Finding the Classic in the Contemporary: An interview with Mangai

In conversation with Lavanya Narayanan

               Mangai (aka. V Padma) at her home in Chennai. Pic Courtesy: The Hindu

V. Padma sits in a chair in her cozy home. Surrounding her is her in-home library: a bibliophile’s wonderland, it holds what many theatre students can only dream of. But for Padma, or Mangai – as she is known in the theatre arena – the books represent much more than a petty fascination. They are her life.

“I am an academician,” she admits proudly. And yet, it’s something she refuses to define herself as, explaining that in the creative arts, “paperwork should evolve out of the practice, whether it is about addressing gender, doing theatre, or both.”

As a professor of English literature at Chennai’s Stella Maris College as well as one of the city’s most well-known practicing theatre professionals, Mangai is no stranger to either the classroom or the stage. In fact, some say she played an integral role in building it, being one of the first to use her platform to make a statement.

“Issue-based theatre, especially that which spoke about gender issues and drew attention to them: well, that’s how I began in the 70s and 80s!” she laughs. Although she was mainly a part of the city’s women’s movement, theatre swept her away in a fury, helping her ‘find her spine,’ as renowned dancer Chandralekha would say.

Over the last few decades, Mangai has worked to create positive imagery through her work, even drawing on her background in street theatre through Chennai’s Kalai Kuzhu to formulate her works’ messaging, syntax, and technique.

“We can’t deny that theatre has been commercialized. But for many of us practitioners, the spirit of street theatre is still guiding us. It definitely still is relevant and has an impact.”

It’s an important thing to grasp on to, especially in a time when contemporary theatre, as much of current theatre is projected as, dominates the performance arena in such a large way.

“Many people simply interchange contemporary with modern. But modern is quite relative. If you interpret contemporary to be something more than the literal sense, then I think contemporary will refer to the major anxieties, crisis, and the good things of our times, all of which come to the forefront. Simply put, theatre becomes an expression of dhrishti-kavya: the interpreters are the audience,” Mangai explains.

Of course, the clarification elucidates how so much of Mangai’s works themselves operate in the contemporary realm, though they draw from great Indian myths such as the Mahabharata.

“In all honesty, looking at contemporary theatre as Western draws largely from colonial times when in reality, only the ‘frills’ – the wings, the proscenium stage, the paraphernalia – have come to us from those sources. Most regions in India have their own theatre histories and conscious theatre professionals draw on native dialogue to impact an audience.”

The space, especially in Tamil Nadu, is one that Mangai ventures into as a recent recipient of the India Foundation of the Arts’ Arts Research Grant. Focusing her research on the analysis of early 20th-century Tamil theatre and its role as a window into the socio-political and cultural landscape of the time, she says the grant gives her the opportunity to delve deep into the history of Tamil contemporary theatre. It’s a first, even for her.

“I was a Tamil medium student growing up. So although I have been an English professor by profession, Tamil holds a very special place in my heart. That’s been perfectly multiplied by my choice of partner as well, because Arasu happened to be a Tamil scholar and professor,” she reminisces.

As one of Chennai’s few bilingual theatre professionals, the grant allows Mangai to marry her lingual skills with her passion for the proscenium stage to explore long-forgotten vernacular histories.

“The works of Pammal Sambandha Mudaliar and Sankaradas Swamigal, for instance, are some of the works I’ll be looking into—uncovering overlap, transliterating, and hopefully projecting it on the national stage.”

Fascinated by the works of others, from her contemporaries to theatre-makers of the past, Mangai’s IFA grant is only an extension of the love for theatre that has driven her for the last few decades. And yet, ask her about her own judgment of others’ work, and she has this to say.

“I think, somehow, people who are doing academic research in the performing arts see themselves as people who can stand in judgment of others who are making art right now. They often bring in their theories and check whether those match the performance. In reality, it should be the other way around: performance studies and research should evolve out of practice.”

How does she envision that growth? Her answer is simple: dialogue.

“Especially in a country with a diverse variety of theatre, a dialogue regarding vernacular theatre and the age-old forms and traditions that have fosterd our nation is essential. It’s the way of the future.”

 


“With Age Comes Wisdom And Compassion!” - An Interview With Anamika Haksar

The Drama School Mumbai interviewed Anamika Haksar, theatre director and drama pedagogue on why she loves playing two different roles. She also shared her views on training and practice young people need to become terrific performers. Read more to get your set of advice…


Image sourced from Pandolin.

Anamika and I have scheduled an interview at her apartment in Mumbai but I am secretly scared. Upon reaching there, my eyes are wandering all over her living room. They rest upon the piles of old books kept everywhere. She makes me comfortable by offering me tea and thus we begin our conversation.

Anamika is 58-years-old. She studied at the National School of Drama, Delhi (NSD) and later went to study at the State Institute of Theatrical Arts, Moscow (USSR). She specialized in Direction and received the ‘Diploma of Excellence in Theatre Direction’. Anamika is the recipient of Sanskriti award for contribution to new theatre language in 1995. She has directed over 35 plays and one feature length film, acted in 15 major plays and taught at some of the most prestigious performing arts institutes in India.

Roshan: You’ve been a director and a teacher. How would you find an intersection between the two? How do you define who you are?

Anamika: I think I am a creator. I simply create. Defining yourself is a tough job, isn’t it? Very often, I’ve let others define me by my work. I like directing and my work is a little offbeat and experimental. I don’t depart from the norm, my work takes that discourse naturally. 

I’ve been privileged to work with B.V Karanth, an eminent theatre and film artist. I imbibed a lot of values and the process of thinking differently whilst working with him. I was also privileged to go to Moscow to train myself for six years from 1982 to 1988. Moscow was a highly cultured city at that time and there was a great sense of consciousness among the audience. 

My desire to question the norms repeatedly and create a body of work around it is strengthened by them. I wouldn’t like to call myself anything but what my work resonates. Luckily, it has been able to stand out as a new expression of theatre language. My work in theatre is mostly based on movements, poetry, and visual imagery within the text. It has redefined, for me, realism from a very stereotypical perspective. That’s how everyone started calling me experimental. Particularly, at this point, I feel calling someone’s work experimental also means dismissing their efforts. It means that they are doing something that everyone finds hard to understand and accept.

So that’s Anamika Haksar for you. An experimental theatre-maker. I’ve worked my whole life with theatre and it is only now that I have begun making films because I want to say something that theatre cannot say.

As a teacher, I’ve tried to break the centralist relationship between a teacher and students. I’ve always aimed to make my students learn and understand theory as a part of their experience, through processing their performance and their body. I try to liberate my students just like the way I felt liberated in Moscow. 

R: Do you have any memories of childhood or early adulthood that you think have helped in becoming who you are today?

A: I had wonderful and understanding parents who told me I was free to pursue my dreams. My family didn’t have a  background in theatre. My mother was a teacher, my father was a diplomat and my sister is a human rights lawyer.

“One thing that my parents imbibed in me was the utmost respect for ordinary people.”

Despite the fact that I was born with certain privileges, I can proudly say that I can crossover anywhere. I don’t believe in class or status. I’ve been to villages, smaller towns and I can be comfortable with everyone. I have always had respect for people with different backgrounds. My sister always fought against the state machinery so we had a lot people visiting us from Burma, Nagaland and Iraq.

That’s also why I think, today, I can speak to younger kids in their idioms and not just their language. They understand me. I tell my students to study who they are and where they come from to have a thorough understanding of their backgrounds and bringing it up in art and work. Whether they are from a village or a city, a Dalit or a Brahmin.

Face your background, cross it and enrich your work with all that you’ve gone through in your life.

