ITF Not The Drama Seminar: Assertions
Duration: 01:40:20; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 6.602; Saturation: 0.123; Lightness: 0.345; Volume: 0.261; Cuts per Minute: 0.897; Words per Minute: 107.362
All around us, in our society, in our politics, we are witness to new assertions -- along lines of identity, community, language, ethnicity, gender, etc. In a word, these new assertions -- which may not even be very new, actually -- get articulated on the axis of culture. How do we make sense of these assertions? What are their histories? Has our theatre reflected these assertions? Rather, which assertions has our theatre reflected, and which not? What is identity politics? What does it mean for our theatre? Is it the case that our theatre, mainstream urban theatre at any rate, continues to be mainly an upper caste, male domain? These were some of the questions that this session tried to address.
Presentations were made by Gopal Guru and Pralayan, and responses offered by Devi, Dakxin Bajarange, Sushama Deshpande and Chandradasan.
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.
GPD: I would much rather postpone it to the end, and that too, if time permits. We have two papers: First is Gopal Guru.Who teaches Political Science at the Jawaharlal Nehru University. It is said about Political Science… One Nobel Laurreatte was once asked as to why there is no Nobel Prize for Political Science.
GDP: His answer was, why, there already is one for Imaginative Literature. In one sense that is what Gopal Guru is going to talk about, Imaginative Literature as imagined by the people, their identity. With these words, over to Gopal.
Gopal: Thank you Gopu. We call GPD as Gopu in Maharashtra. Please let me share that with this larger audience. Thank you for the nice words. I take this opportunity to thank the organizers for inviting me to share my views with you this morning.
Gopal: I am aware of the the same spirit of Apoha tradition and I am not a theatre person.Neither have I thought about it in a sustained manner. I am like a hit-and-run kind of person.
Gopal: So don't take me seriously if I am not making a point. Whatever I am going to say may have already been said. Therefore it may not make any deep sense to you.
Gopal: There are three ways of looking at scholarship these days. I have no time to go into those three ways, I would just mention them, They are pathologies in a way, one is fashion, fascination and Faith. I will talk only about faith.
Gopal: As we are genetically modified, there would be genetically modified intellectuals; I am not going to talk about them. Faith involves that you are the part of that reality- here reality means reality that is articulated and communicated through theatre and its forms and it is an important form. I can not just stay away from that activity.
Gopal: I have been reading about Marathi theatre, particularly Dalit theatre- though there has been no mention and I do not want any rhetorical accommodation of it…in this theme., but I do something about Dalit theatre when I studied.. folk theatre? No, mudhouse theatre- that's the word I have used somewhere..
Gopal: I wrote a longish essay on the Kalapathak tradition in some parts of Maharashtra- So to that extent I feel related to this activity, so accept me with kind and generous heart.
Gopal: I am therefore going to talk about the title circulated here: Identity in search of Identification through Theatre. Both the words are important, I am not going to explain them to you- identity and identification- I do believe that Identity is not enough to state some reality, reality become .. A full reality became a part of your thinking and becomes a full reality when it takes form through Identification.
Gopal: Identification is, therefore an important part of making sense of Identity. And as Shoumikda was talking yesterday about a seamless experience – unless you connect identity and identification, you can not really realize that seamless experience.
Gopal: I am ghettoed in one Dalit theatre and one thing at Shantatai – that in that Mulgi Jhali Ho- is it theatre or just a play- by Jyoti Mhapsekar and others… so you are ghettoized in those small pigeonholes, and you can exist there and you can pay occasional attention to you but you can't try to identify with ourselves. That identity becomes a liability and not an asset.
Gopal: In order to become an asset, you have to attach an identification with it. There is some strength and weight on the stage and therefore detached from all the specifictiesto that through identification. Therefore identification is a terribly moral act, and therefore identity and identification are very very important.
Gopal: When I say this , it is an ethical act that one is doing with oneself and with others, which I don't know how much it happens to theatre… you run a very great risk when you identify. Identification may have a fragmentary effect on your theatre.There are two people as far as I can see, I can see many, but will mention only two,Sudhanva and Gopu.
Gopal: They don't worry about fragmentary impact and just go on to make plays like Shambook and Satyashodhak two important plays that these two theatre personalities without really caring about fragmentary impact I would allow myself …my identification , the incremental contribution to my identity can be very small, to the extent that I don't jeopardize my own interest.
Gopal: These two personalities are not afraid to do that. Satyashodhak is the first play by a Brahmin about a non-Brahmin. It is greatly empowering at some level. We have a very strong theatre tradition in Maharashtra, not a single non Brahmin playwright write about Satyashodhak that is Jotiba Phule's engagement with reality and imagination.
Gopal: So to that extent these two people will not worry about what will the party think about it. So there is no fragmentary impact. This is a candid confession. Now I believe, I wanted to first draft of my abstract and Sudhanwa did not respond favorably. He thought that something is wrong with my thinking.
Gopal: When I went back to him and he said don't use technical language- not that I am capable of using it, but he asked me to avoid that. The simple question is, who can really play whose role? Who has the right to play anybody's role? Can I walk into any role… just because I am a dalit, do I have an automatic right to play a dalit role.
Gopal: If I am a woman automatically I have the right to talk about women., on behalf of women. Is that automatic? I don't think so not in case of acting. Actually acting .. I was talking to Sundar in the morning session that acting is much more profound way to say something than representation.
Gopal: We can discuss this at some point. I make a distinction between acting and representation. I would submit for your consideration acting is a universal act in the sense that anybody in any caste, religion, gender can play any role.There is no gatekeeping, no censorship so to say you can't impose it.
Gopal: And this is again because acting is done, is an aspect an abstract exercise that you are acting on the stage not as a sociological, anthropological identity presenting or representing an idea. You are acting enacting an idea.on the stage and therefore detached from all the specificities of reality.
Gopal: To that extent I think that acting is abstract and an idea and not identity.. You can walk into any role without hesitation. I am making the political point later but because this is an idea abstracted from reality you are entitled to play the role, which may not be sociologically identified with you. That's why you can play different roles…mentally. Men could play women's roles, the differentiated… …This is one consideration.
