DOES THEATRE figure anywhere on Indore’s priorities? Quite a baffling query but it stems from this year’s annual meet of Indore theatre, which was attended by a handful of viewers from the City, which boasts of a dozen amateur theatre groups.
Dr D N Mishra Raj, an old IPTA hand had a lot to lament. Talking to media a month ago he stressed that theater thrives if, like Maharashtra and Bengal, it is a part of people’s cultural life; if they are willing to spend on it and if the experienced take lead in its advancement. Hindi theatre scores poorly on the latter two points hence the first arises as a question.
Actor-director Shyam Kumar was in Indore to present two plays for Ras-Bharati. With all his training from Sriram Centre and work experience with National School of Drama (NSD), he found TV unduly powerful than theatre. Watching NSD graduates from Indore moving to the rainbow’s end at Mumbai no one even needs to mention that.
Sunil Salgia who was in the City to inaugurate Arank’s 17th two-month long workshop neatly tied it up without mincing words that marketing was essential for acting.
But all is not gloomy in the green rooms as it appears. Theatre workshop organised in the joint auspices of Maharashtra Sahitya Sabha, Sanand and other Marathi drama groups saw director-playwright Yogesh Soman camping in Indore for a week and work with theatre enthusiasts.
His play ‘Supari dot com’ staged by Sanand later in the year highlighted and condemned sensationalism in visual medium. Upholding creativity and sensitivity in theatre he opined that the purpose of training in dramatics is not to grope for opportunities in employment.
And certainly it is the drama groups living by this dictum that have consolidated Indore’s position on theatre map. Natya-Bharati, Ashtarang, Avirat and Ahilya Natya Mandal by their spirited participation in one-act-play contests have kept various such activities alive in the City. Amra Sabai does not belong to this category, yet it has been holding annual drama festivals consistently. Indore Drama School is perhaps the only Hindi group to have held a three-day festival ‘Natrang’ this year.
Sanand does not produce plays but it is worthy of note for troupes to perform on its platform. Besides its usual quota of about a dozen plays from Mumbai and Pune, the annual competition of plays was in its third year and has grown in stature. One commercial production even used its dais as a launching pad.
Reema Lagu, Mohan Joshi, Vikram Gokhale, Neha Kulkarni and Sharvani Pillai were the few well-known faces who made entries from its wings.
Had Dilip Prabhavalkar, Munna Bhai’s Gandhi, visited Indore to cut a ribbon instead of acting in a play, he would have drawn throngs. An interesting Appa & Bappa, thrilling Achanaq and Supari dot com, and Makad and champagne introducing intellectual comedy were the notable plays of the year. Ras-Bharati and Kala Abhivyakti though largely a venue for family outings remain the only arena for Hindi plays from Mumbai.
The year saw workshops being organised in the holiday season, one even in puppetry. Institutions increasingly found theatre as a way to celebrate and to propagate their objectives. Sandarbh Kendra has made a regular practice of it but it was pleasant to note Jain Social Group inviting theatre folks to bolster their festive mood.
As the year draws to an end, Janta Raja comes to camp in Indore for the third time and become a favoured evening destination for families. It dispels the air about Indoreans unwilling to spend money on drama or something, which is entertaining fanfare. But theatre is far more serious business. Would they still be driving in hordes if it were Habib Tanvir or Dinesh Thakur at the stadium?