I help my students to come to a conflict to realise the dynamics of their belonging and contribute creatively to their art. The other thing is, when I was 16, I met Badal Sarkar and we worked together for four years. We were a big group  with stars like Anil Mehta and Sudhir Mishra amongst others. Most of them have now transitioned successfully into the film industry. We worked a lot on our body, trusting ourselves and others with exercises. After working with Sarkar, I joined the National School of Drama. Joining NSD worked a lot in my favour.

With B.V Karanth, we used to travel extensively. We have been all over Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh. We used to go to all the villages and watch traditional performances, especially folk art. At that time, I didn’t know the importance of travelling and watching traditional art. Today, I understand that all of it has contributed to my work and has had profound impact on my life. My work has been moulded by contemporary aesthetic values but I’ve always found an echo of traditional art in it.

If you see my play Antar Yatra that questions stereotypes around identity of women or Uchakka, an adaptation of Marathi novelist Laxman Gaikwad’s autobiography, you will come to know how I’ve blended traditional art and performance with contemporary thoughts. The plays travelled all over Maharashtra. From performing shows in Pune and Nanded to studying mill workers and pickpockets in Mumbai. We wanted to reach different kinds of people. We wanted to break prejudices with certain kinds of text.

A production by Anamika Haksar

R: You’ve had intensive training for a decade. How would you narrate the experience and importance of training to a performer?

Training helps you with self-awareness. It also helps you understand what tools you need to express yourself better. Training has to be very compassionate and considerate and to an extent that helps you open up closed doors. Also not to forget, one needs to be careful in the name of training. A trainer shouldn’t impose just one way of looking at things but open a multiple ways of looking at life, looking at theatre and looking at oneself. That’s how students start understanding the vast world of theatre.

“Training has to be very compassionate and considerate.”

My job as a teacher is to open their body, mind, gestures and postures. My job is to also translate the theory that they learn into gestures and expressions so that it becomes an experience for them. Training the mind is very important to me but after keeping in mind the region where the person is coming from. It has to be done both ways, gently and strictly in order to open up a person’s potential.

Another kind of training is through seeing. That is called training through the eyes. Maharashtra has witnessed many years of traditional theatre. In the last 200 years, they’ve had impetus on contemporary theatre. There was a time when the mill workers would watch two shows a day where the eyes are being trained in the best traditional ways. I am also very grateful for the training I have received. I traveled a lot and learned to respect folk artists. I have seen some folk performances in Karnataka that were staged for the whole night; with physical challenges and competitions. I have a very strong memory of that and I carry it wherever I go.

Finally, what I also learnt from Moscow was the importance of careful analysis and discussion between students and teachers to improve the performance. We were also studying paintings, music and art forms. All of it helped us develop a sense of perception and understanding of the world. Training in Moscow made me realise the capacity of my body and space with respect to performance which is quite different from the English theatre where the impetus is only on the speech. I really value the teaching methods I was exposed to in USSR. 

A production by Anamika Haksar

R: Do you agree that age and experience play a major role in becoming a better artist?

A: I don’t necessarily feel that age and experience go hand in hand. Although, with age comes compassion and wisdom. You understand how to talk to younger people. You understand that you cannot be brash or arrogant. You cannot pull them down or even use too refined a vocabulary they may not grasp.

There are a lot of things that age may give you but not everyone embraces it. I’ve met people who haven’t learned anything from their journey. These people can be very imposing, conservative and rigid. I’ve personally received a lot of push back from my contemporaries and directors elder to me but I’ve never let it affect me. So I am neither for or against age being an indicator for excellence. Growing old and not willing to learn can make you fossilized, egoistic and conservative.

A production by Anamika Haksar

R: Drama with movement, body and text has been your forte. You’ve specialised on this front creating multiple productions. Does it hold a special place for you?

A: I began directing plays using movement, body and text. At Moscow, we were made to do acting for the first four years of our training. So as a learner, I’ve nurtured values from dancing and acting. I am very grateful for that. Training in Moscow helped me hone my art.

“I am completely mesmerised by the coordination of body, movement and text. For me, it is a holistic form of  theatre.”

Photographs clearly don’t give you an idea of movement and space but you can see how I’ve always used them in my productions. I’ve worked in many regions where movement and body expressed a language. I’ve tried to ignite my actors in the right space.

Training your body is supremely important. I’ve trained myself for years on movement and body. Theatre-makers in India have to have total expression. These practices need to be inculcated in contemporary theatre scene. It’s a very strong body of visual metaphor.


R: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in three decades of your experience with theatre?

I think in the beginning when I started directing and teaching, acceptance among people I worked with was difficult.  I was young and working with international actors, Russians to be precise. I have received a lot of love and warmth from my actors. Sometimes my actors had to face the wrath of hatred from others whilst working with me.

A lot of people couldn’t find the intersection between dance and theatre in my performances, so naturally a lot of times, they would walk out midway. When these people walked out, there were also others who sat and enjoyed my shows until the end. When I started directing plays, it was the first time that metaphors, visual movement, dance and theatre were coming together in India. Some people called it bizarre to my face but I was always lucky to work with a team of young people who were loving and understanding.

I realize that young people are always receptive. Except the first time I was teaching. I left the class after a few minutes. It was quite humiliating for them to accept someone of their age as their teacher and for me to hear them taunt about age difference. I was trying to break grounds. I wept for a couple of months and later, it didn’t matter. I just went on and on. There was so much acceptance and exuberance from people I was working with.

Many assured me that I was really not doing anything wrong. Slowly, the audience that would leave started staying back and recognising experimental theatre. When I did Antar Yatra, a Tamil epic, we devised a huge space. The critics at that time wrote highly about it. Archana Shastri and I designed it very carefully but it wasn’t celebrated the way it should have been. I was a little disappointed. We had released our fixed deposits and invested in the performance. So there were these times but I have to say that it’s completely your choice. You can push yourself and keep working on the criticisms or you can go back to your comfort shell. I am very grateful to my country. Without any self-propagation, I’ve earned a lot of respect. Just at Kochi-Muziris Biennale, we had about 6,000 to 10,000 people watching my creation.

The journey has been tough but rewarding too. At times I felt that I should have received more recognition than I have. For example, Sangeet Natak Akademi celebrated their golden anniversary and didn’t invite me. It’s painful but I also know my worth. A lot of worthy people are marginalized by politics, so essentially it’s a choice you make. Ultimately, I want my work to be truthful and artistic. It should evoke feelings that are felt deep inside the heart and soul. It is hard but it is also beautiful. I’ve also received warmth and love from a lot of places I’ve travelled to. To be honest, in the end, it is your work that speaks and transpires into the love you receive.

A production by Anamika Haksar

Q. A lot of your work has revolved around social issues and injustice. What motivated this commitment to such issues?

A: To be honest, I really cannot pin it down! Antar Yatra was a poetic journey about women. If you look at Raj Darpan, it is about the censorship act forced by the Britishers on Indians. We showcased the multi-perspective vision of Indian art. It wasn’t about the troubles or issues of an individual but about the country.

Dalit poetry and literature have a special place in my heart. It has metaphors for the modern world. It has always drawn me close. Hard-hitting contemporary stories attract me. I would never try to do a love story. Not because I don’t believe in it but it doesn’t draw my attention.

Some of my feminist friends asked me why was I using Namdeo Dhasal’s text. He mistreated his wife. I told them that I wanted to juxtapose his actions with the sufferings of his wife. The pull of the contemporary life is important. I really feel the urge to talk about issues that matter or cause an emotional stir. Even for my film, we documented what it meant to live in old Delhi. I have an old rishta with old Delhi. It has life in its most intense form. How could I not try to portray that?