Gopal: The second one is your acting does not become objectionable on the grounds of your particularity because you are committed to certain notion of truth and you are also committed to throw up the meaning to be derived from that truth.
Gopal: I will take an example now. I am drawing upon what Aijaz was saying yesterday if poverty and ….. is the truth and it is because of globalization in some way, I should be able to know that truth and act on that truth on the stage.and the truth to be drawn from that is the neo-Imperialism that was mentioned as emerging.
Gopal: As long as I am aware of it and I can articulate it, it does not matter what caste or gender I belong to. I need not be belonging to a specific social reality. So that therefore is important, there are two conditions that are important, one is the meaning of the truth and ideas universal engagement. Now I can add therefore on anyone's behalf, there is no problem. But is it a sufficient condition?
Gopal: And there are problems with this position I am taking now.One is that I may have universal claims,I may act on anybody's behalf- women dalit, tribals- Now I am not talking about identity but ideas.I am doing universal one. But there can be a cunning in this universalism.
Gopal: Let me give an example.For some odd reason I was called by the LalBahadur Shastri Academy Mussorie. They were looking for a judge to judge some performances there. I was one of the judges at the theatre performances there. There was one theme and and the performers were doing that around Gudiya.You know Gudiya's case, U.P.Now the question is, who was acting on that theme Gudiya?
Gopal: I did some work for those people who have some different linkages.Now that you are picking it up and it looks like a promising universal idea of reforming… gender justice and all that.Looks attractive and all that. But who are the people doing it? What was their intention? Every expression has an underlying intention.
Gopal: I found out later that they were some who had the saffron leaning. They were performing but the idea was to shame the people sitting in front.I saw three or four people sinking in their chairs.Therefore there is cunning in this universalism.When you are performing, idea is universal but what you are extracting out of it.
Gopal: Therefore I have to qualify that not all that acting that universal is benign and innocent.That is how I thought I should speak something about this…this benignness of universalism.
Gopal: I think that has to be ….problematized the benignness of universalism and acting as universal enterprise.Enterprise is not the right word but I am using it because I can not find a good word for it.
Gopal: The other one is the structure. We talked about the structured spaces. And I am going to argue that the structures themselves are not intimidating or humiliating. They are innocent, empty of meanings. Once you hang some paintings on this a grafting is done on the wall, that structure acquires meaning.
Gopal: Since you are acting on the stage, that acting assigns some meanings to the stage.Otherwise they are empty of meaning.Any structure. Structures become powerful-South Block becomes powerful because people are sitting there.Secretariat.
Gopal: The point for discussion would be are they really friendly, benign? Or they are also organized by the hierarchical principle. Therefore I think that structures howsoever benign and universal you are, universal normative consent you are, you are acting through the theatre,you can not avoid structures acquiring, intimidating, humiliating character.
Gopal: And there is a phenomenological view in this. I am sorry I am using this word, I am not getting other words.Suppose a play is being staged in one theatre, I know the play, and I shall decide whether I should visit or not. If it is causing me an embarrassment I would stay away.
Gopal: And I think I am familiar with your debate Sudhanwa-with somebody about Kachara in Lagaan Look at the fellow he is wretched crying helpless creature I won't go there.I wouldn't visit that. I will stay back. It is a tragic thing.The freedom of going is already snatched from me because the structure is causing me embarrassment so I will stay away.
Gopal: And if it is Ambedkar, I will go with a three piece suit. Very very empowering.for me because I am safe.and I have seen twenty seven people in Pune watching that movie with protocols.I was asking the Vice Chancellor who took me by mistake.Why are these twenty seven people dressed in three piece suit? Ambedkarlike. Very very empowering.
Gopal: It can cut both the ways but you know, you have to keep this in mind when you revisit our movement.That is the task. That is my humble suggestion. How free democratic and egalitarian structures could be to remove this sense of tragic imagination so that you can walk freely into a theatre and watch it freely.Is that the guarantee that one is offering through this reimagining the moment? That's the point.
Gopal: I will make two points in five minutes
One is the responses from the audience; I am not holding that he or she is already elevated. He or she has become an idea.But those people who are accessing the actor do not access him as an idea.
Gopal: Suppose I am playing a buffoon and buffoon from a lower caste then the laughter is louder. There is already a hierarchy of responses in the audience and that's why there can't be a seamless experience for me but the reality is that all kinds of people walk into the hall with all kinds of intentions, expectations and aspirations.
Gopal: Now, once the laughter is up, perhaps for what happens to people who are also part of that reality what is their body language?… .. Are you not causing designated embarrassment to them?
Gopal: Through the anonymous theatre it is designated embarrassment… you have to be very careful in the sense that you have to be very careful when you are releasing your responses and that was the point Shoumikda was making , how can you do it. I think I will make one point ,two points- one that you can do it and I will say short circuiting my argument that you have to develop a capacity to effectively identify what is reflective identification… and there are other kinds…I am not going in those details…
Gopal: One is reflective identification and that is a big job that will have to do with civil society. When I walk into the Hall I must walk out of my role if I am a Brahmin stepping out from the role and stepping into some other's role. And not only that, I also evaluate my role as a Brahmin the role of a ptr or whatever and then only you can restrain your responses. Otherwise you are not associated with that reality therefore you can still tend to laugh oh my God! There is also a politics of laughing.:When to laugh, how to laugh how much to laugh and all that… … …
Gopal: And the last point is that this is the anonymous situation that you have about the intimate the assertion you make that just because you are not accommodated into all this it is intimidating humiliating for different reasons and you have intimate.it was already presented here by NINASAM Intimate is the assertion --- --- and there is dalit theatre… and which is therefore for those people it is an assertion that we have arrived but differently. With the same aspirations of changing the world.
