A few months ago, when Danish Hussain and Vrajesh Hirjee invited us to work on the sets and stage layout of Guards at The Taj by Rajiv Joseph, what struck us most was the landscape of patterns that the Taj Mahal at Agra create. The plan of the Taj Mahal was conceived as a juxtaposition of the iconographic Eternal and Worldly reflected throughout the site plan, architecture, motifs, patterns and colour usage. The complex includes the monument, peripheral gardens, Jilaukahana and the Taj Ganji – Market and caravan-sarai that are no longer in existence. While the monument and the gardens symbolise the Eternal, the Jilaukhana is perceived as the transitory space and the market symbolised the Worldly, making a reflective plan between the monument and the Ganji. Made in red sandstone and White Marble, the colours too are indicative of this, where Red, taken from Islamic imperial tents and the colour of the Kshatriyas symbolise the Worldly, the White comes from the image of Janat and is also the colour of the Brahmins.
With these in mind, we imagined the layout of the stage as an indication of the Taj Complex, mirroring motifs along the North South Axis . The stage arrangement is interchangeable as it pairs the two concepts allowing us to play with the movement within the scenes and script locations.The Stage is divided in two segments, keeping in mind the script, which alternates between the worldly and the imaginary. This way while the audience moves along with the performers, they are not compelled to change locations as such. It permits the sets to reflect the spatial level differences of the script as they shift from the ground to the dungeon.
G5A’s beautiful seating rakes, when arranged diagonally gives the audience, not only a view of both stages at once, but create an immersive experience by forcing the audience to move their chairs along with every act, from stage north to south and back again as the actors occupy these suggestive spaces.
Narrative spaces are generated using simple L shaped panels which, when rotated make the interior or exterior relationship of the Taj mahal and complex gates. While one never see the Taj, the motifs become indicative both to the location and the characters relationship of distance with the monument.
Guards at the Taj is well underway at G5A, but we are far from done with these. The motifs, spaces and colours need us to tell the same story, this time without its characters, emphasising only the spaces they occupy. In our endeavour to understand spatiality within narratives and to tell stories without its protagonists.
For giving us an opportunity to make our drawings come to life, we thank most of all Danish Husain, the director of this play and Vrajesh Hirjee. Without their unfaltering faith and patience, this would not have been possible. We Thank Vivek Jhadav for making our vision come alive and Arghya Lahiri for beautifully lighting it to create depth and atmosphere unsurpassed.
#GuardsAtTheTaj for Aadyam at G5A Foundation for Contemporary Culture – OfficialProduced by The Hoshruba Repertory & Vrajesh Hirjee Manu Sikander Dhingra Written by Rajiv Joseph Directed by Danish Husain Starring: Vrajesh Hirjee Joy Fernandes Sets: Vishwa Shroff Katsushi Goto Props: Vivek Jadhav Lights: ArghyaLahiri Sound: Varun Bangera Costumes: Fabeha Khan Music: Ashrey Goel Zahra Husaini Keith SequeiraProduction Incharge: Siddhartha Tiwari Backstage: YAsh RAjpurohit Special Thanks to Divya Bhatia Zee Raza Sunil Shanbag Yashesh Shethia & the Oranjuice Team