The essence of theatre is to pull you out of your existence.

Also, my sister’s influence whilst taking up cases against the army rule in Kashmir and Manipur affected me. She is a very political person. But I don’t belong to any political party. I may belong to a certain mold of thinking. I work on anything that challenges stereotypes. I have a compelling urge to express joys and sorrows, both rare and every day. I have an urge to communicate them. 

A production by Anamika Haksar

Q. You’ve been training young actors and theatre-makers at the Drama School Mumbai. What are the most effective tools that a young story-teller can use?

A: I’ve always asked students to pick up elements and characters from their neighbourhood and be proud of their history. Otherwise, they start closing up. Usually for people from a lower economic background, there are complexes and conflicts that need to be resolved. Begin your art from your differences. Don’t be scared to show that you are a son of a farmer or you milk cows at home. That’s my first rule while teaching.

Secondly, what’s important is imagination. I try myriad things to open up my students. We work on photographs, paintings, proverbs and musical pieces. Those exercises are to open up your imagination in such a way that you are really feeling what your performing.

Third thing is being playful. Having fun with each other and being able to receive and give is also important. Then there has to be some sort of training for the body. Any training that gives your body an aadhar or anchor is must. Do whatever is conducive to your own regional climate. Be it yoga, chhau or any other dance form. It can bring your rhythm across. That’s it.

Invest a lot of thought and work on Indian culture, be it paintings, music or art and then move to western art. Sometimes exercises can be psycho-physical. Elements of performance are always to be explored by playful exercises. It opens up sensory perception like taste, sound, vision and feel. Training is a lifelong process. The more you invest in it, the better your performances get.

This interview was conducted, written and edited by Roshan Kokane. With inputs from Ramu Ramnathan, Lyra Niharika Dutt and Ragini Khushwaha.


Premanad Gajvee

कलेला वारंवार सिद्ध करावे लागते

प्रेमानंद गज्वी (१९४७-ह्यात) हे नव्वदोत्तरी मराठी नाटककार, लेखक व कवी आहेत. सामाजिक बांधिलकीचे भान ठेवून समाजातील विदारक सत्य प्रभावीपणे मांडणे यासाठी ते प्रसिद्ध आहेत. त्यांच्या “घोटभर पाणी” या एकांकिकेचे १४ भाषांत अनुवाद झाले आहेत व “किरवंत” या त्यांच्या नाटकाचे अन्य भारतीय भाषांत भाषांतर झाले आहे. त्यांच्या लेखांचा शालेय अभ्यासक्रमात समावेश झाला आहे.

पुरस्कार: वि. वा. शिरवाडकर पुरस्कार, मसापचा जीवनगौरव पुरस्कार.

नाटके: किरवंत, गांधी आणि आंबेडकर, छावणी, जय जय रघुवीर समर्थ, डॅम इट अनू गोरे, तन-माजोरी, देवनवरी, नूर महंमद साठे, शुद्ध बीजापोटी.

कथासंग्र: ढिवरडोंगा, लागण

कादंबरी: जागर, हवे पंख नवे

५ नोव्हेंबर – मराठी रंगभूमीदिनाचे औचित्य साधून रंगभूमी/थिएटर, कला, प्रतिभा याविषयावर ड्रामा स्कूल मुबईच्या वतीने निलम सकपाळ हिने सुप्रसिद्ध नाटककार प्रेमानंद गज्वी यांच्याशी संवाद साधला आहे.

प्रश्न: मराठी रंगभूमी दिनानिमित्त रंगभूमीची आजची स्थिती गती याविषयी तुमचे काय मत आहे?

गज्वी: नाटक हे फार गंभीर माध्यम आहे. रंगभूमीचा हेतू आहे जो प्रामुख्याने प्रबोधन आहे, हे विसरून चालणार नाही. आपण मराठी नाटकाची परंपरा सांगताना विष्णुदास भावेंपासून सांगतो. खरंतर त्यांच्या आधीही कर्नाटकामध्ये मराठी रंगभूमी होती. त्याचाही उल्लेख आपण केला पाहिजे. रंगभूमीबद्दल आपण फार विचार करत नाही. मराठी नाटक जगाच्या पाठीवर कुठेही होत असेल किंवा पूर्वी झाले असेल, तर त्याचाही विचार आपण केला पाहिजे. त्याचा हेतू असा की, मराठी माणसे तेव्हा काय करीत होती? त्या-त्या  काळातले सामाजिक आणि सांस्कृतिक आयाम काय होते, हे समजण्यासाठी नाटक हे उत्तम माध्यम आहे. त्यामुळे रंगभूमीकडे केवळ मनोरंजन अशा संकुचित दृष्टीने बघणे आधी थांबवले पाहिजे. दुसरे असे की गंभीरपणे नाटक लिहिणारी नाटककार मंडळी शोधावी लागतील. जे नवीन प्रश्न निर्माण झालेत, त्यावर नाटकाच्या माध्यमातून आज भाष्य करणारे कोण डोळ्यासमोर येतात? नोटबंदीला एक वर्ष पूर्ण झाले. नोटाबंदीच्या अनुषंगाने, जगण्याची जी एकूण उलथापालथ झाली त्यावर कुणी नाट्यभाषेतून व्यक्त झालेय का? त्याविषयावर आधारित प्रायोगिक का होईना, नाटक आले का? व्यावसायिक रंगभूमीला पर्याय म्हणून आपण काहीतरी निर्माण करू पाहत होतो. पण अगदी अमोल पालेकर यांच्यापासून ते अगदी विजय तेंडुलकरांच्या काळापर्यंत प्रायोगिक रंगभूमीचा पर्याय म्हणून विचारही केला गेलेला नाही, काही ठोस उभेही केले गेले नाही. त्यामुळे झाले असे की ही प्रायोगिक रंगभूमी आपोआप व्यावसायिक रंगभूमीत विलीन होत गेली. या दृष्टीने विचार करणारे लोक आपल्याकडे नाहीत असे नाही, पण पुरेसे गंभीर नाहीत.

प्रश्न: नाटकवाले आता फक्त उत्सवी मानसिकतेत रमले आहेत किंवा फक्त अवार्ड्स फंक्शनला एकत्र येताना दिसतात. त्यांना एकमेकांच्या कामाबद्दल तितकं कुतूहल किंवा आस्था उरली नाहीये. तुमचे या बाबतीत काय निरीक्षण आहे?

