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When individual interests overwhelm art

By May 24, 2018No Comments

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Mukul Bansal

TO come straight to the point, when theatre actors, playwrights, poets, writers Atulvir Arora, who is also a theatre director, and his wife, Madhurima, who have straddled the theatre scene in Chandigarh and some other cities in north India for a long time, say they had to withdraw from the art form due to what they describe as their “disillusionment” with the way it was being practised, it makes a theatre buff ponder the question of whether art was being relegated to serving individual interests.“Ours and many others’ endeavour to promote quality theatre activity in the city was thwarted by individual interests stealing a march over nourishing the art form and making the quest for excellence secondary,” says Atulvir.Madhurima, whose beautiful paintings adorn her home, has done her PhD in English literature from Panjab University — her thesis was on “Quest for roots in the poetry of Nissim Ezekiel, Kamla Das, AK Ramanujan, Parthasarthy and Jayant Mahapatra” — and has written two novels, “Greeg (2015)” and “Words Awaiting Another Voice (2017)”, and a book of poetry, “In Search of Roses (1986),” in English. She describes the dilemma of the theatre movement in the city more philosophically by quoting a thinker, “When small men attempt great enterprises, they always end by reducing them to the level of their mediocrity.”So, it was alvida to theatre for this couple a few years ago. At present, they’re leading retired lives from their academic careers. Atulvir retired as the professor and head, Department of Evenings Studies, Panjab University, and Madhurima was a lecturer in English for 16 years in Punjab.“Madhurima and I met through theatre in December 1988. We were rehearsing for Surender Verma’s “Surya ki antim kiran se surya ki pehli kiran tak”. They fell for each other almost at their first meeting. “After two months, we gave ourselves time,” says Atulvir, adding that “on April 14, 1989, we got married.”“I wrote five or six plays initially. One of them, “Purani Haveli” was staged by me. I used to write plays for students in the college for youth festivals. One of these was on the lives of working women, “Duniya Sakhi Saheli.” Afterwards, I wrote full-length plays like, “Apna, Apna Dard.” About a decade ago, I wrote extensively for The Tribune and The Indian Express.“Atulvir has always been the first reader and critic of all my writings,” Madhurima chuckles while her husband adds that the same was true of Madhurima who was more difficult to please. “I’m writing a novel in Hindi, “Shabnam Jamaal, Facebook Kamaal,” by targeting false identities on Facebook as a metaphor. Madhurima, who’s deeply into storytelling finds fault with my storytelling techniques in the novel and I respect her opinion,” says Atulvir.Two of his collections of Hindi poetry are: “Kafan Mein Desh” and “Mile Tumhe Samay to Dhundh Lena Prithvi”.Madhurima’s roots in theatre go deep. She was awarded on Punjab Rangmanch Theatre Day, Batala, in 1982 and she also received the Ishwar Chander Nanda Award. Besides, she appeared on Jalandhar Doordarshan in two or three serials. She also appeared in the last episode of the late Jaspal Bhatti’s “Ulta Pulta” show before he was killed in an accident. “I also acted in the TV serials, “Aagosh” and “Raen Basera.” “Aagosh” was directed by Ravi Deep. Madhurima also received the second prize in Mohan Rakesh Samman 1996 — Sammanit Lekh.While talking about the theatre group in Chandigarh of which he was the founding member, Atulvir talks about where the shoe pinches: “I was associated with this group since 1974. It was conceived in 1972. Madhurima joined it in 1982. What will pain anyone in such coming together of artistes is when groups within groups start emerging, when there is group rivalry. What may survive is the nucleus. After we staged Mohan Rakesh’s “Aadhe Adhure” and “Ashadh Ka Ek Din,” for which Om Shivpuri too had come to the city, the idea was that actors should become directors and many did. The moot point was how would the directors arrange for money to stage plays leading to a situation that only he would be the director who could arrange for money!

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