Posts tagged ‘Badal Sircar’

January 14, 2013

15th Bharangam Diary: notes, rants and experiences

DAY 9: 13th Jan 2013

A very promising day was on offer with Badal Sircar and Shakespeare at the helm. And to top that, the extra tickets we had because of a certain someone who chooses only the best-play-days to remain absent, were sold even before we reached the auditorium. People love watching Hindi plays here at NSD, and you really cannot blame them because the non-Hindi ones have such shoddy subtitles.

Teesveen Shatabdi

Script: Badal Sircar

Director: Avneesh Mishra (Rangshila Cultural & Development Society, Mumbai)

This play is more or less an interesting history lesson about the atomic bombings in Japan. The plot pans out as an investigative ‘court room’ drama where the dead American army men, their family members, Japanese doctors of the time, and even Einstein are called from their graves to explain, interpret and retrospect their actions. The 20th century tries to tell the 30th century that they were not devilish, at least not completely so, and were acting out of duty/beliefs of the time.

Use of multimedia was impactful but sound needed an equal fervour. The stageplay was repetitive and the actors did not really do justice to the intensely written roles. Even veterans like Tom Alter looked jaded, but then maybe it’s just the age.

Call it a personal opinion but no Sircar play should be typically proscenium (even his earlier work, like this, which was intended for the proscenium stage). He was not a poet. His plays are the most suited to interpretation and must be ‘played’ around with.

Piya Behroopiya

Based on: Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (text)

Adaptation: Amitosh Nagpal

Director: Atul Kumar (The Company Theatre, Mumbai)

Shakespeare has become redundant. Theatre can very easily live without him, and better for it. There are millions of theses on him and his work, there are films and plays in every language and form imaginable (even Godard has made a King Lear), there are courses and theatre schools designed around him and like celebrities of today he has even been accused of plagiarism.

The man is as popular today as he was in the 17th century.

No. He isn’t.

The biggest achievement of Shakespeare’s was that his productions were so popular with the masses. The people loved his creations. With all the genius of word-play and political allusions, he still made a connect with his audience. Piya Behroopiya did exactly that. It created an atmosphere of triumph inside the vast Kamani auditorium and the people were hooting, whistling, clapping and even singing with the actors. And the meaning of the play was not lost on anyone. The absurdity of the twins, the buffoonery of the ‘fool’ and the tug-of-war between ignorance and sophistication were all present. It was a spectacle that at times derided Shakespeare and at other times borrowed from some of his other works (the ‘what’s in a name’ routine followed by Olivia’s loving laments of Cejario was particularly clever and hilarious). It was casual and free-spirited, agreed, but then this was Twelfth Night not Macbeth.

This is at least a 10-15 stagings old production but the actors, each one of them, were refreshingly spontaneous. Music was exceptionally detailed, and live. The singing was according to the requirement, at times funny and in jest but at other times steady and fine.

Adapting a Shakespeare into another language is always difficult because of the simple fact that the original prose and poetry is far too good. Amitosh Nagpal was helped a great deal by the inane nature of the original text but that does not take anything away from his marvellous effort (Looking forward to his future adaptations/creations).

Badal Sircar proposed the concept of ‘third theatre’ wherein the action is more realistic and the audiences are more involved. Atul Kumar managed to present a play that struck really close to this thought of Sircar’s. If such a form of popular, acceptable and Bharatiya/Indian theatre can be taken beyond the slapstick, into the realm of the contemporarily political, it might just herald a movement. And with such an excellent team, The Company Theatre can surely work in this direction, but only if they are not restless, like the rest of the world, for rapid evolution.

December 28, 2011

Deaths, 2011

Some would say that this festive time of the year is probably not the right time for this post, but the beauty of life is only heightened by the sense of grief and loss. This post is both a remembrance and a short prayer.

This year was a sad one for Indian art. We lost true souls who were loved by many and respected by all for their passion, consciousness, commitment and humanness.

Badal Sircar, one of the greatest practitioners of theatre in India, was the pioneer of the Theatre of Synthesis – Third Theatre (First being rural, second being urban; to put it crudely). Constantly transcending convention to create relevance for the audience as well as the participants of theatre, Sircar forced critics, peers and theorists to wake up and take notice. A writer of proscenium plays, he evolved into writing and directing non-proscenium drama and took to mentoring young theatre artists in the later part of his life. He advocated and practiced the concept of free theatre through his group Satabdi, one of his under-acknowledged but most important achievements. All those in awe of this great artist must read .

Dev Anand was not only a superstar but also a writer, director and producer. Dev Sahab was a patron of many talented artists in Hindi cinema; the list includes Guru Dutt, Waheeda Rehman, S.D. (in Hindi cinema), Shekhar Kapur, Sahir, Majrooh and many more. He was style icon, swaying in his own unique way while giving lip to some of the greatest songs of Kishore, Rafi and Hemant Kumar. He was offered Amitabh’s role in Sholay. Superstars don’t have just one song (that too without a heroine), they don’t play equal to a fellow buddy and they definitely don’t die at the end.