गज्वी: हो आपल्याकडचे लोक पूर्वीपासून उत्सवप्रेमी राहिले आहेत आणि आता तर आपल्याला रोज म्हटले तरी साजरा करायला ‘उत्सव’ हा लागतोच. सणवार नसला तर आपण आई-बाबांचा दिवसही (Mother’s Day – Father’s Day) मोठ्या जल्लोषात साजरा करतो. मग नाटक करणारी मंडळी याला कसा अपवाद ठरतील? रंगकर्मीसाठी सगळ्यात मोठा सण कोणता तर राज्यनाट्य स्पर्धा. डिसेंबर महिना तर पर्वणीच. अशा स्पर्धांसाठी छोट्या संस्था सोडाच मोठ्या व्यावसायिक संस्था सुद्धा नव्याने नाटक करतात. या महोत्सवासाठी नाटके पुनरुज्जीवीत केली जातात. गोष्ट अशी आहे की, स्पर्धेत पुरस्कार प्राप्त नाटक असेल तर नाटकाचे पुढे बुकिंग वाढते. म्हणजे प्रेक्षक सुद्धा कोणती नाटके पाहणे पसंत करतो तर ज्यात नावाजलेले चेहरे असतील, ज्या नाटकाला पुरस्कार मिळाले असतील, अशी नाटके. म्हणजे चांगल्या नाटकाचे आपण आज जे काही निकष लावतो ते समाधान देणारे नक्कीच नाही. समजा एखाद्या मोठ्या नाट्यसंस्थेने एका कलाकृतीतून पुरेसे पैसे कमवलेत, तर तिने पुढच्या वेळेस नवीन नाटककाराचे नाटक करायला काहीच हरकत नाही. पण असे करायला कोणीही धजावत नाही. स्पर्धेत पुनरुज्जीवीत नाटकासोबत नवीन लिहिलेली नाटकेही असतात. पुन्हा पुनरुज्जीवित नाटकाच्या नाटककारालाच पुरस्कार मिळतो. ज्या नाटककाराला प्रमोशनची गरजच नाही, अशा नाटककाराला पुरस्कार देऊन काय साधतात? मग नवीन नाटककाराला प्रोत्साहन कसे व कधी मिळणार? नकळतपणे आपण पुन्हा जुन्याच गोष्टींचे समर्थन करीत आहोत की काय? एकीकडे आपण गॅझेटच्या आधुनिक काळात जगतो आणि नाटकं मात्र आपण जुनीच पाहतो. म्हणजे आपले मन अजूनही मागे कुठेतरी इतिहासातच रेंगाळते आहे का? तोच इतिहास पुढे घेऊन जायचे का? मग आपण सातत्याने ज्या प्रश्नाविषयी बोलतो की “कलेसाठी कला की जीवनासाठी कला?” तो प्रश्न या उत्सवी मानसिकतेमुळे मागे पडत आहे असे माझे प्रामाणिक मत आहे. आणि फक्त एका नावाजलेल्या पुरस्कारासाठी सारा लेखनप्रपंच किंवा एकूण नाट्य व्यवहार चालताना दिसतोय. पूर्वी राज्यनाट्य स्पर्धेसाठी लोक गांभीर्याने, किमान काहीतरी वेगळा प्रयत्न करायचे. ते आत्ताचे लोक करताना दिसत नाहीत. कला सादरीकरणाऐवजी एका गर्दीत स्वतःला ढकलणे व स्वतःला सिद्ध करणे चालू आहे असे वाटते. रंगभूमीचा एकूण विचार न करता सुटसुटा-स्वतःपुरता विचार केला जातोय असे वाटते.

प्रश्न: आज लेखकाने, नाटककराने समाजात जे काही घडतंय त्याविषयी बेधडकपणे काही लिहिले  तर त्याच्या नाटकाचे, चित्रपटाचे पोस्टर्स फाडले जातात. एक जत्था संतापलेल्या अवस्थेत येतो नाट्यगृहचित्रपटगृह जाळण्याच्या धमक्या देऊन जातो. याचा अर्थ आज पॅरलल सेन्सॉरशीप अधिक स्ट्रॉन्गली वाढत चालली आहे का? आत्ताच्या काळातील नाटककाराने याला कसे भिडावे?

गज्वी: ही जी पॅरलल सेन्सॉरशीप आहे ती आत्ता अधिक वाढलीये असे नाही, तर ती आधीपासूनच होती. विजय तेंडुलकरांच्या काळातही ती तितकीच कार्यरत होती. तेंडुलकरांना त्यांच्या सखाराम बाईंडर आणि घाशीराम कोतवाल या दोन नाटकांच्या बाबतीत सेन्सॉरशीपच्या रोषाला सामोरे जावे लागले. बरं या सगळ्या प्रकाराला धैर्याने सामोरे जाणारे लोक आपल्याकडे आहेत. पण शेवटी जीवाची भीती हा एक भाग राहतोच. कोणीतरी येईल, आपल्या तोंडाला काळे फासेल, ही भीती कायम डोक्यात घर करून असते. आणि अशी भीती निर्माण करणारा एक गट समाजात अस्तित्वात आहे, हे फार खेदाने म्हणावे लागते. आपल्यात अजूनही वैचारिक प्रगल्भता आलेली नाही, याचे हे लक्षण आहे. ही विरोध करणारी मंडळी, ज्या नाटकाला विरोध करत असतात ते नाटक नेमके काय आहे, नाटककाराने काय मांडलेय हे न बघताच विरोधी भूमिकेत जातात. ती कलाकृती बघण्याचीही तसदी घेत नाहीत. काय होतं की असे केल्याने पटकन टीव्ही चॅनलवर कुठेतरी झळकायला मिळते. त्यांच्या संघटनेचा मालक असतो, त्यालाही काहीतरी उद्योग हवे असतात. संघटनेतील मुलांसाठी काहीतरी काम हवं असतं. मग हे असे सोपे मार्ग जास्त वापरले जातात. यांचे कलाकृतीला विरोध करण्यामागचे कारण काय तर त्यांच्या समाजाच्या एखाद्या स्त्रीच्या चारित्र्यहननाचे म्हणा, किंवा वास्तवात ती जर तशीच घडलेली गोष्ट असेल तर ती तशीच लोकांपर्यंत पोचण्याची भीती यांना वाटत असते. पण ते दुसरी चांगली बाजू लक्षात घेत नाहीत की या कलाकृतीमधून त्या त्या कालखंडामधला एखादा पट,  त्यावेळची माणसे, त्यावेळची सामाजिक –सांस्कृतिक परिस्थिती आपल्यासमोर येईल. याउलट आपली व आपल्या समाजाची बदनामी होईल, हीच भीती त्यांना अधिक असते. यानिमित्ताने सांगावेसे वाटते की लेखकाची दुसरी एक जबाबदारी आहे. ती लेखकाला टाळून चालणार नाही. त्याने एखादी कलाकृती निर्माण करताना, सत्य शोधलेय का? आणि त्या सत्यासाठी/ ते सत्य समाजासमोर आणण्यासाठी तो आपला जीव गमवायला तयार आहे का ? समजा तसा प्रसंग आलाच, तर लेखकाला छातीठोक पणे सांगता आले पाहिजे की, हे मी लिहिलेले आहे, हे-हे त्याचे पुरावे आहेत. लेखकाला आपल्या कलाकृतीच्या बाजूने कोणत्याही बिकट परिस्थितीत उभे राहता आले पाहिजे.

प्रश्न: पण समजा एका लेखकावर संकट आलेच असे चित्र दिसते की दुसरा लेखक त्याच्या मदतीला धावून जात नाही. मराठी रंगभूमीवर अजूनही लेखकांचा प्रेशर ग्रुप नाहीये. त्यांची युनियनच नाहीये. लेखक हा सर्जनशील असूनही त्याच्याबाबतीत ही विषमता का?

