The Regression In The Shadow Of Progression – A Story Of Sahitya Kala Parishad

The word art as a symbol of progress is the most common denomination that we come across in our everyday life. Being a theatre artist I was once told that art has no boundaries, no right or wrong and no black and white. Whatever I create is mine alone to contemplate, develop and introspect. This is also proved by the fact that art is the only medium, which has pushed the boundaries of imaginations starting from the Russian Circus format of street theatre during the Russian revolution to the Indian context of Rabindra Nath Tagore’s poems and Vijay Tendulkar’s plays to name a few. These have been a symbol of progress not only for the society but also for the whole nation.

Coming to my journey with theatre as I wrote in my previous post, this story comes from the not so fascinating part of the theatre institutions in our country. Often the bigger the institution the better it is but sometimes it proves to be the opposite. This particular incident at a government organized theatre festival promoting new talent in theatre actually made me think that what is the use of such a platform, which practices “regression in the shadow of progression.”

A beautiful evening with a packed crowd at the Sri Ram Centre in the holy colony of theatre in India i.e Mandi House was all set to witness the first ever performance of a new play “Shahira ke Naam” by Kamala Nehru College which also happens to be one of the most celebrated colleges in the University of Delhi.  The stage was set for a play that showed the life of six college girls trying to make a play regarding the life in a hostel and what pranks they play on each other. Hostel life which we all remember as one of the very fond memories of our graduation days or at-least for me my post-grad days. Coming back to the incident and the scenario of the theatre festival the authorities had requested the teams to avoid the use of offensive content. An illusive word which I believe they only understand considering use of cuss words like r***di and b******d were of common nomenclature to them.  The climax of the story came when a particular scene in the play talked about undergarments for women (Bra/Panty) to be precise. This I believe led to a mad rush of authentic content and family audience sense in their veins.

The play ended with applause but only the applause of the audience. The announcer ran to the green room to inform the team that they have used words in the play, which weren’t appropriate for family audience but are common in girl’s colleges. This should have given the patriarch award of the day to the announcer among many patriarchs whom we encounter every day. On being asked was it the cuss words or something else, the announcer resorted to an even greater sense of use of words in his statement saying, “Now you want me to tell you what you guys have said? You guys already know.”  The status of the tSoeam’s progress still stays in question as the speculations of them being disqualified continues. I have a firm belief that the youngsters in Sahitya Kala Parishad who have been residing on the same seats since time immemorial like Mummies in Egypt, will not forget how these ladies take pride in the unfiltered reality that they offer to their audience.

The Director of the play Lalit Bhardwaj expressed his views on the incident saying, “I was sitting in the audience and all I could hear was the audience in splits when the play was being staged. Many theatre practitioners have read the script of the play and they’ve found nothing offensive. I stand by with each and every word of the script. It is sad that here we (as a nation) are trying to expand our horizons of thinking, moving ahead with an open mind more importantly when the world today is looking at us with curiosity, incidents like these pull us back, way back into the times and mentality which we had kicked away and started moving! Sad!”

Monami Basu, convener of the society, says, “You can’t impose your propriety and morals on the students. Would it have been a problem if the word were banyan and not bra or panty? Judges had no problems with lines like ‘ye tera bistar garam karegi’, nor with abuses. If you find something so normal as an underwear titillating, then it is your problem, no one else’s.”

Source: Hindustan Times

I being the director of another college in Delhi University feel proud about the fact that people want to break the shackles of stereotypical wordings in plays and make them as real as what we see in our regular life but I feel sad that, once such a strong revolutionary medium like ‘theatre’ is losing it’s sheen to be molded to the whims and fancies of those with the knowledge but not the vision.

Disclaimer: All opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints expressed by the author in the article are their own.

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