left Director
- Tandon – The brilliant engineer who was going to manage the sound effects
- MC – He was going to handle the overall production and coordination
- And then there were a bunch of folks handling props, costumes etc
When you are paired up for an event, there is tremendous team work and coordination required. However our directors thought otherwise. Back in 1991 itself they had realized the benefits of parallel execution. The preparation started in both hostels independent of each other; Siva along with some characters was spotted rehearsing in H6, while something similar was going on in H9.
What followed was days of planning and practice towards making a great PAF. At IIT, we typically had lectures in the morning and labs after lunch. Once the practice sessions started, people wanted to rush back to the hostel after labs so that they could start practicing. Some liked to skip labs and stay back after lunch (yes, we had lunch at our hostels itself) and some would even skip the morning lectures. Slowly the PAF fever would build up and the entire hostel would get consumed in it. Those who weren’t in the direct line of fire, i.e. not performing on stage, would eventually get picked up for doing the publicity or run some other errands, but everyone pretty much had some role to play.
There was limited time available at hand and so much to do. Let me take you to various locations where the preparations were on in full swing.
Like what you read so far? There is loads more action happening around this PAF and many more incidents that happened while I was at IIT Powai. We all know, hostel life can be so much fun. Grab a copy of the book and I can almost take a bet that you would love it. You can order the physical printed book from here (http://www.apkpublishers.com/product/84-moonstone.html) or buy the Kindle edition from here (http://www.amazon.com/Moonstone-The-Incredible-One-Hour-ebook/dp/B00GXK4IK4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1385621119&sr=8-1&keywords=kindle+moonstone+incredible+hour). Do visit the Kindle page anyway to read the reviews on the book so far or check out the Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/moonstone.book).