 गज्वी: हा खरं म्हणजे सांस्कृतिक प्रश्न आहे. आणि हा प्रश्न फार जुना आहे. आपल्याकडे याला सांस्कृतिक युद्ध असा शब्द आहे. काही नाटककार सुरक्षित तसेच प्रस्थापित आहेत तर काही नाटककार जैसे थे आहेत. कारण कलेच्या बाबतीतही आपल्याकडे विशिष्ट गटाची मक्तेदारी असलेली दिसते. त्यामुळे एका नाटककाराच्या मदतीला दुसरा नाटककार धावून जाईलच असे नाही. आपल्याकडे ज्या लेखकांसाठीच्या संघटना आहेत, त्यांचे काम मर्यादित स्वरूपाचे आहे. त्यांचे चित्र फारसे आशादायी नाही. अमुक सिनेमाने शंभर कोटी कमावले नि दोनशे कोटी कमावले असे आपण सर्रास ऐकतो. पण मग लेखकांच्या मानधन वाढीसाठी अशा संघटना काही काम करतात का? अशा स्वरूपाचा एखादा प्रस्ताव सरकार दरबारी गेला आहे का? इथली नाट्यपरिषद तर नुसती नावाला आहे. छोट्या संस्था जशा छोट्या छोट्या नाट्यलेखन स्पर्धा भरवितात तसे नाट्यपरिषद सुद्धा अशा स्पर्धा भरवितात. ते तुमचे कामच नाहीये. त्यासाठी छोटे गट, स्थानिक संस्था आहेत. तुम्ही काहीतरी मोठे काम करा ना. ते होताना दिसतच नाहीये. नाटककाराच्या प्रमोशनसाठी सोशल मिडियाचा किती चांगल्याप्रकारे वापर करतात? तर नाही. संघटनेचा वर्धापन दिन साजरा करण्यापलीकडे यांचा काही कार्यक्रम नसतो. अशा संघटना नवीन तरुण नाटककारांकडून जे पैसे घेतात त्या पैशाचा योग्य विनिमय होतो का? आपल्या कार्यपद्धतीत किती सातत्य ठेवतात? त्यांचे लेखन कसे सुधारेल यावर काही नवीन क्लुप्त्या शोधून काढल्या जातात का? हे सगळे प्रश्न निरुत्तरच आहेत. म्हणून आपण मराठी रंगभूमीबाबत एकूण विचार करतो तेव्हा फारसं हाती काही लागत नाही.

प्रश्न: लेखकाने लिहिताना न्युट्रल होऊन लिहावे का? आपली विचारधारा बाजूला ठेवून लिहिता येणे त्याला शक्य आहे का?

गज्वी: मला नाही वाटत की नाटककाराला न्युट्रल होऊन लिहिता येत असेल म्हणून. पण असे जर कोणाला वाटत असेल तर आधी आपल्या समाजात बदल करावे लागतील. भ्रष्टाचार दूर करावा लागेल. जातमानसिकता बदलावी लागेल. हे काम अगदी मूळाशी जाऊन, आपले जगण्याचे सगळे ठोकताळे बदलून करावे लागेल. माणूस म्हणून तुम्हाला न्युट्रल राहताच येत नाही. जन्मापासूनच काही विशिष्ट जाणीवा घेत-घेत माणसाची वाढ-विकास झालेला असतो. तुमची काही मते-धारणा तयार झालेल्या असतात. त्यातूनच लेखकाला विषय सुचत असतात. अशाप्रकारे लिहिण्यापूर्वी त्याच्याकडे प्रश्नांचा, विचारांचा, भावनांचा, खूप साठा तयार असतो. ज्याच्यावर त्याची पुढची लेखनप्रक्रिया अवलंबून असते. आणि समजा एखाद्याला असे काही लिहायचे आहे, जे त्याच्या आजवरच्या जगण्याचा भाग नव्हते, उदाहरणार्थ मला जर आदिवासी जीवनावर नाटक करायचे आहे, आणि मी त्यापासून पूर्णपणे अलिप्त असेल, तर मला लिहिण्यापूर्वी आदिवासी जीवन बारकाईने समजून घेतले पाहिजे. त्यावरची पुस्तके वाचणे, त्यासंदर्भात वेगवेगळ्या लोकांच्या भेटी घेणे, हा सगळा अभ्यासाचा भाग केला पाहिजे. जेव्हा मी हे आदिवासी जगणे ७०-८० टक्के समजून घेईन, तेव्हा कुठे त्याचा ४०-५० टक्के भाग माझ्या लेखनात उतरेन. त्यामुळे अलिप्त राहून लिहिणे हे मला जरा विचित्र वाटते. लिहिण्यासाठी एखाद्या गोष्टीची वेदना होणे गरजेचे आहे.

प्रश्न: ही सगळी परिस्थिती सुधारण्यासाठी सरकारची मदत होऊ शकते का?

 गज्वी: निश्चितपणे होऊ शकते. सरकारकडे कलाक्षेत्रासाठी जो निधी असतो त्याचा योग्य दिशेने वापर झाल्यास परिस्थिती नक्की बदलेल. पण मूळ दुखणे हे आहे की आपल्या सरकारला राज्यनाट्य स्पर्धेच्या पलीकडे काही करावेसे वाटत नाही. त्यापेक्षा काही व्यापक स्तरावर काही करता आले तर तसे करावे. पुरस्कार वगैरे गोष्टींवर पैसा खर्च करण्यापेक्षा योग्य नाटककाराची निवड करून त्याला नाट्यलेखनासाठी विद्यावेतनाची (फेलोशिपची) तरतूद करावी. त्याला लेखन करण्यास प्रोत्साहन द्यावे. मुळात सरकारला सुद्धा कलाक्षेत्राविषयी माहिती हवी-आस्था हवी. तेव्हा कुठे तो वेगवेगळे उपक्रम राबवू शकतो. आणि प्रत्येक गोष्ट शासनानेच केली पाहिजे, असे नाही. आपणही काही जबाबदारी घ्यायला हवी. आपण खूप ढोबळमानाने बोलतो. यावर खूप वेगळ्या पद्धतीने काम करावे लागेल.

प्रश्न: याला जोडून, तुम्ही बोधी रंगभूमीची मुहूर्तमेढ रोवली, तीही वेगळ्या पद्धतीचे काम करणारी आहे?

गज्वी: याच्यासाठीच आहे खरं म्हणजे. खरी गंमत काय आहे ना, कलेसाठी कला की जीवनासाठी कला? असा वाद आपण घालतो. तर मी एक पाऊल पुढे जाऊन असे विधान करतो की –‘ज्ञानासाठी कला.’ हे थर्ड डायमेंशन शोधून काढले. आता हे काय माझं स्वतःचं अनालिसिस नाहीये. असं पटकन सापडलेलं नाहीये. तर बुद्धाने फार पूर्वी एक गोष्ट करून ठेवलेली, ती म्हणजे बुद्धाला ज्ञान प्राप्ती झाली होती. म्हणजेच शोध घेतला तर प्रश्नांची उत्तरे सापडतात. मग त्याच पद्धतीने ‘बोधी’ नाट्य संस्था काम करते. ती नाटककारांचा शोध घेते. ‘बोधी’ने महाराष्ट्र भर कथा-कविता-नाट्यलेखन कार्यशाळा केल्या. यात जवळपास २५० ते ३०० लोक जुडले गेले. यांच्यापैकी ज्यांनी कोणी लेखन केले, त्यावर आम्ही पुस्तक काढले– आर्ट फॉर नॉलेज अशा शीर्षकाचे. त्यात ६-७ नाटककर आम्हाला दिसले. ते ‘बोधीचे’ खास असे मेंबर नाहीत. आम्ही त्यांचा प्रचार-प्रसार करतो अशातलाही भाग नाही. आम्ही काय करतो तर त्यांना बोधी नाट्यलेखन कार्यशाळेनिमित्ताने नाटक लिहायला प्रवृत्त करतो. कार्यशाळेत आम्ही त्यांच्या नाटकाचे वाचन करतो, त्यावर साधक बाधक चर्चा करतो. यातून नाटककाराला आपल्या नाटकातल्या उणीवा किंवा चांगली बाजूही स्पष्ट होण्यास मदत होते. त्याला पुढे लिहिण्याची उर्मी त्यातून मिळते. पुढे आम्ही त्या नाटकांचा महोत्सव केला. महोत्सवातून जी नाटके तयार झाली त्यात काहींनी स्वतःची पुस्तके काढली. याचाच अर्थ कोणत्याना कोणत्या प्रकारे ही नाटकलेखन प्रक्रिया चालू राहिली पाहिजे. तिच्यात खंड पडता कामा नये. आणि आपल्या आधीच्या नाटककारांनी जे काम करून ठेवले आहे, त्याच्या पुढे जाणे अपेक्षित आहे. जे आम्हांला जमले नाही ते त्यांनी करावे. त्याला आपली स्वतःची. स्वतंत्र वाट निर्माण करावी लागेल कारण कला ही अशी गोष्ट आहे जी नुसती आशा व्यक्त करून उपयोगी नाही तर कलेला वारंवार सिद्ध करावं लागतं.

