Source : The Pioneer
Playwright Bhanu Bharti talks about what has driven him for 40 years as a director and his search for meaning with Ayushi Sharma
A thinking man’s playwright and director, Bhanu Bharti, founder of Aaj Rangmandal theatre group, presented Tamasha Na Hua that recreates Tagore’s celebrated play Muktadhara (The waterfall). It is a modern take on the Nobel Laureate’s creation that asks questions about the man vs machine conflict and is seen as an ode to Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of peaceful coexistence.
What is the play’s central theme?
Tamasha Na Hua is in essence a debate centering on the perennial question of man’s freedom in the context of today’s political, technological and cultural climate in the backdrop of Rabindranath Tagore’s famous play Muktadhara. India’s freedom struggle inspired diverse strands of ideologies and our play merely invokes a discussion among protagonists, who are basically actors enacting scenes from Tagore’s play and have different points of view regarding the meaning of freedom. Muktadhara is an allegorical tale that narrates so many distinct streams of thought in order to obtain that elusive freedom including Gandhi vs Tagore, man vs machine, nation vs the nationalist and so on, which are very relevant in this day and age.
How have plays and theatrical performances evolved?
Both art and philosophy have evolved since the 1970s, when I started working in theatre. Life and language have grown more complex. The challenge still remains of expressing philosophies in the common language of the people. Where, earlier, song, dance and visual imagery formed a central theme of the stage, minimalism and choreographed precision have taken over. Wit, humor and social criticism still remain elements of theatre in India. However, practitioners today lack creative passion essential for discovery and renewal which characterised the ‘70s, producing great directors, actors and playwrights.
Do you think cinema and online channels are taking over arts performed live?
Visual media, computer graphics and augmented sound are attractive propositions for the individual but the potential for dialogue and interaction between audience and actor and thereby, the co-creation of an enhanced version of debate and enactment, are experiences that the intellectual cannot obtain from cinema or the internet.
What does it take to transform a written play into a stage performance?
For me, every time I read a classic keeping up with debates in contemporary society helps inspire new interpretations. It also helps to have a group of intellectually stimulating partners to discuss ideas with. That process of co-creation enables the likelihood that the stage version will resonate with more people while opening avenues for many different points of view.
Is there something that you ideally look for in a play?
The presence of different and divergent points of view that may not even counter-balance each other is one element that I look for. That is the essence of civilised society and its concomitant art forms.
What is your greatest source of inspiration?
My urge to find answers to all questions that vex human society and drive their anxieties; from day-to-day routines to the larger questions governing their future and their search for meaning are my sources of inspiration.
The biggest thing that you stand for and support as a theatre director and playwright?
Life is a continuous struggle for interpretation and creation – the search to find meaning. There are constant conflicts between the individual and society, between communities, ideologies, structures and systems. My job is to be a critical realist and interpret contemporary struggles as we witness them.