Gopal: And I have a different analogy for the post-modernist language … -- .. and I agree with you Sudhanwa that there are nine points- I have studied that document which led to the sluggishness of this movement.I will not go into it, but the dalit movement is sluggish in Maharashtra now. It was very powerful at one point of time but now it has receded into background.--.. and because of… and Ford Foundation was one and all that.the lesson …spoiled your habits that's all.Sorry that I have to state what it is. And so arrival of the intimate or the intervention – I am using this code language I have no time…
Gopal: Above all it is very empowering and on one hand it is designated embarrassment and the other is designated empowerment.You feel so empowered.Halgeri… Akshara,what is it called in Karnatak.. the dalit wada..? Valgeri well that's it. Very empowering.You can mimic anybody, you can ridicule the upper class character. very empowering.
Gopal: Anonymous is mutual respect and this is theatre is for self respect because intimate you are asking questions to yourself. The self is deeply involved in this intimate.and you are trying to resignify this self through the intimate because there is no pressure on you.
Gopal: And I think this resignification is the work therefore they will produce different meanings on untouchability. For you it is a problem, for them it is a great source, resource.and they would say and I just quote Baburao Bagul saying ….--- 'Sun is untouchable' and that is the very powerful resignification in the theatre and therefore it is very very empowering assigns some respect.
Gopal: It is not the contempt… … … and this is because he is not revolting.He is withdrawing not revolting. The body language of Kachra in Lagaan is something… I don't know how to say… it is restless two emotions are immediately released- one is rage and the other is self contempt. It is outrageous what is this he is not revolting I better be away from this and not be part of it.rage is productive finance will take care of it later… and let me not go into it… Thank you.
Pralayan: Thank you friends. First of all my apologies for not having prepared a paper and I have also not given notes for respondents. Sorry for that. I will try to speak in English and partly switch on to Tamil and with the help of friends. Before coming I have some assertions.in a situation where theatre is not professionally developed., where theatre is not socially patronized.Then how do we understand our contemporary theatre practice.
Pralayan: How we assert its passion, positivism… I leave it to you. You see the debate over assertion is century old in
Tamilnadu.Along the lines of caste gender and everything.I do not want to go into the history over here. I want to say about theatre of the last 20-25 years. In early 1990s there was a strong debate centred around Tamil national theatre. Tamil Aranga Tamil siyarang?...Tamil adaiyar rang and so on.Tamil theatre, Tamil National Theatre, Tamil theatre with tamil identities.
Pralayan: It demands for a new theatrical idiom and the development of a new theatrical language which is rooted in Tamil culture and so on…See the importance of that debate, most of the theatre practitioners participated in that debate by contesting it or by affirming it. No one is out of that debate. They made some notable points in that debate.- they started discussing about the form.
Pralayan: We are discussing here about form and content but they were discussing form.Content was political but form itself as politics –the importance of that debate,then dalit theatre came into existence and feminist theatre followed.All these scenes and practices are part of reality in Tamilnadu now.-dalit theatre and communist theatre.
Pralayan: Now there is another trend, a new theatre group for trans-genders.practically all trans-sexuals are doing theatre about themselves.like I am the singer and I am the song, lot dalit theatre song- all that is a reality in Tamil theatre now. Here I want to sidestep that. They found the group called it Kannadi ----and established miral theatre group like that – See, they are doing a play about themselves.They want a space in our society they want to make society aware about themselves.
Pralayan: See what happened that all members of trans-sexuals there are mustafas, there are armugams they have undergone operations and they are trans-sexuals and there are new names. But all of them call themselves as arwanis. That is the Tamil name for trans-sexuals.The name lineage goes to the Mahabharata story. The arwan is the one given to someone who is given as a human sacrifice on the previous day of the eighteen day war. The condition for the person to be sacrificed is that that person should be a virgin and married.
Pralayan: So one of Arjuna's son was chosen to be the one to be sacrificed.Because he has to be married they married him with a eunuch. Lord Krishna took the form of a eunuch and married him to an arwan.Then the marriage Kangan was given as a sacrifice.So there is a belief, a myth that all eunuchs are the wives of arwans.
Pralayan: They are arwanis. Whatever their background- whether they are Mustafas or followers of David, they all take the same name.I asked why they want their identity and again get lost in this majoritarian discourse.
Pralayan: This debate is going on. Now they find another neutral term- called tirunangai- a name to identify them. But sensitivity to this identification along the lines of caste gender is not that much needful in practice. In a language based culture the thinkers say that language played a great role in creating the culture and so on.
Pralayan: In this connection I recall – Periyar. Actually T.V. Ramswami Periyar. He criticize Tamil language for its caste biased, gender biased structure and openly called it a barbarian language.He wanted to sterilize the Tamil language which constructs and legitimizes caste inequalities, gender inequalities, so he sterilized that and coined new words to expose the inadequacy of Tamil language like the desabhimanam- a word for patriotism. Muhiyabhimanam - love for the language and he also coined a word Karparibhimanam - outward chestism.
Pralayan: He coined these kinds of words and … Karpabhimanam he coined these words. This kind of sensitivity to assertions and … …for the last fifty years… and now you can ask a question as to whether present day theatre practice in Tamilnadu represents the sensitivity to the assertions. Yes. To some extent.
Pralayan: Something happened in Tamil theatrical scene –yesterday also we were talking about two faces of truth… … with …also. In our Tamil traditional theatre yettarikuttu was a popular theatre form in North Tamilnadu.
Pralayan: Women were not allowed to perform in the traditional theatre. Because it is ritualistic and so many reasons given by the practitioners. But what happened now there is an all women group doing terukuttu in Tamilnadu.
Pralayan: In one production women were not allowed to wear the buza geeti … and all the external aharya /costume. They can't even touch them. So when performing … women are not allowed to touch the costumes and ornaments. One woman who was performing Amba was wearing all the ornaments that were not allowed by traditional practice.
Pralayan: All the percussion instruments are made of the skin hyde so they are not allowed to touch them.they were not allowed to do some movements because those movements were not modest. …like raising the leg over the head like what the Russian Ballet dancers would do easily…no?
Pralayan: Now what happened- all women group performing Tappu. They broke all the norms. Ten years ago there were many all women groups doing Tappu with the banned movements. I can say several groups did plays that dealt with assertions like Prof. Ramanujam's --- Indira Parthsarathi's ---K.A. Gunashekharan's Maliadigai?...Mangai's paniti? And Illiap… ---- as you say problem of the contradiction within national identity.It is a reflection of all these assertions.