ही मुलाखत अक्षय शिंपीमुळे शक्य झाली आहे.
अक्षय, द ड्रामा स्कूल मुंबईचे विद्यार्थी संयोजक आहेत

Let Your Voice be Heard: Musings and mechanics of the new age of oral storytelling

by Zohra Malik

Photo via Gratisography

Once upon a time; in a place that could be anywhere in the world; people gathered to tell stories. Everything, from the neighbourhood gossip to legends and myths, took shape through recounted narratives. Today, in an era where voices are being silenced by the noise of gunshots fired outside homes, let us go down the rabbit hole and explore where storytelling came from and where it is headed to.

Read more


DON'T PANIC: GST and its Impact on the Performing Arts

DON’T PANIC! 

GST and its impact on the Performing Arts

Written by Zohra Mallik & Hina Siddiqui

The Goods and Services Tax was finally rolled out on the 1st of July 2017 at the stroke of  midnight. After all, our Government does have a flair for the dramatic. But what really, is the fuss and mayhem about? Over a hundred and fifty countries have implemented  GST (roses by other names) over the years and their populations came through the capitalist scourge just fine.

India’s version of an overarching goods and services tax has been 17 years in the making. It’s faced a lot of resistance, as you might guess, from various lobbies and people wary of what a uniform tax could mean for their business. The powers that be, speak of it as a way – the only way – to reduce corruption (wait, what was demonetization for then?), prevent tax-evasion and improve the overall efficiency of the system. And as we are settling into the first month of its imposition, with vendors and suppliers showing no signs of stopping to use it as an excuse for delays – let’s re-examine the alarmist outlook towards ‘one nation, one tax (sans momos)’, shall we?

Disclaimer: This is in no way an attempt to downplay the implications of the GST, no one’s saying this is a hoax created by the Chinese (not yet, anyway), but let’s look at all the facts and figure out what the GST means (for the theatre and arts community at least).

 

Taxes on Art prior to the GST

Artwork such as folk paintings, ceramics and antiques were levied with VAT, but were also exempt in certain states. Entertainment tax on movie tickets was 8 to 10 percent, with Maharashtra being an exception ranging from 15-45% (some kind of vengeance for past crimes, we believe). Regional films, however, were exempt. Dance and music events were at a cool 10% (NH7, you listening?). And theatre was exempt.

And now…

A uniform art tax of 12% may or may not be a slight improvement. One side speaks of a danger to the livelihood of artists and artisans at the lower rungs of the pyramid. On the other hand there is skepticism about whether people will stop buying art because of 12%.

As of 11th June, the GST Council places movie tickets under Rs 100 at 18% and anything above that at a ginormous 28%. No exemptions. We’ll just let that sink in for a bit.

Performances – whether they be the Maganiyar Seduction or the your neighbourhood community theatre’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream – are all going to be treated as one. Tickets to dance performances, music concerts and plays that are priced above Rs. 250 is at 18%.

But here is the cincher. CA Chintan Shah, who was part of a discussion conducted by United Kalakar in Mumbai, GST 4 Artists, clarifies that unless a theatre company has a turnover of over 20 lakhs per year they are not liable to pay GST. Thus, GST laws do not apply to the average practitioner and this in itself, is an exemption of sorts being given to those within the performing arts community.

But what about the bigger question of arts (and artists) being exempt from paying taxes? It’s the principle of thing, after all. We asked Noshir Dadrawala of the Centre for Advancement of Philanthropy to weigh in. According to him, “Performing arts and performing artists are of all kinds. But, let’s say, performing arts where India’s National culture or heritage is being preserved or promoted, there should be a GST exemption.” This of course does not allay the woes of contemporary practitioners, who struggle for funding, resources and a fair share of the market while doing the critical work of developing artistic discourse in the country.  

Chintan Shah offered a couple of solutions to those who cannot escape the burden of GST. Unfortunately, both of these entail writing to the government to change the terms under which GST can be levied. Firstly to demand that GST only be levied on tickets priced above Rs. 500 and secondly, to amend the law so that amateur theatre groups may start off by only paying 12% GST for, say, the first three years. 

What amateur means in the Indian context though, is highly debatable.

A performance at Jagriti (Image first appeared in the Deccan Chronicle)

Jagriti Theatre, a multifaceted space for the performing arts in Bengaluru has taken the lead on the idea of petitioning the Government to gain exemption from taxes. They, in fact, are demanding a complete exemption for the performing arts. This is not completely unprecedented. Several European countries offer tax exemptions to the arts, even going as far as granting rebates on property tax to cultural centres, arts organizations and related institutes. The primary concern in the Indian context, according to Jagdish Raja, founder of Jagriti Theatre, is not for the audience as much as it is for the theatre practitioners who may have to forgo necessary expenses for the production in order to stay within the Rs. 250 budget.

A big cause for concern is that registration under GST brings with it the need to hire a Chartered Accountant and that’s an expense that majority of artists may not be able to afford. According to Noshir Dadrawala, “GST compliance involves several layers and what may apply to one artist may not apply to another.” And that essentially translates into getting professional help. 

A moment to reflect on the bigger picture…  

It would be a little extreme to state that this move by the government is penalizing art. But it certainly is commodifying it. And at one end those of us, who looked at our first tax returns as the real entry into adulthood, are thinking – maybe this is a good thing. Because if you are taxing what I do, then I won’t have to spend a lifetime convincing my parents, in-laws, friends, clients, audiences et al that ‘theatre is a real job’. This tax could be a real paradigm shift in the way people view and consume art of all kinds and somehow, ironically, a tax, will finally reveal the true value of art. But on the other hand, where is the associated education of the proletariat that should go hand-in-hand with this proposed change? Where is the support that takes the burden of turning profits away from individual practitioners and places the responsibility on the consumer of the practice? And who needs to talk about this – the ex-engineer climbing her way up the Open Mic circuit or the practitioner who commands the headlines?

 

Well, there is always room for interpretation and if there is one thing this sector believes, it is that no one truth can save us all. And yes, while it is true that unless you are turning 20l or more each year, you can more or less proceed with life as in (albeit paying more for tampons and the next Avengers movie), there are still a few things we should start doing:

  1. Sign Jagriti’s online petition here. In a country of over a billion, this petition only asks for 5000 signatures.

  2. Consult your CA. That’s Chartered Accountant for all you anti-capitalism types. If you don’t have one, get one, especially if you run a registered company or proprietary firm. Check here if that helps.

  3. Financial planning is not a bad word. But you don’t need to do it alone. Collectivism is a strength, let’s leverage it. Workshops for financial planning, discussions like the one United Kalakar spearheaded, online communities to compare notes and seek advice – these are all things we can and should do for all of us.  

  4. Let’s talk about money, shall we? We live in a culture that doesn’t talk about money. We live in a time when we often find ourselves living beyond our means for reasons we don’t fully comprehend. Let’s push past the silence and discuss money, bank balances and salaries. There’s evidence to show that talking about what you get paid actually helps everyone earn more.

  5. And let’s chop up that credit card while we’re at it.   

 

A towel may not help, but don’t panic. We may not be economists, but we are artists. We can envision solutions and taxes or not, that’s where the future starts.


