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Academic Genius Brothers    

Jesse, author of this article, introducing the Brothers..Performed at unpredictable intervals in the intentionally-unfinished amphitheatre of Auroville's Visitor's Centre, the Academic Genius Brothers' performances may question taste, but packs the house. Like a review of Aurovilian events and foibles, AGBs allows a sometimes over-serious community to laugh at itself. The fact that the show often generates anger and outrage means it must be doing something right.
Starring creators are Paul and Wazo, and the performance includes regular guest star and rock 'n roll legend, Aurovilian Johnny, who pumps out tunes from the days when music was music and still had words. Paul and Wazo make up the majority of the evening, performing original songs, satirical irreverances and tricky moments of improvisation. Although preparation sometimes stretches to a full afternoon, the show always appears fresh and lively and the performers desperately wide-eyed. Imagine three squirrels in a glass box trained to receive an electric shock the moment they stop performing some little dance taught from birth, and you have the Academic Genius Brothers.

                                                                                     see also the Fertile Forest Vandi Theatre

Johnny   Johnny on the dumbek, at home in Fertile.   
Often referred to as the Leonardo Da Vinci of Auroville, Australian Johnny ('44) combines great artist, brilliant mathematician, playwright and Elvis Presley impersonator into one erudite, patched lungi-wearing abominable snowman of the tropics. The man can be found most days tinkering in that fruit-tree forest of solitude called Fertile. Between the sun-dried mongoose hanging on the old school wall and his packing-crate workshop, the latest snap-on Sterling Engine appliance takes shape in his hands. It's possible he's wearing those deep blue-lensed Roy Orbison welding goggles he picked up during his last Chennai junk mart sojourn.

Johnny and Paul in the middle of one of their crazy pranks..He openly admits to wasting massive amounts of otherwise productive work time on his latest hare-brained renewable energy project. No less than three burly men are required to operate his Sterling engine-powered dosa mixer, when previously the job required one (much less sweaty) woman and a hand grinder. The not-quite-disturbing-because-you-couldn't-describe-it smell of the composting toilet has only recently faded into something less challenging. The aging relic of Solar Cooker 7 plays host to a well-developed vine and assorted small birds in one of Fertile's backfields. A mysterious concrete cylinder with a concrete fondue cow-head emblem behind the kitchen contains the ten year-old remains of methane fuel from the cowshit gas cooker... the occasional ragi biscuit..

His trial-and-error style and reaction against military-school education labeled him "the best teacher in Auroville". Early students of his converted chicken shed schoolyard began their days with meditation, writing down their dreams and Pythagoras in the sand. With a curriculum alternating between free association poetry and guest lectures on atomic warfare, boredom was rare. Because new arrivals spent their first school days designing and building their own desks, graffiti and vandalism were either non-existent or beautiful. Most students from that time have either graduated from or have almost completed their first if not second university or college degrees.

Johnny also features regularly in the cabaret review-styled show The Academic Genius Brothers, warming up the crowd with rockin' tunes from late greats like Chubby Checker, Mick Jagger and The King. His set normally moves on through beat poetry to woo the mostly urban Aurovilian audience towards a diet of home-grown ragi porridge, his daily staple and religious foundation.

Paul.., baseball-shoulders, startling wit and lightning mind..Paul
With a bearded face resembling popular images of the Christian messiah, British Paul ('66) was unsurprised in his early Auroville days, when people often referred to him as 'Jesus'. It was only until he took to striding out of the Fertile forest shirtless after a day of tree-planting and seed-collecting, that the nickname continued. From then on most were just speechless in the presence of his bronzed skin, baseball-shoulders and washboard abs.
Initially most of the gossip about Paul focused on his appearance, which was generally taken to preclude anything upstairs. For how could one so statuesque be lumbered with further burden? But destiny long ago saw fit to prove those Auroville gossips wrong. Not only did it equip him at birth with a startling wit and lightning mind, it moreover conspired to direct him through Edinburgh University and come out with a degree in forestry.

Today Paul divides his time between producing and performing in the hit traveling bullock-cart theatre show, Muthu and Bapoune, and either managing Fertile forest or hiking through distant hills in search of rare and exotic seeds. These and others mailed from far away places complement the existing set at Auroville's new botanical gardens co-founded by him and other Aurovilian greenworkers.

Paul forms half the backbone, the pelvis and crucial pieces of the Academic Genius Bothers. He, along with thesbian partner Wazo, create the spark, the kernel, the seed that makes the show and the audience laugh. Occasionally other performers participate, hanging heavily on the show's mighty skeleton that Paul forms so much of.

Wazo.., blessed with Marcel Marceau mime skills and a comic's gait..Wazo
Straight from the anarchic radical revolutionary theatre streets of Paris, like a bird Wazo ('52) flew to Auroville to strike terror into the hearts of Aurovilian landed gentry. With little regard for his own safety Wazo regularly writes and performs theatre that makes Auroville laugh wickedly at the foibles of bureaucratic bungling in the city of dawn. Blessed with Marcel Marceau mime skills and a comic's gait, even when he's trying to be serious he's funny, which sometimes frustrates him.Wazo and Jesse The Rabbit..

Christened Michel at birth, Wazo ('oiseau', the French word for 'bird') got his name when after his arrival in Auroville in 1983, he constructed a massive rickety wooden dragon-like bird which paraded, blazing and bubbling with  multicoloured paper and leading a bemused convoy three kilometres from Kottakarai to the Amphitheatre, to lay giant eggs filled with sweets and chocolates for the children caught in its wake. The event was never forgotten and Wazo remained Wazo ever since..

Easily distinguishable by his bald-but-for-a-ponytail head, Wazo charms audiences with his coy infant smile. Performing and producing alongside Paul Blanchflower in the hit traveling village show Muthu and Bapoune, Wazo hams it up without compromise to riotous laughter.

Holed-up in the artists' enclave Kalabhumi, Wazo acts as mentor to rising young stars and sees himself selflessly as support and agent for the talents of any young artist. Indeed, he has often worked together with the Auroville Youth Atelier (AYA) as musician and actor.

Without question, Wazo plays the wild card in the theatre of life and in the Academic Genius Brothers. With an on-stage presence so fiery it burns, Wazo spins like a top thrown with brilliant indignation. On stage with Paul, Johnny and occasional guest Jesse (writer of this article), sparks have been known to fly when Wazo cuts loose. Frightening and fantastic, he brings another world to the stage.

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