Indian theatre has been radically revolutionized in the recent years. This revolution is welcomed, not for the cause of destruction but for the constructive mindset and for socio-cultural up-liftment. A revolution of this kind was necessary to set another vision and rectification in the age old system. But unfortunately the change swept away our people’s theatre to an unseen danger. Anything and everything is proved to be right in the name of experiment and postmodernism. Nowhere in the world except India has cornered its culture and tradition in the context of postmodern. Rather the very concept of the term ‘postmodern’ stands on the strong foundation of modernity which is scientific, logical and rational. It can’t be completely free from its parental form, it can’t surpass it fully rather can make modernity its root on which it grows. As Nick Kaye in his book “Postmodernism and performance”indicated; “In this case, postmodern can’t be said to be properly free of the modern. For the modern it is the ground on which the postmodern stands, a ground with which it is in dispute and on which it is able to enter into dispute with itself.” No concept in ‘Art’ is born to destroy its parental structure rather use its potentiality and strength with new outlook. Postmodern is also not an exception. We can’t destroy the old culture in the name of new-culture. We can’t wipe out tradition to establish something radical by giving an excuse of postmodernism.
In these recent years we are taking a departure from the tradition by saying proudly that we don’t need any tradition to express our art. By saying this, deliberately we are imposing another tradition, because anything that is practiced for years develops into a tradition. And this new-tradition which we are establishing will definite going to be baseless and rootless. By projecting ourselves ‘postmodernist- in this sense’, we are clearly taking an exit from the society and from those elements which flourished in the society; art, literature and culture. In this way we are also departing from “People’s Theatre”and establishing a new one which I call “The Anti-Theatre”.
In India the trend of practicing anti-theatre is growing mindlessly day by day. It has been nourished by those few hands those have nothing to do with the society, culture and tradition. Even they don’t have any moral and emotional tie-up with the time and space in which they live. From the very beginning of the civilization theatre has served our society in many ways. It has the power to bind and motivate people for cause and awareness. It remained as the most powerful communicative medium. Theatre has nourished and flourished within the society by the people and for the people. History witnesses, whenever and wherever theatre tries to alienate itself from the people, it surely met its end. Our country is passing through this ordeal of theatre in these few years. It is going away from the common people to become the slave in the hand of a few elite-intellectuals, who never associate themselves with the common mass so as their art. They become responsible for the death of theatreand the promoter of Anti-theatre.
Let’s have a look to the recent theatre academic activities in the institutions and Universities. We all know that theatre training remained different than other academic subjects. It is a topic which founds its completion in practice only. All the studies, research and academic activities are to be channelized to theatre practice; which means presenting the art in front of the audience on a stage. In Natyashastra this presentation was related to the actor’s body, voice and intellect which in Sanskrit is termed as “Shariranubhuti” (Experience through body); means learning through experience and this is considered as the best learning process in the parameter of education. In the ancient schooling system a guru or guide was deputed to lead the students to go through their personal experiences and this type of training is always essential in a practical medium like theatre. But unfortunately our theatre academic system in those few hands (the self-styled elite-intellectuals) are becoming more research oriented than practice oriented. The conventional class room teaching method is substituted by assignment programmes and panel discussion curriculum. These new waves of teaching programmes may have their own positive motivations. With the help of new communications (computer, internet, multimedia etc.) we could do wonders. But unfortunately the students are taking wrong advantage of these gazettes. They are undoubtedly gathering lots of information from these sources but with lack of knowledge and understanding and think themselves knowledgeable and educated! The teachers in those institutions and departments feel themselves more elite and intellectuals. They misinterpret information into knowledge. They should know that knowledge comes out of experience where as information not. In this way our artistes, those who are working continuously in the field are more knowledgeable than these armed-chair-academicians because they have practical experiences with them. But unfortunately this handful of teachers and their followers are thinking them superior and moulded everything accordingly. They think they are the only visionaries who have been deputed to think, visualize and decide the future of Indian theatre. They want everyone to think accordingly, to feel according to them and to see only through their eyes. And if someone thinks and does differently he has no space in this new-wave culture and becomes outcaste. Because these people by their power of intellectual cunningness have moulded the political power with them and through other compromising means are occupying the highest positions in the social hierarchy and leading Indian arts and theatre, the common people’s voice is been smeared out.
As I discussed, these fewer people for which our popular theatre is suffering in these years has nothing to do with art, culture and tradition. They have no emotional link with the society and social activities. I am sure they might not know the basic grammar of the art form which they are practicing. Without the fundamental understanding of the form how one could establish a new one? Whatever he will create will become alien to others and that is the only reason why their art remained alienated to the rest of the society. Even sometimes this kind of theatre arts, which we are encountering in these years in big cities like Delhi, Bombay and Bangalore, need an explanation to clarify the interpretation and the purpose of doing the play. Shamelessly these intellectuals have taken the liberty to include apost production session as a part of the play where they make others fool by imposing their vague ideas and concept of making this play. The objectivity of theatre is now confined to the subjective approach of an individual’s ideology. Hopefully some basic factors are responsible for this anti-theatre practice.
- Lack of basic understanding of tradition
- The egocentric approach
- Releasing personal frustrations
- projecting one’s intellectual idealism
- Confusion of life and understanding.
As I discussed, our self styled visionaries has nothing to do with India, its tradition and culture. They definitely have neither experienced human sufferings nor tragedies nor have they seen life in the nook and corner of the country. They live in the urban cities and have never experienced poverty. Then how in their arts, the common life reflects? This lack of life experience led them to practice something unusual which seems alien to most of us. Every Indian production in the name of postmodern seems to be satisfying one’s personal ego. By projecting something unusual which remained beyond understanding (sometimes even to the person who creates it-the director), we feel ourselves special in the crowd. But we should be aware of the fact that art with ego centric complex show the way to disaster and destruction which will surely lead to mass revolution one day. We have no right to feel others inferior in front of us. Sometimes our personal frustrations come in to our work which makes us slave in our creation. This process of making the art is growing day by day in the cosmopolitan cities. The region is obvious. Our social life is being segregated into smaller compartments. Machinery interactions are dominating over live interactions. We closed ourselves in a tiny chamber both physically and mentally. Obviously our frustration will be reflected in our art since art reflects our own personality. Involvement of machineries, multiple splitting space and personality of character, random and mindless use of modern electronic gazettes and deliberate breaking of the special and temporal rhythm of the production in the name of postmodernism is nothing but the outcome of our personal frustration. It only creates a form without soul. Off course these above factors are the fundamentals of postmodern performance but it shouldn’t be imitated mindlessly in our country. Every ideology is the product of the socio-economical-climatic conditions of the reason. Can one explain why realism and abstract-realism developed and flourished in Europe and not in India or in any Asian countries? The answer is simple. It is the temperament of our society where there is no space for this hardcore concept. The foundation of Indian art was based on the metaphorical ideology of life where everything moves in circle like life moves in rotation; one follows the other...! Theatre is not an exception which couldn’t accept the concept of realism so as our people. Similarly this new-theatre will not be accepted until it merge into Indian temperament and till then it will remain isolated and will be criticised irrespective of its propagation by the mighty hands.
Dr. Satyabrata Rout/Associate Professor; Dept. Of Theatre Arts, University of Hyderabad/India. Studied at National School of Drama. at present Lives in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh you can contact him on email@example.com.