Pralayan: But the problem is … In most of the open air performances it is different from proscenium stage. There all the characters whether dalit or women are presented as victims.Initially it has been accepted…praised…? For it sensitized the society –initially. But when you discuss it deeply, you should understand the representational problem—how it helps to empower the section of the people.
Pralayan: And also there is a dominant trend? There are these division… caste… and gender..class everything in the caste oppression has been in the media expressions- representation is approached as an object for them. It is an external one.It goes beyond ourselves.It goes, does some repairs and comes back. It is external object of inquiry but in reality it is a subject. Caste or gender.
Pralayan: That discussion is taking place now. There are very serious dialogues have been made. And another important point-Performance. In all our traditional performance the audience space is divided along caste lines. Still. Till today Non-dalits have a separate performance.Therukutu or …Nadagam and what happened in northern districts of Tamilnadu, if dalits are coming to the performance, they have to take the last seats.
Pralayan: They would never be in the first row. If dalits are having a separate performance then they don't want to see a non-dalit in the audience.If they are there, they are invited and given seats in the front row, and respected. That's the rural situation. But in urban place doing contemporary plays from villages, it never breaks the caste lines and segregations among the audience.
Pralayan: Even we- Magic Lantern used to perform the same way. Audiences are divided into hoors and cherys. Their places of living are different and the audience is different according to the locality. In some places where dalits and non-dalits were together politically mobilized under one umbrella, you can get audience that crosses over the caste lines.
Pralayan: Very few places. We used to perform in that situation also. Among the performers, there can be a mixture. Dalits and non-dalits can be together in a performance.But in the audience there should not be a mixture. I will site an example from northern parts of Tamilnadu in Dharmapuri district one performer was dalit, he was doing a leading role in a traditional performance.
Pralayan: He is doing big roles, what happened you know, he used to perform in a village near the temple. There is a shop run by a Brahmin. The shopvendor's daughter used to be in the shop. After eighteen days performance he had an affair with that girl and they married and eloped. So now they are living together.
Pralayan: It happened, but at the audience level, there should not be a mixture. The segregation still rules. So these are some of the anecdotes I have given for the discussion.
Pralayan recites lines of Tamil poem
Pralayan: This means 'I don't know who you are, You don't know who am I Like that... 'My parents are not related to your parents' and actually it is a dialogue between the lovers. My parents do not know about your parents and their lineage and your parents do not know about mine With these different backgrounds how can we come together
Pralayan: If the rainwater falls on the rich soil how it becomes one…Like that it is a song. It is a celebration of love that has crossed the boundaries of caste lines and identities and everything. It is an ancient tradition but I do not want to say that ancient Tamil society is casteless or any such thing…
Pralayan: But there is a tendency to celebrate this crossing of the boundaries so what happened now is different again I site an example from poetry and then I will finish it This is contemporary poem, written by Meera from the varan? Bodies It goes, 'You are a bank employee and I am a bank employee
You are a vllhala am also a vellhala that is an upper caste It is followed by the same words.
Akshara: This is Akshara. My question is to Gopal guru...i am just trying to formulate it and if i have understood you wrongly then kindly correct me.
Akshara: The main shift is from identity to identification. First part of that dalit literature was about ..to say it very simply we are not like you. The later part of Devnuru Mahadeva is to say we are also like you but in a different way.
Akshara: that was the second part where the trajectory went from here to there.Are you actually implying this when you say identity and identification?one, and is there…are you trying to map something which is parallel in dalit theory to this shift from identity to identification and when you come to this the second related question is when you come to this part of identification it comes tantalizingly close to the natyashastra theory of sadharaneekarana .
Akshara: When we forget, especially when you said to get away from your identity when you enter a theatre hall and then you become an open person, a real prekshaka when you receive a theatre performance.
Akshara: You know the … what you are implying .. is.. comes very close to the theory. Would you like to be identified with it or would you still make a distinction between rasa theory and your position?
Sudhanwa: um.. actually prof. Gopal guru I found your presentation very exciting. And provocative in the best sense of the term. Thank you very much. Um… in particular, I find very empowering …not embarrassing…not only the idea that the act of acting itself can be empowering.
Sudhanwa: Now you posed the question and…. Isn't it…you talked of the cunning of universalization, the fact that acting is universalizing universalization.. and it is complicated by the idea of the cunning.of universalization but my question to you would be, … there is a lovely poem by …by Pablo Neruda where he talks about the chief of a tribe and he lists about thirty different things that he did.
Sudhanwa: He became sharp as an arrow became …like a wind etc etc. and only then he was worthy of his people. Now is there such a thing that an actor also has to do …When can an actor become worthy of the role that he has to play..
Sudhanwa: If that does not happen if the actor is not worthy of the role that he is playing then isn't there also a danger of a certain kind of voyeurism maybe? A certain kind of simplification which is not done with cunning
Sudhanwa: It's not the question of Hindu right wing saying something about practices among the muslims in order to…you know that's not how it happened but isn't it also important to become worthy of a role.?
Sadanand: I am glad you and Akshara have raised important questions because it is Gopal leading from your presentation the whole idea of identity on the one hand and evacuation of identity on the other, and the polarities of the two sort of play between the two need, some need some reflection.
Sadanand: Like Akshara says this sadharaneekaranam idea in Natyashastra which talks about ??? There is a whole description of how you build a theatre and the theatre then is designated as abode of death and the prekshaka is entering the abode of death In the abode of death, there is no identity so in all these traditional Kuthumbalam you see a lot of bhutas and pretas all built into the architecture.
Sadanand: You are entering that house, you are abandoning your identity outside.And you are neutralizing and entering into it which includes an injunction for the actors too, So the idea of becoming worthy is also a matter of being able to shed identity.Evacuation of identity where you pose the question, who can act as who and who can ???for whom… which are the main planks of identity politics in India.
Sadanand: Can a Brahmin leader speak for a dalit cause, and a man speak for a woman and so on and so forth. It leads into all kinds of twists and turns, So this is on the one hand, and on the other hand to connect it with what Pralayan was saying about the segregation of audiences? Spaces of performance it was in interior Tamilnadu.