References: 

http://indianexpress.com/article/business/economy/art-tax-gst-cess/

http://www.financialexpress.com/industry/gst-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/703946/

http://time.com/money/4212413/financial-advice-for-artists/

https://www.glamour.com/story/why-we-need-to-talk-to-our-coworkers-about-our-salaries

Tax Incentives for the Creative Industries edited by Sigrid Hemels, Kazuko Goto, Springer, 2017

A Handbook of Cultural Economics edited by Ruth Towse, EE Publishing 2003

For a complete list of GST rates, exemptions and brackets, look right here. 

Pai Paishachi Goshta: Play@theDSM

People have changed with the changing times. The parameters of happiness have changed. Also the approach towards the practical and financial affairs has changed. An old lady summarisesthis change in her own words.

A story of an old lady “Pai Paishachi Goshta”

Pai Paishachi Goshta is based on a story by eminent writer Dr. Vijaya Rajadhyaksha. Adapted and directed by Vipul Mahagaonkar, the play had its first show in 2015, and has had numerous shows across the country.

The play has also won a lot of awards including a 2016 Zee Natya Gaurav for Best Actress to Ila Bhate, a veteran actress in Marathi theatre and film.

Production House :- Taleem

Actor- Ila Bhate

Story – Dr.Vijaya Rajadhyaksha

Adapted & Directed by- Vipul Mahagaonkar.

Produced by- Ujwal Mantri

Music by Prabodh Shetye

Costumes- Vinaya Walawalkar Mantri.

 

About the director 

Vipul Mahagaonkar

Vipul Mahagaonkar has directed two of the best experimental plays currently running – Khidki and Pai Paishachi Goshta. Both adaptations, done in his own special way. Both absolutely poles apart in terms of content and execution and even emotions. That has given us an idea of how versatile this man is with his handling of plays. And he intends to take theatre to every nook and corner of the country, especially the inaccessible ones. With such talent and such a remarkable thought of taking the art form everywhere, he is easily one of the best that experimental theatre has.

About the actor

Ila Bhate

In her stage career, Ila has played more than 25 roles. Her most popular plays are ‘Mi Majhya Mulancha’ with Vikram Gokhale and the widely acclaimed ‘U-Turn’ (2008) with Girish Oak. U-Turn, which treated the subject of companionship in the elderly age, has been played more than 500 times, which is rare for a drama that has only two characters. It received numerous awards including honour from the State Government of Maharashtra. In fact, we can proudly say the U-Turn is the only two character play to complete 500 shows with the same cast throughout.

 

When?

29th July, 7 PM

Where?

5th Floor, The Drama School Mumbai, Girgaon, Mumbai – 400 004

Tickets?

Rs. 200/-

Book tickets here.

 


Documenting Theatre in India: Research in to Theatre Lives

by Zohra Malik

 

How much do we really know theatre and theatre-makers in India? Documenting theatre is vital. Yet, a casual Google search in all likelihood will yield little documenting of solid value.  Research & Praxis is such a vital strand of the programme at the DSM because it addresses this imbalance. It also embeds students in the living culture of theatre-making and encourages them to document, research and record the work of numerous individuals who stand at the edge of the spotlight.

Ramu Ramanthan – writer, respected journalist, playwright and mentor – developed this research module. He trains students in research methodologies, helping them create strategies to document as well as represent these lives as they occur and their relation to theatre practice today.

Batch 2016-17 decided to shine a light on the lives and practices of the following individuals:

 

Ramdas Padhye

Ventriloquist, Puppeteer, Puppet-maker

Researcher: Abhishek Chauhan

Ramdas Padhye and his creations

 

Ramdas Padhye was one of the first people to create puppets with contemporary Indian identities. As a child, Padhye was consistently disassembling and reassembling toys. Encouraged by his father, who was also a well-known magician and puppeteer, Padhye went on to do engineering. He then took to puppetry in order to talk about small big problems of India’s middle class  – family planning, saving money and education. Though, Padhye’s work has been featured across the globe,

 

Faezeh Jalali

Actor, Director, Theatre-maker

Researcher: Chrisann Pereira

Faezeh Jalali and a scene (left) from her META award-winning play 07/07/07

 

Faezeh Jalali is certainly not an unknown name. Her recent productions – 07/07/07 and Shikhandi have got audiences and critics alike raving. But Chrisann’s research looks at her directorial style from the perspective of a student of the art. It focuses on the aesthetic values that guide her work but also on how everyone on stage behaves in a certain way for a reason.

 

Chetna Mehrotra

Image Expression Artist, Drama Based Learning Facilitator, Dance Drama Storyteller

Researcher: Deepmala Khera

Chetna Mehrotra and the multiple roles she plays

Chetna Mehrotra has an incredible amount of experience in applied theatre – which applies principles of the performance space to the enable transformation of individuals, communities and society at large. Mehrotra’s work stems from the belief that theatre is not just to entertain but a medium to empower and to evolve. She is one of the leading practitioners in this emerging field and works extensively in learning & development, therapy and training. Knowing of her work and of others like her is vital to many of us who often restrict the scope of theatre to the stage.

 

Utpal Bhayani

Journalist, Theatre Critic

Researcher: Khushbu Baid

The career and contribution of Utpal Bhayani, one of the foremost authorities on Gujarati theatre. He has written several papers and critiqued Gujarati theatre extensively for about forty years or so, thus providing a fresh new perspective to the way one sees this regional form of theatre. His words and his influence are still relevant and ever-present to this day, as Utpal Bhayani continues to write a column for the Gujarati newspaper, Janmabhumi. Research and documenting of Utpal Bhayani’s work tells us  how  to critically appreciate theatre. It also holds the mirror up to the evolution of culture through movements on stage.

 

Manav Kaul

Theatre director, Playwright, Actor, Film-maker

Researcher: Komal Khanna

Manav Kaul, the man, his moods and his roles

You may recognise him from the various films he has been a part of, but Manav Kaul has been a significant contributor to the development of theatre in India. Komal’s compilation of anecdotes from his life (what better way to get to know a man and his practice) cover everything from his beginnings in Kashmir, the growing camaraderie between him and Kumud Mishra and the moment he realised that theatre was what he wanted to do. His writing, his process, his fascination with the bizarre and his response to criticism, all come together to inspire those who have just begun wading in to the deep waters of the performing arts.

 

Dr Arvind Ganachari

Historian

Researcher: Adarsh Gourav

Dr Ganachari is a noted scholar, specialising in Modern Indian History.  He wrote highly insightful pieces on India’s socio-economic and cultural history for the Economic and Political Weekly magazine.  He guided Adarsh through a discovery of political and moral censorship in Indian performing arts. According to him, “Although there is much debate about censorship attacking the fundamental right of “freedom of speech”, it is necessary and has to be there. Every freedom has a limit. A person has freedom and has their rights but if it infringes upon somebody else’s right or freedom,censorship comes into use. It is a very thin line.”

 

Deepa Gahlot

Theatre and film critic, Author, Scriptwriter

Researcher: Shruti Khandelwal

Deepa Gahlot at the NCPA

If you have seen a show at the NCPA, Mumbai, you’ve experienced Deepa Gahlot’s vision for theatre. She is the Head of Programming at the NCPA and has also translated and adapted several works for stage. Her critical writings not only display an awareness of the technicalities but also a certain esoteric knowledge that only those who are completely in tune with their field of expertise possess. Shruti’s research focuses on Gahlot’s propensity for promoting critical dialogue around the performing arts.