Jagjit Singh’s was one of the few voices that could make a jaat cry. A great ghazal singer of all time, Jagjit sang a wide range of songs from traditional ghazals, classical renditions like thumri to Hindi film songs, Hindi (almost) pop. At his peak, he was unparalleled when it came to live singing. Some of his concerts are legendary (youtube him). It’s almost frightening to realize that after him, India will not have a ghazal singer. This soul invoking form of singing will die.

Mani Kaul is the latest addition to our list of great film directors. And some of his films are the latest addition to our (very, very) limited film collection. He made his first film at the age of 25, Uski Roti. Please watch it. A student of Ritwik Ghatak at the FTII, Kaul was a well educated genius. His films speak a different language and require different tools of appreciation. Excruciatingly painful, is the phrase a friend uses to describe his work. Well said. Sadly, his films are not easily available. They are solely under the ‘care’ of the film archives in Pune. Look out for them on the DD network or a film festival (retrospective as they call it, one almost feels that an artist has to be dead for his work to be available for appreciation). Some are available with us as well.

Satyadev Dubey could be seen standing outside Prithvi (theatre, Mumbai), smoking, talking a bunch of eager and young actors, directors or writers. He was old and sick in his last days but still took time out to watch a new production. A writer, actor and above all a director, Dubey was a brave genius. He was (in) famous for twisting plots, jarring the narratives and extracting absurd meanings out of old theatre texts. His interpretations were as much personal as they were relevant, maybe because of being given this unique personality, they became relevant. He enjoyed the pleasure of working with Vijay Tendulkar, Girish Karad and Badal Sircar. And his favourite actor (to direct and to watch) was Amrish Puri, kind of says it all doesn’t it. Many might not know this but he was a RSS cadet. An irreverent right-leaning theatre artist, such a heady combination!

Shammi Kapoor introduced the playboy category of heroes in Hindi cinema. He might have been the first real bad boy on screen. And the first real dancer too. His career was buoyed by the perfect singer-actor partnership with Rafi.

M.F.Hussain shouldn’t even be mentioned here under the category of Indian artists, but we aren’t strictly politically correct are we. An eccentric artist with loads of money, many classic sports cars and no footwear, Hussain’s artwork was critiqued by greats like Picasso. He was definitely someone who inspired many young painters throughout the world. On his demise, Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray said, “He only slipped up on the depiction of Hindu gods and goddesses. Otherwise, he was happy and content in his field. If his demise is a loss for modern art, then so be it. May his Allah give him peace!”. His Allah surely will.

Pt. Bhimsen Joshi was known for his powerful voice, amazing breath control, musical sensibility and grasp of the fundamentals. Trained in the Hindustani Classical style (Kirana Gharana), he strove to achieve balance between what may be termed as traditional values and mass-culture tastes. You can find his recordings in the AIR archives, or even in decent music stores (HMV). Most insufficiently educated Indians only recognize him through a state sponsored national integration song, Miley Sur Mera Tumhara.

Bhupen Hazarika was a lyricist, musician, singer, poet and film maker from Assam. Very well educated and well travelled, he was an iconic Indian artist recognized for his art globally. Hazarika was an active member of IPTA in his youth and his gutsy writings were avowedly anti-establishment. Not quite a household name beyond Bengal, his multi-faceted talents are relatively unfamiliar to mainland India.

M.A.K. Pataudi was a Nawab, on the field as well. Youngest Indian captain (22+) and a brilliant fielder (he is credited with bringing this fine art to Indian cricket). India won its first overseas series under Pataudi (New Zealand). He played for Winchester (school), Oxford (university), Sussex (county), Delhi and Hyderabad (Ranji). He injured his right eye permanently but continued to play the game, learning to play with just one good eye. Well, he wasn’t called the Tiger for nothing.

December 27, 2011

The Last Director: Satyadev Dubey

Theatre lost another artist this year. We all mourn the loss.

In an interview (dated 2008) by Reema Gehi, Satyadev Dubey talks about himself, his new play- KHUDA KE LIYE MAT DEKHNA and of what theatre means to him. His production of Jean Anouilh’s ANTIGONE (2007) reaffirmed Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s belief, talent does what it can, genius does what it must. Satyadev Dubey came to Mumbai from Bilaspur, Madhya Pradesh, to become a test cricketer. Instead, theatre became his pitch, and then his stadium for as many as four decades.

How is your health now?

I’m doing fine. I used to get bouts of dizziness. Last October at the premiere of ANTIGONE, I felt woozy. Everyone thoroughly pampered me and made my stay at the hospital a beautiful experience. You know, I’ve been a bachelor all my life. I don’t have a family. The hospital experience made me realise that I do have a family. And during my days there, I worked on a story idea for a play.

Which is?