Sadanand: We have the very provocative provoca… very provocative proposition by Prof. Shivtambi who looks at the history of cinema theatre as opposed to stage theatre,and how in the cinema theatres the first equalization of castes happened.
Sadanand: He starts his historical research…(SOME Q) no this is cinema 1928 onwards, the first cinema theatre was built in Tamilnadu in 1928, from that point on, today Tamilnad has the largest number of cinema halls, both fixed cinema halls and touring cinema in the whole of India. I think just about ten years ago Andhra went maybe ten theatres more but in Tamilnadu…???
Sadanand: Huge infrastructure of cinema halls which according to ShivThambi was the caste leveler and which paved the way for the Dravidian movement to pick up in the thirties and forties and this kind of linked up with these two linked up with this in an interesting kind of way and I thought
Pravin: ???acting you know more of us should come up with anecdotes and experience because that may be enriching as as well. And one of the experiences is..some of ..experiences in villages we had this problem of you know, if we performed in the village , you know the people from ..dalit colony wouldn't come and you know if you performed in the dalit colony the villagers would not come you know.
Pravin: We selected a place in the middle, and then people came from both sides but they sat on two sides leaving a big strip in the middle. So you know we were having to act facing one side and then the other (laugh) and then staging the frontal to the other side.
Pravin: The silver lining was, eventually the children started coming into the middle, and you know, coming closer to the stage, and they were all sitting together in the centre. That was the nice thing that happened. That's all
GPD: One more please.(General talk)
Ramanujam: I want to give information. We have to see Pralayan was saying about the tappu and I remember, tapalu was played only during the death procession in Tamilnadu. But in their own community it has been played at different auspicious occassions and religious rituals,but for other communities tapalu is played only during the death procession...is there.
Ramanujam: Then first time an opportunity came to me from South zone cultural centre they asked me to train some actors …they would give six months some scholarship and everything. I said i won't train actors. If you give me opportunity, I will train the tappu people better them and give them opportunity to perform in other …
Ramanujam: That I think Pralayan knows the history, Now that Rangrajan group has become an important group going to all over India, but all over the world also. Tappu gets an important place now. Now what happened…only one thing and I …
Ramanujam: Tappu is owned by another group now all the ladies are doing the other people are doing. Now i am asking instead of the dalits,Suppose twenty Brahmins own the tappu the art may be promoted, but the identity will be held? It would be the identity as? An article to be held??? This is my question.
Madhuri: My name is Madhuri and I would like to direct my question to Gopal Guru (referring to?) yesterday's presentation by Aijaz as well as Sadanand. I am thinking about different terms basically. As I said theatre can be looked at as an agent of revolutionary change to be brought into society and then Sadanand added it in his presentation when he was talking about experimental theatre yesterday, Experimentation as a point of departure, for (creation of ?) transformational meaning etc. but through conversations u see.
Madhuri: So cultural changes revolutionary changes on one hand on the other it happens to (engage in?) …conversational processes then I am trying to relate it to your presentation you saying identity and identification being two sides of the same coin, may be different areas altogether.
Madhuri: And then how actors at one point can feel empowered while acting certain roles. I am just thinking if it is to be a conversational process like …if the experience of theatre is to be palatable by the audience needs to have certain harmonious process going on inside in the auditorium but on the other hand you are also looking at revolutionary agency which brings in revolutionary changes, so how is that possible?
Madhuri: This is one question and how can you locate the pressure of identity of actors as well as the audience? On what platform could all of them come together? And what could be the result of that.
Madhuri: So my question can be simply put as Can theatre be really looked at as an agent of revolutionary change or is it only a space, a locale which maybe adds up to the revolutionary processes going on otherwise in the society? Is it a freedom ?? or ??? Yeah Thank you.
Pralayan: OK. Actually I will respond to Sadanand actually Prof. Shivthambi studying Tamil cinema and society he sites he quotes one example This is the first time in Tamil society all the Tamil speaking people got into a single umbrella as an audience in a cinema hall.
Pralayan: That's the truth. Here in cinema halls all over Tamilnad when the film begins there is the darkness, the lines are divided according to the rates. ??? ---??? … means divided into half paisa…? So it happened for the first time and for Tamil society this is…
Pralayan: But what some historians say in nineteenth century when Parsi theatre came ???all the vilasnadagam ??? also doing performance touring all over Tamilnad and staying in a village and having temporary thatched roof ??? and everything and they invite the audience and in the audience also the ..it happened that the caste lines were crossed situation also. ???
Pralayan: The touring theatre called here the mobile theatre so all those names are attached to the film halls now. Wherever you see in Tamilnad villages, they are saying touring theatre.There the touring theatre means the cinema halls. Actually that name is popular ???by the touring Parsi theatre groups This is the situation and I would like to say some…see why I actually the topic is totally about discourses about the identities know?
Pralayan: Most of our discourses happen in a …in Tamilnad also the spokespersons for culture, theatre does not know what happened in Tamilnadu. Just as most of the Indians don't know what happened in India like that most of the Tamilians don't know what happened in Tamilnadu.
Pralayan: See, today the spokespersons are from theatre and who are active in media and everything they does not know what happened in Chennai itself. See, I cite only one example. If you see any any…there are strong debate about the media, print media, the problems of working women. They have to work in the house, they have to go out…and problems of working women and problems of working women
Pralayan: See, you have to find out… you have to identify, you have to know the word working woman actually excludes 70 % of Indian m???s They are doing agricultural work they do not know the word working woman. They are not working women they are working women those who know the word working woman.It totally excludes the reality of the Indian situation.
Pralayan: They are working they don't know working woman, housewife, they don't know these two words. Actually middle class upper class Pointer? Being the order of the day.and it reflects in all the discourses. Not only in theatre, in all the social political cultural discourses. Thank you.
Gopal: Thank you very much for your thought provoking interventions.(some inaudible matter) I don't think I can give full treatment to all the questions that were directed to me but let me try and shall we say…Akshara I think you had already raised … …??? I do not know whether ??? my agenda to develop a dalit theory of theatre.
