Monday, May 12, 2008

NINASAM ‘Thirugata’

NINASAM’s one of most celebrated projects, its theatre repertory, nicknamed Thirugata is a unique feat in the history of any theatre movement. Always alive to an imposing reality of our times, but not over zealous in only staging the plays of the present, Thirugata has come of age. For over two decades now, its presence along the length and breadth of Karnataka has evoked considerable enthusiasm and appreciation - as much for the quality of production as also for the selection of plays which, is determined in essence by ongoing debates on culture and society, there transformation and transmuting syndromes and more importantly the politics of life itself. Thirugata would produce past plays with the same urgency it would bring on to the stage the present ones.

No theatre can exist in vacuum. It should respond to issues which are both individual and collective; imminent and immanent. But then, Thirugata is never a political theater which then would become propagandist sans its aesthetic and literary merits.

No theatre is apolitical either. In fact no art, as no man is as such. Including our careless swatting at the flies!

Thirugata needs to be located I this context. Since its inception in 1985, not amidst fanfare, but in a modest way which in itself reflects a cultural ethos of its own, simplicity and grace, this repertory of NINASAM has always tried to deconstruct a raging world order which thrives on prosperity and progress alone.

No gloss nor glamour; no irritable presence of technology in its productions; none of the corporate jamboree that sponsors theatre in cities. No, Thirugata would have none of these. Even a far cry from yuppies who believe life sans theatre is as much worth living!

Yes, life is larger than art with its varied manifestations. But faint and feeble voice of theatre can morph our life from its lavish buccaneering before mega ‘texts’ of globalization.

Thirugata is political in this regard. In its developing an antithetical view to overriding influences of a hegemonical system not just of the exotic, but also of the indigenous revivalist interests. Laced with this is the twin message of democracy and decentralization any NINASAM activity seems to embody. Thirugata has become highly evolved over the years in disseminating ideas of self rule and a decentred world order.

In the beginning Thirugata used to stage four plays - one from Kannada and another from outside it; one from the west and another for children. By and by, the lack of human resource and managerial logistics forced Thirugata to have only two plays.

Thirugata begins its peregrination with its premier shows at Heggodu every October on the occasion of a culture course NINASAM organizes, with a specific thrust area which gets reflected though slantly in the plays chosen for Thirugata.

Two plays this year with a thrust area at the backdrop being ‘A new idiom for the new century’ – interrogating intellectual certitudes; critique the existing order in contrasting styles and substance. A chalk and cheese variety in short.

An ensemble of seven one act plays by P.Lankesh, ‘Ee Naraka Ee Pulaka’ directed by Raghunandana with his self indulgent sullenness is a tough and serious watch. Jarring music and an unintelligible philosophy would make the audience aghast and perspire. But then, it is a philosophical variant Raghu tries to communicate which our minds refuse to appreciate. The seven Lankesh plays as seven ambiguous types depict typical middleclass ‘angst’ and its desires and illusions.

The production problamatizes the split in the individual self relocating it in the larger context of the politics of a new order. Thereby the Lankesh plays acquire a new semantics and vocabulary to contend with the mesmerizing presence of an exclusivist global culture. It uncovers an enigma; of a generic kind given us by our own seething discontent at the values we anchor and cherish the fatigue it brings out and a sense of spiritual debility too. In the end a feeling of vacuousness sinks in amid ruins of glory. Something that occurs to Lear and Macbeth after their committing an egregious act.

Lokottame a play adapted from Lycistrata, a comedy written during fifth century B.C by a Greek playwright Aristophanes directed by Chennakeshava contemporizes an ancient, but a very practical wisdom of an approach to war and peace.

Hatred divides, but grief unites. Women of two Greek states make a common cause, their grief over their spouses involvement in a war against each other. This leaves them in constant peril and sexual atrophy making them languish on their beds. A peace in not a sight. The two women of the two states come together even as their partners are waging a needless war. They want to force them to recognizing their rights to marital bliss and familial attachment, as also to political governance. There is no course left over to them! Except swearing they would not sleep with them unless they stopped war. The spouses relent and return to their beds!

The production translates a tragic melodrama into a delightful comedy even as the original play puts in perspective an ‘innovative’ route to end war. Lokottame subsumes a vocabulary of resistance and rebellion in a low mimetic mode which at the same time underscores horrors of war and attrition.

Ee naraka…’ dramatizes the squalor of modern man alienated from yet, connected to the outside world which flatters to deceive. Better, we call this production ‘e- naraka, e- pulaka' to be able to further negotiate with our netted pursuits.

Lokkottame is a collective search for indoctrinating the grammar of war. It tickles us and teases. Men would search their hearts and women, reclaim their invincible arms of rejection. The sun wryly smiles on us!

One uncovers the facsimilies of our bliss and the other, the impermeable nature of our obsession with the absurd and the abstract; one through seriously questioning and the other through regaling to a point where the truth begins to dawn on us. Watching them refreshes us and in the Brechtian terms instructs us.
(NINASAM is a cultural organisation located in the village of Heggodu in Sagar Taluk of the Shivamogga district in the state of Karnataka, India. Ninasam (also spelt as Neenasam) is the short form of Sri Neelakanteshwara Naatyaseva Sangha, an organsiation dedicated to the growth of drama, films and publishing. Ninasam was the brainchild of the renowned dramatist and Magsaysay award winner, K V Subbanna. It is currently headed by K V Akshara, the son of Subbanna.)

No comments: