ITF Not The Drama Seminar: Sushma Deshpande
Duration: 00:12:49; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 32.425; Saturation: 0.195; Lightness: 0.326; Volume: 0.297; Words per Minute: 128.675
Organised 50 years after the original Drama Seminar in 1957, the Not the Drama Seminar (NTDS) brought together theatre practitioners from all across the country to convene at Ninasam, Heggodu in March 2008. This seminar meditated on the nature of theatre in India today, on how we got to where we are. The attempt was to understand 'Indian Theatre' in all its multiplicity and diversity, bringing these several faces of Indian theatre face to face, and problemetize the issues that arise therein. These ideas were exchanged through a series of presentations and discussions over five days, and each day ended with a performance.
SD: After 2 great experiences, talking about my work, it is very difficult for me. As (?) said, English is not my language and even I don't know ..(?). So I don't know whether I am doing (?) theatre, (?) theatre or experimental theatre. But I do theatre. I love to do that.
SD: Since January '89 I am doing a play about Savitribai Phule, which is titled as 'Hoi, mi Savitribai Phule' in Marathi and in Hindi 'Haan, mai Savitribai Phule'. When I started the play I started with this conviction that I am doing theatre journalism because I wanted to tell about Jotiba and Savitri to the masses in rural area. Before I started my first performance it was very clear to me that I wanted to do it in rural area, the reason behind it being, the illiterate people do not read much and if you don't reach up to them through other media, they do not understand what was going on... they do not know about Jyotiba and Savitri.
SD: So I started this play, and after the first seventy-five performances I came to know that I was unable to reach them The reason being I was going, I was performing but they were unable to talk to me and I was unable to communicate properly. So after seventy to seventy-five performances I decided to talk to them before the performance. So I started sitting with them and.... certain questions I started asking them like do you know what I am doing and so on, and getting ready for the play: putting tikka like Savitri, sometimes I wore my saree in front of them then everything that I do in the play I do in front of them and then I would ask them âCan I start the performance?" And then I start the performance.
SD: I believe, as Sudhanwa said yesterday, theatre is story-telling. Sometimes in rural areas they do not understand properly what exactly I am doing. And so, that time, I tell story in between and then again I start my performance. At a certain place I came to know that if I did only the play throughout and I will finish it, they will not understand anything and they will listen to the story, and that's all, nothing else. So after that I started doing interventions; I started adking them questions like- there is one sentence- (Marathi sentence about a woman's life (?))- that is the sentence. After that I started asking them- 'Am I right?' And such interventions started making them think about exactly what I was doing.
SD: So before the performance making them comfortable to listen what I am doing because at some places it so happened that before the performance they showed a film, so that a crowd should be there and after such a film it was very difficult to perform Savitri. So because of certain experiences I started talking to them before. In betweenalso. Talking about those things that... Last nineteen years I am performing Savitri, so there are many experiences regarding Savitri's performances. I do this performance under a tree, in the temple, anywhere. Anywhere. I don't need a theatre space for that. So I tell, under the tree or NCPA or anywhere. Anywhere I can perform Savitri. So the style is as I mentioned to you, at the end of the performance I always talk to them. At the end of the performance I always tell them that I know there is a Savitri in you, in every woman from the rural area there is a Savitri and please call her, call her.
SD: If she will awake in you and you will be able to do many things. And that's the thing I do while doing Savitri. Savitri's performance. In short I can tell this much about the performances. At the international level when I do the performances for the conferences and all, I do the same thing, I get ready and I tell the story in English, get ready while doing this and then I start the performance. That's the usual practice in the international conferences and like that.
SD: Basically I have a feeling that though I do theatre,-sometimes I get this feeling- that I am invited from the activists, from the NGOs, political theatre people,... there is variety for Savitri's performance. I always feel that NGO people particularly, they don't know how to use the play. Because when I perform, after that whatever we discuss, they get emotionally provoked. And after that you need to take it in the work but ... I have some difficulties to understand and I have always asked the NGO cadre but... sometimes they agree sometimes not.
SD: Social activist people, they are using theatre properly. And political people they wanted to use this play to show that yes, we believe in Jyotiba and Savitri. That's the only idea. They wanted to show to the people that 'Yes we believe in Jotiba and Savitri. We are for Jotiba and Savitri and so we are organizing this play.' You all can understand the interest of the theatre people. Theatre people wanted to understand how exactly the play is and all those things.
SD: So these type of things I do with the Savitri's play and if you have some questions I can talk about it in detail. Another play which I do is about a Tamasha
woman, after my extensive research with Tamasha women. I would stay with them, I spent a lot of time with them, and after that I wrote a script about folk artist Tamasha
. When in the community they have their community rules; so when she starts doing tamasha
, she is not allowed to marry. Her business is flirting. So naturally, she flirts all the time and particularly while her work is going on, and she will earn out of it. She has relationships, she has children, and so when I was being with those women, I could see the ...if we want to understand empowerment of women we should meet these women. They are so empowered.
SD: And so when I started this performance ... after that I was... expecting again... that was the wrong thing to do. But the feminist groups will use this performance particularly for the work and to discuss those things. But sorry to say that no feminist group came forward to use this performance. And I performed for the theatre and many performances I gave in the theatre, but now I can say it is a theatre performance more than anything else. ...particularly Tamasha
performance. It is very interesting to perform and I enjoy whenever I get an invitation I go for performing Savitri.
SD: The third play which I am going to talk to you about is one I have just directed 'My Mother the Gharwali' (?) his wife. is a play about prostitutes and their children. Particularly the prostitutes wanted to tell to the audience... mainstream audience that we are like this, that we are human beings and look at us as human beings. So the very interesting portion they wanted to do was theatre in the proscenium theatre. They don't want to do it in a gully or don't want to go for the forum. It was very clear to them that they wanted to do the proscenium theatre and just they did two shows in Rang Shankara and four shows in Prithvi.
SD: We got overwhelming response from the audience. After each show there was a discussion, a dialogue with the artists and very good response we had. But I feel I haven't seen this experience from a distance yet. Just on 18th & 19th we had shows in Prithvi and I came here to Heggoddu. But I can say this much that whoever acting in the play , they have changed a little bit after these performances.like one boy who is known as a criminal in that area and who is full of anger and who would not talk to anybody before,started singing filmi songs and laughing too much. So these types of changes after going through the process... But I think I need to take much more time to talk about this experience because just we finished the work.
SD: These are the three plays about which I wanted to talk. Now many girls have started doing Savitri's play.... From my first performance, I used to tell everybody anyone can do without asking permission to me and without paying me anything because Savitri is not my property. It should be everybody's.
SD: And after ten years of my performances women have started doing Savitri a lot and here is Aditi sitting in the room and she wanted to do it in Hindi or Gujarati. Because different eight languages scripts are available...... and many other women are doing...So now sometimes I feel that I must slow down -which I'm doing sometime by doing Savitri- but young girls from the rural area is a very sensitive audience for my performance, because now when I meet the girls who I've seen their performance before who are young mothers now and the way talk to me, that is very very interesting. Very interesting. And so I think Savitri gives me my voice, my life, everything, and so it is very difficult to live without Savitri. So sometimes in between I was thinking of closing the performances because many other girls are doing, and that time only Prithvi invited me for the festival and I decided again to do it... and Sanjana said 'don't do this' and so I decided to do it. So, few performances in a year I do. And whenever I get an invitation particularly for the young girls, I just go and perform there. Now if there are any questions, I would talk more, and now I want to stop within my limit. Thank You.