MP: Restoring traditions and tales through theatre

  • Khushboo Joshi, Hindustan Times, Bhopal
  • Updated: Jun 26, 2016 20:10 IST
Culturally-rich city Bhopal hosts around 20 theatre festivals round the year. However, not much has been shown on the folk front. (HT photo)

Amid buzz created by urban theatre across the country, a set of youngsters have engaged in bringing old folk tales of regions like Malwa, Bundelkhand, Baghelkhand and the tribal belt of MP to the people.

“There is a wave of urban theatre these days which cannot be denied. But when we come back home, we come back to basics. And our basics lie in our folklore. I am not saying learning new techniques and methods is bad, but forgetting the traditional art is dangerous,” shares Sourabh Anant, director of Vihaan Dramaworks in Bhopal.

Vihaan is credited to have brought the folklore of Madhya Pradesh into the mainstream theatre.

Culturally-rich city Bhopal hosts around 20 theatre festivals round the year. However, not much has been shown on the folk front.

“There are people who are working towards this, but they are very few in number. In special context to Madhya Pradesh, which is the richest in tribes and arty regions, much more could have been done. Over the years, artists’ attraction towards the modern theatrics resulted in a downfall of folk theatre in MP. But now, I see a few people, especially art-inclined youngsters who travel a lot in the interiors, realising the significance of folklore. They are trying to blend them into the modern theatrics which is a very good sign,” says Vinay Upadhyay, senior art critic of Bhopal.

Neeraj Kunder of Indravati Natya Sanstha, Sidhi staged a play based on a folk tale of Ahir Samaj in Bhopal at Rangotsav National Theatre Festival held recently.

He says, “If we do not start blending the folk with the modern, the former will die. Now, if we start presenting the folk in its real form, it will never interest the modern lot. So we extract folk elements from the folklore and present them in a modern way.”

“We did this with ‘Chadanua’ play where we took a small story from this huge folk saga of Ahir community of MP and then dramatised it. That’s how a buzz was created towards the folklore and that’s the only way it can survive,” Kunder added.

Neeraj’s group has researched in more than 150 villages and has been continuously working towards safeguarding the community folklore.

“While conceptualising the play ‘Ek Kahaani Bastar Ki’, four of our teammates were in Bastar area, documenting the songs, stories, lifestyle, habits, interests, clothes and body language. We came to know about hundreds of beautiful songs that are sung during various occasions in this belt. Out of all the centuries-old tribal stories, we selected one and dramatised it on stage,” says Sourabh.

Vinay Upadhyay, art and theatre critic, says theatre stalwarts like Habib Tanvir and KN Panikkar have successfully made folklore part of mainstream theatre. “Their productions are like schools in themselves. But we need more of such plays promoting dying art, traditions and folk.”

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