(Laughs) My new play is called KHUDA KE LIYE MAT DEKHNA. Basically, it’s about me. The theme revolves around my work and my life. The three actors — Akash Khurana, Jagdish Rajpurohit and Shaikh Sami Usman play the three Dubeys. Akash is the main guy and the other two are his alter egos. There will be a lot of interaction between them. I call them all Dubenski.

Isn’t that being very narcissistic?

Of course it is. So? Narcissus fell in love with his own reflection. Similarly, I’ve fallen in love with the reflection of my work and my life. I enjoy the world of Acting and teaching the art.

Can Acting be taught?

Acting can never be taught but it can be learnt. This is a great mystery. You cannot repeat a performance. It may look similar but it is never the same. Naseeruddin Shah was trained for years at Delhi’s National School of Drama, and at Pune’s Film Institute. Even he doesn’t know that acting can’t be taught but he is still teaching it. When I used to conduct workshops, I would tell the students to imitate the way I perform a certain scene and then put in their bit.

But why begin with the principle of imitation?

If you are a good actor, you’ll go beyond what I do. I can give the actors a framework and then leave them to explore the rest to themselves. In that sense I give my actors not only the framework but also a lot of freedom.

Do you recommend acting schools to budding actors?

Whether you like it or not, acting schools are a huge business. Perhaps in the process, some great actors will emerge. However, a talented actor will manage to make a mark, irrespective of training. No one can guarantee that a student will become an exceptional actor. You can only teach students the tricks and give them tips. All of us know that an actor’s position is the most enviable one but only a few of us are aware that there are some remarkable theatre actors who haven’t done well financially.

You’ve dedicated almost your life to theatre. Has it been worth it?

(Smiles)Theatre has kept me alive. I can’t describe to you this feeling of being alive. If I may say so, theatre is like sex. It is a need. You have to enjoy it in order to like it. It is an extremely personal pleasure. (Pause) As you get older you stop to react. Now what do I do to keep this passion alive? I meet youngsters, I talk to them, share my experiences and wish to hear theirs. I’m always looking for fun. I am very selfish, I want to enjoy whatever I do.

Which is your most-cherished memory?

Let’s say that I’m glad that I’ve always been very lucky with my actors. They’ve all been very sincere and genuine. If I’ve survived in this field for so long, it is because of the perception of other people. I live by coincidence. Nothing in my life is planned, not even what I’m saying in this interview.

Okay, so what about the constant complaint that theatre hardly pays.

It won’t pay. Why should it? The best thing in the world is done by the amateurs. There are other ways and means of earning money. Like films or television. Today, I don’t know why I did some films. Probably to earn enough money to grow in theatre.

Don’t you get riled when you see under-rehearsed productions? 

(Nods) The amount of time, which a group believes in allotting for rehearsals is very subjective. A well-rehearsed performance is like the institution of marriage. It will be long lasting and therefore, much more valued. An under-rehearsed one is like a one-night stand. Once it’s over, it’s over for good.

Your style has been fairly conventional. Do you approve of experimental theatre gaining momentum?

How do you describe experimental theatre? In a way, all new work is experimental. The bottom line is whether the audience likes it or not. As for being conventional, I love my entries and exits. Even in my new play, there will be a proper beginning, a middle and an end.

What kind of relationship have you shared with your audience?

I often wonder of what can I do to seduce my audience. It has to be a two-way relationship. An audience must have a certain desire to watch a play. Like you want to watch a well-rehearsed performance, that is your need. Kehte hai na? Ishq hai do majbooriyon ka saath aana. It is like love, a mutual need. There is no logic in that.

Who have been the deepest influences on your life?

Shyam Benegal, whom I’ve known for over 40 years, has been one of the greatest influences on my life. Also Badal Sircar, Girish Karnad, Kumud Mishra and Vijay Tendulkar. These have been long lasting relationships. They are family. In fact, when I read Sircar’s play, EVAM INDRAJIT, I was very young and impressionable. The play inspired me to take theatre seriously. To date, I draw inspiration from it.

Besides your new play, is there anything else in the offing? 

I have put all my energies into my new play. This may be my last. I don’t know, if I’ll ever write again. You see, the themes get exhausted with actors and directors.

So what did you expect from your new play? 

I wanted to be contemporary. There is a conscious effort to be different. Every era finds its playwrights. There was Sophocles, George Bernard Shaw and in Indian Theatre came Vijay Tendulkar. Tomorrow, another playwright will emerge.

Do you see anyone of such potential?

(Lights up a cigarette) You see, everyone at some point has done something commendable. If I have to name a few, there are Akarsh Khurana and Trishla Patel, whose work I enjoy. Recently, Hidayat Sami, who has been with me since 19 years, put up a marvellous production called ALL ABOUT WOMEN. Most of the new theatre guys are doing impressive work. But quite honestly, I’m no soothsayer. I cannot predict their future.

It is said that it is very difficult to know the real Satyadev Dubey? 

(Laughs) Satyadev Dubey himself doesn’t know who he is, so how can they?

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