Gopal: Anyway I am not just as I mentioned to you …he is not… take it seriously but I think it has resonance with what ??? has been thinking about it know? Ah thinking about it I am just putting it in this fashion thinking about dalit is the necessary condition but not the essential condition of developing theory. The route to Go to larger universe of ideas is through dalit, and to that extent I am with Devnuru???
Gopal: And therefore I think there is a resonance with what I am thinking.The second point is about is there a ..something like parallel theory of theatre I have already answered this question but you know what we are doing, some of us ??? encircle the established concepts It's an encirclement.
Gopal: Not the peeping hole. Encirclement I think we are creating a ring and people who are with us in this encirclement I can see them here. So that's the way modestly we are encircling the establishment be it in social sciences, be it in philosophy and theatre and then if we want some people to join us in that circle then take over.So that's the very very modest, it looks very modest effort.
Gopal: Therefore this question I think Madhuri … it is about you know actually it is the precondition you know for revolutionary activities that happen outside the theatre but the necessary homework is done in the theatre. And therefore I think you have to achieve some kind of a …you have to shed the rough edges of dispute…personality in theatre that's why theatre plays a very important role and that's why your study circles and cadres and all that is part of theatre actually.
Gopal: And theatre has been a very generic concept I suppose we have to discuss it again, so I would think that you know…??? … ??? and the theory of ??? may be there in the Natya shastra, I have not studied, I am studying on humiliation and I had some access to AbhinavGupta asserting??? I can't make a conclusive remark on this but we have a theory of assertion in Indian Natyashastra of course we don't need to borrow it from outside I think this is a necessary condition to understand the reception of what is happening on the stage.
Gopal: Aah maybe I would expect that to happen in theatre.Sudhanwa's is typical you know Is there an experiment you require stages to achieve, to be worthy of any act, therefore I would give you this… the probation is on all the time he or she is on probation.
Gopal: That probation period is all the time happening because you know you are not yet able to grasp what is happening outside , you can't achieve that total confidence that I arrive with another statement of reality. And with that it is a probation all the time but you know I would make this comparison between the dalit and the non-dalit actor, Dalit would have a very advantageous position that he or she would experience acting at two levels in the sense that he or she would be acting to confront the racist. There is no naming.
Gopal: Akshara was trying to frame me where is my location ? I want to escape it seriously. Every dalit actor is also acting with the immediate reality you know, dalit woman hitting this gauda or patil she is not naming her acting. It is experience.
Gopal: The other is the experience that is …??? Accepted one. You are also going through your own experience through mediated through concept. I am not very sure this is the privilege which is enjoyed by the non-dalit. In order therefore to go back to the immediate, we will have to go for perfection.Stages you are suggesting. Therefore there is the journey back to that reality.
Gopal: So that's how and I am giving very confusing answer to your question--- I said …??? You can think the last of the … you can make use theatre as a rather meeting ground. That is a possibility.and should we evacuate this identity or share it I think we have to evacuate and create this identity and that can be ---??? I wanted to discuss this labour power and acting. actual …but I am not going to…I would share my power …??? Sorry sorry I think I have done. Thank you.
Shiv Viswanathan: Can I make one…Can I become a Brahmin mongoose because I think your concept was very important. Cunning of universalism. You posit four things but you take only two. That is, somewhere for you, faith is redeeming. Therefore I think it is a very important concept.The first stage is …say, as a dalit … ??? I am like you.
Shiv Viswanathan: Next stage, you say I am like you but different. Third which is still … identity at the third stage you are saying I am like …both of us are…with a different vision , but you are not able to say the fourth statement , every other is me…. Every other is me…. … no. because you are …(poor? ) because your drama can take you to two and a half but can the politics take you to the four. (… …???) No actually it is very interesting.
Shiv Viswanathan: If u looked at all your reactions everytime a dalit showed any weakness you should have seen your body language, even in yesterday's play. how can a person be so weak. because for you, hate is a very important part of the (redemptive structure???) and I think you have to go more open on it.
Shiv Viswanathan: Though not on the personal,you are not the python, you are also the cobra…..No I think it is important because I think we tend to evade the retentive features of certain kind of violence. And I think theatre is an important part for piecing that with a different kind of honesty.
Lynne Henry: I am sorry I have been listening to everything for the past few days and I felt today, if I remained silent today it would be on my conscience. When I heard Sudhanwa's on the first day, I felt a sense of hope. And today morning when I saw the topic I had some more hope.
Lynne Henry: And today through this discussion I am feeling very happy and there is a lot of hope in me. I lived for eight years in Saudi Arabia and that is one place where there is no theatre and I have spoken to people from the government, people from the munasif …people there and they have a very clear idea of why they don't want a theatre space in Saudi Arabia, they simply don't want people to meet in any open forum where they can communicate with each other.
Lynne Henry: Because they feel there is a possibility that of dissent that would arise out of that you know out of that meeting. And therefore there is no theatre space there at this moment and what…when… you talk of theatre which matters or …or Does theatre matter?
Lynne Henry: Those questions are irrelevant to me you know It is clearly is this monarchy identifies what theatre space can do, to see its power and clear ly, theatre does matter, spaces like this do matter. And therefore the speakers from yesterday who were talking about locating or mapping theatre locations within India, I would want you to help me find theatre you know if you can help me find the map going through finding theatre of that nature, and about today's discussion the question are you worthy of being an actor or when does an actor become worthy of playing a certain part or a role…
Lynne Henry: at a very superficial level you know,if i were to borrow from Marlon Brando or may be Al Pacino's conversation with Dustin Hoffmann they were shooting at a place and Marlon Brando or Al Pacino met Dustin Hoffmann and they asked what happened why are you looking so flustered? You know, and Oh I haven't slept for two days because you know I am playing this particular scene in which I have to look that I haven't slept for two days.
Lynne Henry: So then Marlon Brando says ok then why don't you try some acting for a change? You know…but at a deeper sort of level of who is worthy of playing characters rather than playing roles…if you are a woman who can understand a man's anxiety when a joint is being rolled and there are seeds in it. If you understand that man…'s anxiety?
