Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Tamil Literary Society’s (TLS) annual cultural production, Mocha 2017, is all set to take centre stage in just three days’ time. We caught up with Internal Programming Officer, Fina Jahan, and Vice Chairperson (Programme), Vanmathi Muthiah, for a chat on what the audience can expect this Saturday, 18 February 2017.

Following three consecutive years of having brought to the audience a cultural night under the name, ‘Uthraa’, NTU TLS has decided to give its annual production a fresh coat of paint in 2017. It takes on the title, ‘Mocha – மோ(MO)தலும் கா(CHA)தலும்‘ – quite ingenious, we must add – while promising its viewers a sizzling line-up of dance, drama and band performances that are sure to dazzle. As always, we decided to catch up with a pair of people toiling hard behind the scenes to find out more about NTU TLS’ Mocha 2017.

22-year-old Fina Jahan, third year Electrical & Electronics Engineering student, and 20-year-old Vanmathi Muthiah, second year Information Engineering & Media student, spoke to this editor via an email correspondence to let Mocha 2017 ticket-holders know what to expect come 18 February! It’s a shame we didn’t manage to chat over a cup of mocha though.

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1. Can Mocha 2017 be said to be a musical?

F.J.: Mocha 2017 is pretty different from a musical. It can be best summarised as various forms of dance, drama, and live band items coming together to fall under the overarching themes of love and war. Each type of item is unique in its interpretation of the themes and its portrayal.

V.M.: Mocha 2017 comprises more elements than a typical musical does. It is meant to serve as a platform for our students to showcase their talents while at the same time doing something meaningful for society.

2. What are some themes present in the drama portion of Mocha 2017?

F.J.: Each item in Mocha 2017 explores the themes of love and war. We have taken a step further in our explorations and have pushed for the inclusion of issues that are not spoken about much, attempted or portrayed as far as the local Indian arts scene is concerned. While I do not want to reveal too much and spoil the surprises in store, I will say that Mocha 2017 is definitely a progressive step towards discussing issues that society is still currently shunning today.

V.M.: Each item aims to shed light on the themes of love and war and their different aspects, be it in the literal or abstract sense. The performances explore and push the boundaries of not just the content but the mode of portrayal as well. 

3. Why do you think many tertiary institutions adopt the song-dance-drama concept for their annual cultural productions?

F.J.: We felt that adopting such a concept provides us with the opportunity to showcase our ideas and talents. Dance, drama and music each have their individual strengths and beauty, but they churn out a whole new perspective when they unite and that’s why we decided to go with this format.

V.M.: We believe in a more holistic approach to the performing arts. Also, since we don’t come up with such productions very often, we want our students to not just stick to their forte but to try out other forms of performing arts as well.

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Uthraa 2016.

4. Do you consider the song-dance-drama formula to be one that’s essential for the satisfaction of young Indian audiences?

F.J.: While a mix of song, dance and drama does please the youth today, it isn’t the only reason for us to adopt this formula. Yes, our ultimate aim is to entertain. But we would also like to be provided with the platform to explore our talents in these three arenas, and push our boundaries together. If this formula allows us to achieve that, then it’s a win-win situation for both the performers as well as the audience. 

V.M.: The majority of the audience tends to seek entertainment coupled with the arts rather than just arts on their own. However, we have also been sure to include something for those who are interested in the individual performing arts as well.

5. How will Mocha 2017 differ from Uthraa 2016?

F.J.: Having been part of both committees, I can assure you that both productions are very different, starting with the mode of presentation. While Uthraa 2016 revolved around a single storyline that brought in elements of dance and drama, Mocha 2017 consists of various performances, and intersections between dance, drama, and live band performances. Mocha 2017 will feature performances that will take a bolder step forward with regards to the social message being conveyed to the audience. While we do not aim to impose any form of opinions on our audience, we do believe that Mocha 2017 will get them thinking.

6. What can the audience look forward to in Mocha 2017?

V.M.: You can look forward to being part of an interesting rollercoaster ride! While there are some very intense moments that are capable of tugging at one’s heartstrings, there will also be humour that will make the audience roar with laughter.

7. How has everyone working on Mocha 2017 been able to effectively juggle both academics and the arts?

F.J.: I guess this comes down to two things: passion and priorities. The team behind Mocha 2017 thrives on passion, and it is that passion that spurs us on when we are stressed, frustrated or facing rocky roads aheads. Having said that, we have also planned our priorities such that we somehow manage to find time to juggle both academics and the arts. 

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Uthraa 2016.

8. Mocha 2017 has probably taken up a lot of your time. What have your parents said about your involvement?

F.J.: While they do get a little upset with the late nights, and missing a family event or two, they have always been very supportive and understanding – I am really thankful for that!

V.M.: Initially, they were a little unhappy about the rehearsals dragging late into the night. But they started to understand my passion better as time went by. My parents have since become very supportive and I am confident that they will continue to support my participation in future productions as well.

9. Any significant challenges faced by the cast and crew during the course of this production?

F.J.: Many of us who have taken on roles in Mocha 2017 are new to the field of performing arts – be it directors, choreographers, musicians or singers. As for me, despite having been the Assistant Director in Uthraa 2016, being the Director of one of the drama segments in Mocha 2017 did come with its own set of challenges. From thinking of an idea to turning it into a script and then bringing it to live on stage with a pool of fresh but extremely talented young actors has been an interesting journey. I suppose this can be said to be a significant challenge faced by many of us since we are new to the various genres and items we were involved in.

10. What do you think will be an important takeaway for the audience who come down to catch Mocha 2017?

F.J.: Above anything else, I think Mocha 2017 will allow the audience to feel. The production challenges stereotypes of typical entertainment while proving that song, dance and drama can and should evoke a myriad of emotions in its viewers. Be prepared to experience each emotion at its peak! Also, I sincerely hope that after Mocha 2017, people will be more supportive and appreciative of the talent and efforts that many young and passionate students like us exhibit.

V.M.: Mocha 2017 will be a very interesting experience for the audience as they will not just experience emotional peaks but will also have several issues to ponder upon. It is not a mainstream attempt at entertainment, so coming to watch it with an open mind will elevate the experience. 

Uthraa 2016.
Uthraa 2016.

11. Complete the sentence: “You should buy a ticket to watch Mocha 2017 because…”

F.J.: “…it is the sincere and thought-provoking effort of young talents who will provide you with an experience that evokes a sense of love and war in you!”

V.M.: “…it is a production straight from the hearts of the talented youth of NTU who have put in months of hard work.”

NTU TLS’ Mocha 2017 is taking place this Saturday, 18 February 2017 at 6.15pm at Nanyang Auditorium, 50 Nanyang Avenue S639798. Tickets are still up for grabs at just $15 each. Contact Hafizah at 9004 6390 or Farhanah at 9785 8634 to purchase them. 

Due to Sarvesh Festival of Arts’ Thaikuddam Bridge concert being postponed to 25 March 2017, NTU TLS has tied up with them to offer a 30% discount on Mocha 2017 tickets if you had purchased tickets to catch Thaikuddam Bridge live. Just quote this promo code: SFOAThaikuddamBridge to enjoy the exclusive 30% discount when reserving your tickets!

Written by Uma Nathan

Full-time sub-editor. Part-time writer, copywriter, and editor all rolled into one. Photography, travel, food, reading and teaching take up whatever time remains.

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