 

Arun Naik

Editor, Theatre critic, Translator, Teacher, Director, Designer, Columnist

Researcher: Shruti Sunder

Arun Naik and his family carry on the legacy of theatre

 

Arun Naik has had a massively versatile career in theatre for the past forty years. He has directed critically acclaimed pieces of theatre and contributed to The Oxford Companion to Theatre in India. Through him we can track the history of the resurgence of Marathi theatre and the integral role of the Mumbai Marathi Sahitya Sangh in the city’s performance culture.

 

Sunderlal Shyamlal Valmiki aka Sunder Chacha

Caretaker (Mumbai Marathi Sahitya Sangh)

Researcher: V. Vidyuth

Sunder Chacha, home at the MMSS

It seems fitting to close this little list of theatre lives with Sunder chacha. Apart from having achieved some amazing theatrical feats, Sunder chacha has been a caretaker of the Mumbai Marathi Sahitya Sangh for over 40 years. Vidyuth, as a researcher, makes a cogent point that while there are those who contribute to theatre in a more creative capacity, it’s also necessary to appreciate the ones who’ve helped preserve it for so many years. Not only has Sunder chacha taken care of one of Mumbai’s oldest theatre spaces, he has (and continues to do so even today) helped build sets, set up lights and sound and managed backstage processes.

 

These final projects are essentially profiles of very diverse individuals; names we need to remember, names we need to learn from as makers and consumers of theatre. Each of these lives builds the larger picture of the context, history and social reality of theatre. This research is a responsibility that students have been accepting as part of their education for the past 4 years. It tells the story of a city, its long tradition of theatre and it also tells a story of how theatre continues to grow into what it is today. And it is vital that we all, not only understand but also contribute to the research and documenting of these strands.


Conversations@theDSM: Sunil Shanbag and Sapan Saran

Image Courtesy: thehindu.com

 

Fourth instalment of Conversations@theDSM brings to you theatre maverick Sunil Shanbag, and writer, poet, actress Sapan Saran, who will talk about their initiative Tamaasha Theatre, Sunil Shanbag’s plays, the changing trends in theatre, and the relevance of theatre in today’s world.

Continuing with the Guru-Shishya tradition, Sapan who has grown under the mentorship of Sunil Shanbag will be interviewing the latter.

 

About Sunil Shanbag

Sunil Shanbag is a theatre director and producer based in Mumbai. He started his theatre work with Satyadev Dubey in 1974 and worked with him for ten years as an actor, designer, and director before he founded the Arpana theatre company in 1985 with a group of his theatre colleagues. Arpana remains an active theatre company till date and has several notable productions to its credit including Ramu Ramnathan’s Cotton 56, Polyester 84, Sex, Morality, Censorship written by Shanta Gokhale and Irawati Karnik, Stories in a Song made in collaboration with Shubha Mudgal and Aneesh Pradhan, Club Desire written by Sapan Saran, and more recently, Loretta written by Goan writer Pundalik Naik.

In 2015 he co-founded Tamaasha Theatre with Sapan Saran to broaden their definition of theatre, seed the city with intimate, alternative art venues, and work with younger theatre practitioners. Sunil has been actively involved in theatre training, and documentation projects which include the book Scenes We Made, edited by Shanta Gokhale, which traces the history of experimental theatre in Mumbai from the late 1950s to about 2000. He is also part of the core team of SMART, India’s only strategic management programme for theatre, which has worked with about 30 theatre companies from across India over three years. In addition, Sunil has been an independent documentary filmmaker, been involved as a writer and researcher for large scale television projects such as Bharat Ek Khoj and Surabhi, and community history projects such as museums and oral history archives.

 

About the interviewer: Sapan Saran

Sapan Saran is a poet, writer, and an actor based in Mumbai. She is a founding member of the theatre company, ‘Tamaasha’, which aims to explore new theatre ideas in alternative spaces.

Her association with theatre began with a collaboration with dancer Astad Deboo. She has written Club Desire, and Classics Redux, which have been directed by veteran theatre director Sunil Shanbag, with whom she also co-directed the play Marriage-ology. Her first play, Club Desire, a Theatre Arpana and National Centre for the Performing Arts (India) production, was selected for National School of Drama’s International Theatre Festival, Bharat Rang Mahotsav 2015. The Churchgate Couple, a short 10-minute piece from Marriage-ology, written by her, garnered appreciation by critics and audiences alike. She conceived the critically acclaimed production, ‘Blank Page’ in 2015. Her most recent play is ‘Waiting For Naseer’, a quirky, philosophical comedy, that she has written and directed.

She performs regularly as a theatre actor, has modelled in several advertisements, and acted in films. Her poems have been published in several magazines, including the Sahitya Akademi’s Samkaleen Bhartiya Sahitya. Recently, the hindi magazine, Samved, came out with a supplementary book that contained 50 of her poems.

 

About Conversations@theDSM

Conversations are a tradition in theatre. And so, the DSM brings an entire series of discussions, talks and conversations, curated for the first weekend of every month. Our purpose in these conversations is twofold. First, we celebrate the bond between guru-shishya. Teachers in school, professors in college, coaches at the gym and directors in the rehearsal hall – all mentors have taught you something through conversations. That something makes you the person you are today.

The second purpose in these conversations is to celebrate Rekha Sabnis.

Rekha Sabnis was a one-woman theatre army. She ran theatre group Abhivyakti from her house. She took care of sets, costumes, bookings, transport, tickets as well as acting and directing. Abhivyakti starting performing at the Mumbai Marathi Sahitya Sangh, the same building that houses the DSM today. Rekha Sabnis was a key force behind the DSM-Sahitya Sangh partnership. And this partnership makes our work forging a new generation of theatre-makers, possible.

Rekha passed away in September last year, studying elements of the Natya Shastra till the very last.

Conversations@theDSM started in April. It is our small way of paying tribute to a great spirit who made theatre a little bit better for us all. These conversations form part of an ongoing series of talks between theatre-makers young and old. The entire series has been curated by Yugandhar Deshpande and Anuja Kale of TheatreAcross.

 

Date: 8th July 2017

Time: 5 pm

Venue: The Drama School Mumbai, 5th floor, Mumbai Marathi Sahitya Sangh, Kele Wadi, Girgaon, Charni Road East, Mumbai 400004.


Adrak@theDSM - Niketan Sharma brings his new play to the DSM

 

Alumnus Niketan Sharma brings his play Adrak to The Drama School Mumbai!

Teaming up with him are alumni Trinetra Tiwarii, Dheer Hira, Niharika Lyra Dutt and Kartavya Anthwaal Sharma, and co-writer Abhishek Kumar.

 

About Adrak

Adrak is a story which revolves around three characters namely Vikrant, Nischay and Anokhi.

The bond between Vikrant and his younger brother Nischay is such that they both feel dependent on one another. But it’s difficult to say who is more dependent on the other!

Nischay can’t find a space to live independently. Also, he is so comfortable living in the shadow of his elder brother that it is very difficult for Nischay to live away from Vikrant.

Anokhi comes in Vikrant’s life and eventually in their home (to live in) and the equation changes.

Vikrant and Anokhi’s relationship starts affecting Nischay? Or is Nischay affecting them?

Are they in the same soup now or is of them a missing ingredient?

The play starts with Vikrant and Anokhi falling apart after 4 years of their relationship resulting in a separation.

It later unfolds on that single day when Anokhi is coming back to get her stuff back. This creates all the chaos and ruckus in their lives.

After this incident, things would not be the same for all of them..specially for Nischay!

Come, watch the play at The Drama School Mumbai.

 

Date: 24th June, 2017

Time: 7 PM

Venue: 5th Floor, The Drama School Mumbai, Girgaon, Mumbai – 400 004

Tickets at the gate.