Lynne Henry: And if as a man you understand the fear of a woman who goes out on her own carrying not a sense of being robbed, not a sense of being cheated, but the fear of rape if you understand those fears then I mean you certainly are worthy of …playing those parts.
Lynne Henry: This is what I have to say. I want to thank you.As a person who is primarily a dalit it is important to talk not just about atrocities on dalit but about women who are dalit, bisexual women, who are dalit and just… possible???
GPD: Last question Sadanand.
Raghunandana: I am responding to Gopal Guru and partly to what Shiv said. See this thing from…supposing in the theatre, when I am teaching or directing, an actor, working with an actor I say look now we are actors first now am I a Brahmin first, and an actor next, Am I a dalit first, a gauda first, a lingayat first and an actor next?
Raghunandana: No. Here, you are an actor. And your lingayat heritage your Brahmin heritage dalit heritage –whatever heritage that you have –will come in, all the richness of it will come in to make you an actor and then only then will you become worthy of people because you are working for the whole of the universe which is why this Angikam bhuvanam yasya is so important to all of us even if you don't recite it , the prayer, the notion of that is very important not only for people who actually recite that in Sanskrit or any other language of the world but all over the world it is important for people who work in the theatre.
Raghunandana: So that is one thing. The other thing is to problematize what Pravin was saying , if you are playing Hitler, you don't have to defend Hitler because there is always that critical distance that you maintain.And through your acting, you are criticizing Hitler. There would be points where you will have to understand Hitler… ??? no no no. Let me complete. To empathize is not to sympathize.
Raghunandana: There is a world of difference when you empathize you deepen your understanding of why that character is acting in a certain way that is why when we say you are playing Rama or Ravana you are not playing Rama because there is no living person …that never was.
Raghunandana: What you are playing is Ramatva, a certain understanding of Ramatva or Ravanatva. Or Hitleratva. And that is bring on stage. So that is a very important (image?) and that will result in sadharaneekarana. Otherwise it will result in samanyeekarana ..
GPD :Now the last question
Sadanand: Yeah I just want quickly to bounce off Shiv also as he came up with advaitic solution … The issue really is you are faced with this particular problematic. Problematic is either from ancient times or todays' it is possible to resolve the differences inside an auditorium. What happens outside?
Sadanand: How come this resolution of differences – no matter how brief it is however brief it is , it is not able to transcend the walls and be reflected in society outside and therein lies the specific crisis of theatre today...
Sadanand: It is not just theatre of identity crisis, the identity politics.So it's not able to jump out of the enclosures that have been created. So for me the issue is where will those slippages happen ? What you resolve on stage can also happen that you can experience outside
Gopal intervenes : No this is important. I mentioned encirclement and not enclosure..much enabling term. You know what happens? It would be a very desirable thing that I see somebody like me and me like somebody. That is you are collapsing all the …? ries and contradictions… I never become you, I become we ultimately. So there is threatening of hierarchy.
Gopal: Now the question is you know the enclosure, the fencing is not deliberately created it is imposed from above. And you know that's why I think the responsibility of the others is to see that it's not the enclosure which is produced by somebody by dalit identity politics, I am also morally equally responsible in creating the enclosure.
Gopal: I am existentially really responsible therefore my moral responsibility is to ask really questions to myself before I ask a question to the enclosure. Enclosure is not independently …??? From outside it is partly actually we can call this enclosure a margin and in the margin to function to sustain the dominance.
Gopal Sustain the totality of social dominance in a way, I think the lo:gical relationship between the enclosure and the outside has to be understood and I think that's the only way to become we.rather than the binary? Thank you.
Praja Natya Mandali
Devi: Thank you for inviting me before I go into my thing I want to make two announcements. First, English is not my language so there will be economy of words,second thing is , if you want me explanations you can talk to me later and I can explain in my mother tongue Telugu or Hindi. Then one more thing, I am very weak in theory.
Devi: So don't pull me into it. Thirteen or fourteen years ago when PNM was launching a huge campaign on --- where women were participating in large numbers we found that women who were performing for praja natya mandali they came up with different kind of exploitation as agricultural labourers. One woman goes to work in a farm, she has to come back to the landlord's home and she is not paid anything, she has to do household work.just because she is a woman.
Devi: Many examples, she has to do it because she is dalit also. Being a dalit, being a woman, being in a village without land makes her all the difference. So then we started saying that there is something more than the wage struggle to be added to the exploitation the forms of exploitation that is the social aspect of it.
Devi: Then there was a survey, all over most of the Andhra Pradesh some 33 forms of caste discrimination were identified, whatever Pralayan said about spaces and everything – entry performance spaces, everything.Then we thought along with the anti-caste organization KVPS formed at that time we thought we must take up a campaign because we have so many people because we have a duty to do it, just to do it.
Devi: Sometimes you can be in an organization and you can be blind also. We have so many song writers, beautiful writers came up from the villages. Almost all of our teams are from villages. So when we said that we are having a writers' workshop on caste discrimination, I was amazed to see the kind of enthusiasm that was generated among these writers who had earlier writing on wages and other things, but this is an entirely different expression they came up with.
Devi: So then we said ok, then we are into the right thing. But when talking about this identity this and that and who has universalization and all that, let me tell you one thing, the most hit song written I remember, the pallavi of the song is TELUGU LINES RECITED that is in Telugu it says, "Rise (Raise?) your head, Beat your thigh , Challenge the whole world, Because you are manipulated and you are discriminated"
Devi: This is written by a non-dalit poet who attended the workshop, It was taken over all over Andhra Pradesh wherever the anti-caste discrimination campaign was taken up by Praja Natya Mandali.
Devi: Then we had so many plays done by dalits and non-dalits together. But when it comes to assertions I will tell you, Anantpur is one of the worst draught hit areas, the most poverty stricken parts of Andhra Pradesh,
Devi: four… five years ago there was an incident in April, boys who were attending SC hostels wanted to make an STD call home, one upper caste fellow a Reddy wants to make a call and because these boys are sitting on the bench outside the booth , they were beaten up, the place the STD booth is located in the area of dalits.
