RJ Mantra: I don’t support boycotting an entire society because of geopolitical differences

ByNavya Kharbanda
Aug 12, 2023 02:00 PM IST

RJ Mantra bids farewell to his theatre play Piya Behrupiya after 11 years and clears his stance against director Atul Kumar’s decision of not performing it in Russia.

It was a bitter moment for theatre artiste RJ Mantra when he recently announced that he’s bidding adieu to the iconic play Piya Behrupiya after a successful run of over a decade. The Nautanki-style production, which earned accolades from audiences across the globe, recently concluded.

RJ Mantra performed the iconic play Piya Behrupiya for 11 years before it ended.
RJ Mantra performed the iconic play Piya Behrupiya for 11 years before it ended.

“Throughout its journey, the production has seen over 250 shows. From London to America, China to Paris, Korea to Canada, Chile, and many locations in India, Piya Behrupiya has travelled the world. However, as the years passed, everyone’s ’ schedules grew increasingly demanding, making it challenging to get their availability. So, our director Atul Kumar made the decision to do our one last tour in July, ending the play,” shares Mantra, adding that if ever the director decides to start it again, “at least I won’t be a part of it and I’ve conveyed this to him already”.

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The play that took flight in 2012 at the Globe Theatre in London, had recently landed in a controversy when it was invited to have a performance in Russia, however, its director declined the invitation expressing solidarity with the people of Ukraine amid the ongoing conflict with Russia.

Sharing his stance on the matter, the 40-year-old tells us, “That was Atul’s own ideological concerns, as he thinks we can’t perform where the country is an oppressor. But, if you ask me, I believe that art transcends boundaries. Protest theatre has always been prevalent, and dissent against authoritarian regimes has been the core of many theatre groups. Boycotting an entire society because of geopolitical differences is not something I support.”

Despite the play’s conclusion and his decision to step down, Mantra emphasises that his director’s stand on the Russia invitation does not reflect his personal beliefs. “I have immense respect for Atul and we will still engage in meaningful conversations, regardless of our ideological differences,” says Mantra, expressing disappointment at the “missed opportunity for Russian audiences” to experience Piya Behrupiya, which also starred Geetanjali Kulkarni, Sagar Deshmukh, Mansi Multani.

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