Play-writing in Indian languages is in an all time low and in ambiguity now. The number of new plays written, published and performed is very few. The quality of the plays in representing Indian reality, its suitability to address the demands of the newer trends in theatre, and the creative space it gives to the actor director and other technicians, are derisory. In the content it looks so simplified immature and insufficient to represent the chore of the problem it seem to address, and is not capable in effectively holding the attention of the reader or the spectator– both emotionally and intellectually.
Regarding the form, it is insufficient to succumb to a motivating idiom on stage that provides an artistic space for the design a new production out of it. The playwright often seems to have been ignorant about the potentials/new possibilities/ current trends in theatre. He confines himself in some form of expression and blocks other possibilities of the stage. The director, actor, and other technicians have emerged as creative persons with the same importance as the writer; the modern theatre is a synthesis of the faculties of all these creative energies. Modern theatre has developed into a unique and discrete space where the dissolution of the creative faculties of different individuals merge together to form a single art work. It does not mean that the authority of all these artists is to be offended or diluted for the sake of the other. The work and creative heights of all these participating artists has to pitch itself at a symphony of resonances and the work of art reverberates in a unique amalgamation of ideas and imaginative temperaments to result in a true ensemble.
Modern theatre needs a collaborative coexistence of the playwright, director and actor. Each of the three is reluctant or ignorant about the faculties, creative identities and potentials of the other. At present we see that the plays performed lacks in any of these three faculties. Usually the director rules over the other two, or at times the actor, and at times the playwright predominates and the outcome lacks in its total communicative and artistic expression. It is high time that the three major creative entities of theatre mutually join in the creative pursuit more effectively and the immediate thrust has to be on the first phase of the artistic endeavor - the writing of the play.
The text of the new play
The new Indian play shall have the following features;
· Reflect the Indian realities, the social issues, problems, agonies, anxieties and also the delights of living in this period and country. It shall speak about the life of the time and the place.
· In perspective it has to reflect the Indian situation, but it can utilise the regional or desi concerns/situation to articulate about the macro India. Being rooted in Indian context the text can be universal.
· The text has dual existence, one as a material for the reader- the work of literature; and at the same time it has to transform into a performance. It has to furnish the dual being of drama, as a written text and at the same time yield into a performance text.
· That means the text has to withhold the autonomy of the writer and at the same time leave space for the director, actor and other creative technicians to artistically interpret and generate a new form, meaning and life to the written material.
· The text has to yield to the performance demands of the contemporary theatre devices. The best text shall be so open and flexible so that it can be interpreted and recreated in varied ranges of forms, styles and modes of expression. Classics from all traditions, (Indian, Greek, Shakespeare etc…) can be true models in this respect.
· The play can be written in any form of expression that has been developed all around the world over the times. It can assort to any of the genres of expression or create a new genre in playwriting. It can be narrative, expressionistic, absurd, or count on the fragmentary disposition of Images. But personally I think that theatre is at its best when it is narrative and this is reinforced again and again in the current trends of theatre all around the world.
· While being in a form, structure or style of expression, it shall be fluid enough so that other expansions/explorations on the text are allowed and possible.
· Most of the times the playwright seems to struggle in defining a performance style and technical mode of theatrical execution when writing his text. It is the job and faculty of the director and other artists to solve this problem in performance and the playwright has to focus his attention in the narrative structuring and the literary, poetic and political exposition of the content, story, idea, or idiom of expression. He can of course suggest/hint a performance mode in his writing, but it can be better achieved out of the collaboration with theatre and associated artists.
· It can be said the reverse too—it is the content that decides the form, and hence a collaborative coexistence may help the performing artists to reach at a form and technology best suited for the text.
· Most of the plays written are still modeled on the proscenium stage, its dynamics and aesthetics. The western perspective of theatre as a box-office commodity - a product that has to be consumed by the spectator - and related aesthetics decides the writing process. Such a theatre focus on the ‘show’ and the duality and detachment of the spectator from the action. Other options and modes for theatre bind the audience as a participant in the performance, emotionally intellectually and physically. Such theatre has to break open the confines and scaffold of the proscenium arch; writing a play in such a milieu needs a focus shift in attitude towards the positioning, narrative structure, craft and the mode of expression. Such attempts may give a new phase in the playwriting scenario and can be best achieved by collaboration with the playwright and the director.
· An Indian playwright has to acquire knowledge about the traditional and folk modes of narratives of the land and the people, its connotation to the aesthetics, and their social political and cultural implications. He can use and adapt any genre/mode he likes when writing a new play, but shall not be ignorant to the tradition of the land and the people.
A workshop to address these problems ---A series of collaborative workshops on playwriting may equip the contemporary playwright to come up with new plays that can be valid as a piece of literature as well as a material for adapting to the stage effectively. The workshop modality shall be,-
· Anyone who would like to a write a play can be included in the workshop. But preference will be given to the ones who had already written plays; and to writers who had already established as poets, fiction writers or in other literary genres.
· The writers would be asked to write the first draft of a play on any theme or style before they report to the workshop.
· The playwright should be grouped with a director who has the practical experience on the art of ‘transcribing’ the written text to the language of performance. The director shall try to understand the viewpoints and concepts of the playwright and at the same time work with him to mould the text to suit the demands of the stage.
· Both of them can use the service of a group of actors and try to work out a scene or a part of the play so as to understand the performance viability and style.
· The script has to be rewritten and modified in the workshop in accordance with the discussion with the director and the interaction with the actors.
· The rewritten text is to be read in the whole workshop so that further discussion with other writers and directors may change the form of the text further.
· In all the discussions the autonomy of the author is to be accepted and the playwright has to acknowledge the creative entity of the director and the actors in interpreting his text into a performance.
· The performance reputed productions, (live and projection of video) and discussion on the chemistry of transformation of the text to the performance can be an important activity in the workshop.
· The whole workshop is to be done at a peaceful serene and remote place where distractions of the participants are less, and creative atmosphere is persisted.
· Sangeeth Natak academy has to help publishing the good texts that is created in the workshop. And also help to produced on stage and a festival of such productions have to be organised as the next stage of the workshop.
[*] Presented to, Sangeeth Natak Academy New Delhi through Kavalam Narayana Panikker the vice chairman.