Devi: But they were beaten up and this became a very big event and the whole community was attacked by upper caste Reddys in the same village in front of the collector on Ambedkar Jayanti.April 14th.
Devi: So when we got the information we got there and talked to them the whole village very tense See, there are two sub-castes in the same locality, middle is the upper caste locality and on one side is one sub-caste Mala and the people attacked were Maliga.
Devi: First time in the place history they came together to fight these fellows. Because they are divided in the middle, they are afraid that attacks will be on the basis of this division so they have to come together to fight this Reddy. They wanted to fight it because the Reddy community is mobilizing the Reddys of other villages, the upper caste in the surrounding villages.
Devi: They said we want to do a play, sing something to mobilize our own community to get our protection from the community. . So we went to the collector and the police was called to give us the protection. The collector at that time was fortunately a dalit and very sympathetic and said you do He made… they made a play actually performed widely but never allowed to perform in the upper caste area of any village in that particular area.
Devi: Then there was no attack and there were media and all that . The play continued as an incident to assert themselves by mobilizing other villages and all people liked the play very much.
Devi: There are other incidents, other plays, other songs, other art forms that are practiced by the sc community throughout Andhra Pradesh that are re-made to be used in this camp I can give hundreds of examples. How they asserted themselves in various areas.
Devi: It's like Pralayan was talking about performing space in Ranga—district, in the same campaign, the fellows went to a village and they said they are performing in the --- in the middle of the village. Naturally they refused so they said no no, we want to perform here only.The upper caste gave them choice of performing here and there but they said we want to perform here only. Police came and they wanted to make a compromise but the team is not ready to make a compromise.
Devi: So they gave the performance with police protection, the whole upper caste community boycotted the play after, as soon as the team left the village, haldi ke water se they washed and purified the dias. This is happening. Everywhere, you may talk about whatever laws and justice you have but it is practiced in nooks and corners of Andhra Pradesh and I feel it is practiced everywhere in India.
Devi: And then I come to the question of the second point I wanted to make about women's issue. We have this,--- you know the Anti-Arrcak movement of Andhra Pradesh. And now they are starting to rise but in …on this issue there is an interesting play made by Praja Natya Mandali again on this Arrack and violence, domestic violence.
Devi: Incident of arrack drunken husband beating his wife. In that our teams gave a different solution.The son and the mother they unite their forces to beat the father.you know, this was very much liked by the audience women and even one or two of our artists have done the same thing in their homes and they told me not to tell anybody.
Devi: So don't tell anybody. So they these are some of the examples I am giving how they can do it, without coming into focus. Then we have these child marriages.we had a small play of twenty five minute which is performed just like a game, has very big impact and we know girls after seeing and after performing even our own girls of Praja Natya Mandali, refusing to get married before the age of eighteen.That I feel some people … government..They are going to study for the impact.
Devi: One more thing hitting hard in Andhra Pradesh is seventeen districts of Andhra Pradesh now are active in child traffic. Very badly it is going on there are no statistics how many girls are being trafficked every year.This we took up because recording dance is the first step in trafficking.
Devi: So when we were unfortunately dragged in to it. Unfortunately dragged into it. Because in one area where these recording dancers are performing, in ShivRatri Jatras, the police arrested the dancers. They said you can't arrest us, you arrest the organizers also. So as Praja Natya Mandali we have to intervene saying yes you should arrest the organizers also.
Devi: Because they are the main culprits who organize that.Then this point came up we started working with the girls of that area, girls of that one particular area --- district, there are 2500 girls are into this recording dancing which is a platform for traffikers.
Devi: Now three teams in that area performed and it is interesting to see these girls either ignored or said you are spoiling when you talk about this trafficking and all, it's a shame and it is not happening..The village community wanted to push it under the carpet but the girls are not allowing it.
Devi: Also ther are so many aspects of it but it is one area where girls are trying to assert, by themselves and making groups for not getting into that kind of thing. For women these were the points I wanted to make and then coming to the most important part is about the STs (Scheduled Tribes).
Devi: The tribal community. We have large number of groups in tribal community so there is the question of submerging in the KOL… dam nearly two lacs of tribal people are habilitated or not rehabilitated, then our teams took up that theme. Our teams means our actors who reside AND ARE PART OF THE AREA of the tribal community and also non-tribal community who are part of that area.
Devi: So that was an experience to see the odd mixture of tribal and non-tribal thing and working against cultural forms, mixing together and working against the construction of the dam. Or changing the plan of the dam which was widely performed and the thing and Dapu and other forms like dolku is used and re-emerged during this struggle as an expression of protest.
Devi: Then I will come to one more part where the area N…guda which is near the plane area There, like any other part in India, The tribals are being pushed back into the hills and the land is being occupied by non-tribals Tribals are fighting against this invasion.So they made two plays talking of the land act 1070 act done by the government in '70s.
Devi: So you know police attacked these tribal girls and boys who are doing the play along with the non-tribals.But they never gone back you know there are nearly two hundred cases booked against these people.
Devi: Now I come to the latest issue of our Vishakha agency area where Jindal Company like in orissa, is going to do mining in the hills of Araku which is one of the beautiful parts of Andhra Pradesh, which has the largest population of tribals. From Vishakha when you go 60 kms On a ghat road, you will be entering a heaven kind of beautiful climate and you will see the worst poverty primitive tribes living there.
Devi: You know what primitive tribe is. They are even afraid of to talk to you if you go to a village.So we were doing the task of… you know they were fighting against this bauxite mining.
Devi: We went there it was a very exciting and…humbling experience for us because when we went we thought we will ask them … all theatre people to do. We went there with all our silks and dresses, ornaments saying 'ok,we are going to make a play for you.and they said what play?
Devi: Then we came to the ground saying 'no no no we will do something to propogate this bauxite We want to know what are your arguments your side of arguments against this bauxite mine.They are saying that this mine is very good for your tribal area this and that.
Devi: They gave their arguments when I started asking what are the counter arguments against the bauxite, one of the fellows he said why should we present the counter arguments, what is the need? Now usually that is done, this side that side is presented and they said no need we want to stay.