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Reviving Indian theatre

With GenNext discovering the joys of watching drama, IM Sahai keeps his hopes bright for the Indian theatre.

art and culture Updated: Jul 18, 2007 12:54 IST
IM Sahai

At the Summer Drama Festival organised by the National School of Drama (NSD) in Delhi the other day, Vijay Tendulkar's Ghasiram Kotwal was revived.

<b1>Both the shows went house full, with standees inside and many more outside clamouring to get in. Evidently, GenNext is in the process of discovering the joys of watching drama.

In Delhi, NSD's two seasonal festivals draw good crowds each year. In Mumbai, the English Theatre at least is still healthy. Kolkata prefers folk theatre, specially Jatra which now has an extended season.

If the doctor-director Jabbar Patel were asked to diagnose the illness, he'd probably term it as a ‘multi-organ failure'. Another theatre-person Mohan Maharishi asked recently, "Where are the new playwrights?"

As for training, a solitary NSD in this vast country is a cruel joke on the large potential of theatrical talent in its various parts. We need a NSD in each State.

Optimism shines
As we progress further in the new millennium, I am optimistic. During the last century, theatre had successfully countered a series of obstacles: colonial rule and its ham-handed censorship, the resurgence of cinema, the coming of TV and cable-channels, and lately the shenanigans of the ‘moral' police.

Yet theatre could emerge stronger for all that.

Despite its past baggage, theatre will flourish. As in the past, a good nursery for talent have been the better schools and colleges. Hopefully, their chiefs will look beyond the ‘cut-off marks' and merit-lists and build on the dramatic tradition that already exists - or needs to be nurtured.

Theatre groups need to take a long hard look at the way they go about their difficult task. Just as in cinema, a few big, well-mounted plays could set the tone for the decades to come.

I keep wondering why, with our rich musical tradition, particularly in folk, we do not have at least a good ‘musical' or two mounting the boards. More so, when sponsorship now is not as difficult to get as was in the past. That genre has always been popular, whether in Habib Tanvir's

Agra Bazar

or the haunting tunes of

Jatra

.

Keeping out bureaucrats


Hopefully, the theatre of tomorrow will not depend unduly on the government, whether in the centre or states.

An average CM of the day has no time for culture (except when it gives him photo-ops), and his babus toe that line. At the central level, the department of culture is a mere addendum to a small ministry and routinely palmed off on a junior (or politically inconvenient) minister.

It is far more fruitful to rely on one's own efforts, supplemented by corporate support. That would require imagination – and leg work.

But that's something that the drama-wallahs are used to doing, isn't it ? In 2020, theatre can only get better, more adventurous and one daresay humorous - really, what if there's a Shantata! Kotwal Chalu Aahe.