Saturday, January 17, 2009

Sangeeth Natak Akademi Awards to SRamanujam, Probir Guha, Arundhathi Nag

It is so happy to see the dear and near to theatre is accepted and honored. This year’s awards went to the theatre guru to many including me S.Ramanujam, Veteran actor Arundhathi Nag and director Probir Guha among others.

Legendary stage designer of Bengali theatre Khaled Chowdhury was awarded with the fellowship. 86-year-old Chowdhury remained behind the scene to create a revolution on the Bengali theatre for more than 50 years, as part of many landmark productions in Bengali theatre. He also is a book illustrator, cover designer, folklorist and musicologist.

“His way of working is unique. He knows how to use stage space particularly well. He creates both realistic and naturalistic sets. Through his works, the stage itself becomes a character,” says veteran director Kumar Roy.

Over the last five decades, Chowdhury has worked in landmark productions like Raktakarabi, Putul Khela, Pagla Ghoda for Sombhu Mitra, Shuturmurg, Evam Indrajit for Shyamanand Jalan, Dakghar and Gudia Ghar for Tripti Mitra.

“Before him, the emphasis of Bengali theatre was on actors and actresses and their acting prowess. Chowdhury made people understand that stage designing was an equally important element of theatre, an aspect that was overlooked in Bengal,” says noted art critic, Samik Bandyopadhyay. “He always said there are certain plays that have more than one interpretation. For example, in Sombhu Mitra’s Raktakarabi the emphasis was more on the king, while in Tripti Mitra’s version Nandini had more importance. Chowdhury crafted the set accordingly…What distinguishes him from other stage designers is that he reads the plays in a probing manner. Sometimes he also uses symbolic objects and not only representational ones,”

Veteran theatre personality, Usha Ganguly of Rangakarmee, who has worked with Chowdhury in Sarhad Par Manto and Badnam Manto says: “For us in Rangakarmee there are two gurus. One was Tapas Sen, who expired recently; the other is Khaled Chowdhury. There are very few artists who lead their life the way they work. Khaled da is one of them. His lifestyle is similar to what he believes in.”

Markand Bhatt And Arundhati Nag For Acting

Prof. Markand Bhatt (Gujarat) who was the head and dean of MS University's Faculty of Performing Arts for several years has been selected for the award in acting. Bhatt has been associated with theatre and acting for last six decades. He has extensively traveled both within and outside the country with his theatrical presentation. He was the first chairman of Gujarat Sangeeth Natak Akademi when it was started in 1992.

One of the few talented multi-lingual actors that Indian theatre Arundhathi Nag, was also awarded this year. I remember the exemplary acting Arundhathi Nag did in Girish Karnad’s Bikhre Bimb that won her the Meta award for best actress for her in 2008. She excelled as Manjula Nayak an ordinary Kannada writer who suddenly becomes wealthy and internationally famous by writing a best-seller in English and also as her own image that plays as the confessor, psychologist and inquisitor. She was carrying the whole play literally on her shoulders acting as the live character of Manjula and as the image that appear in TV screen. Today along with her acting assignments in theatre and films she manages her dream theatre ‘Ranga Shankara’ in Banglaore -- the theatre that is filling the void of alternative and intimate theatre spaces in the country.

S. Ramanujam and Probir Guha, The directors

“It is yet another life,” says Ramanujam about his dramas. He started his career as a school teacher in Gandhigram in Dindigul district and later studied theatre arts at National School of Drama, Delhi, (1963-1967) with Alkazi as his guru, and specialized in Children’s theatre.

He was the one of the main associates of G.Sankara Pillai and was instrumental in envisaging The School of drama at Trissur and had worked as an assistant director of the school. Also he was the Head of the Department of Drama, Tamil University, Thanjavur. He is now involved in the revival of Kaisika Natakam, a 4-century-old Tamil traditional theatre form.

He has conducted a number of theatre workshops and directed plays in Tamil, Malayalam, Hindi, Telugu and English. Important plays written by him include Mouna-k-kural, Chembavalakali etc. He Directed over 40 plays in Tamil, Malayalam, and Hindi including Karutha Daivathe thedi (Sankara Pillai),Veriyattam, adaptation of Trojan Women using native oppari dirges, and Max Frisch’s Andorra.

This award is recognition to his endeavor in theatre that came very late. With great gratitude, I acknowledge the love, care and encouragement he had showered on me, and that I am privileged to be his student.

The second director awarded is my friend Probir Guha, on whom I have written a blog earlier.

Playwrights - Mudra Rakshas (Hindi) and Narsingh Dev Jamwal (Dogri)

For Playwriting the award went to Mudra Rakshas who writes plays and novels in Hindi. He had also adapted many other plays into Hindi.

Born on February 28, 1931 in Bhalwal Village of Jammu district, Narsingh Dev Jamwal widely recognized within and outside the State as a writer, sculptor, playwright, novelist, short story writer, essayist, lyricist and actor. His contribution to the development of Dogri language and literature has been recognized by the many awards he won including one by Sahitya Akademi, way back in 1978. Narsingh Dev Jamwal has so for contributed 9 books of poetry, 4 of Short-stories, 3 Novels and 27 books as playwright of Dogri and is considered as one of the leading writer and theatre artistes of the country.

Amba Sanyal for Costume Designing

Amba Sanyal who studied at the College of Art (New Delhi) and the Beaux Arts (France) is a visiting faculty in NSD and is an exemplary costume designer for film and theatre. Her recent works include “Layla Majnun”, penned by Ismail Choonara and directed by Ram Gopal Bajaj, and Kalidasa’s Vikramorvashiyam directed by KS Rajendran. Her sense of color, fabric and design that kept in mind the physical movement of the actors, and her coordination with lighting designer makes her work outstanding.

Other awardees this year include Bansi Lal Khiladi (Khayal, Rajasthan) Shakuntala Nagarkar, Lavani (Maharastra); Birbar Sahoo, Gotipua (Orissa); Mangi Bai Arya, Mand (Rajasthan); L. Heramot Meitei, Thang-Ta (Martial Art, Manipur); Lakha Khan Manganiyar, Folk Music (Rajasthan); Hildamit Lepcha, Lepcha Music (Sikkim); Kartar Singh, Gurbani (Punjab) and Lakshman Das, Hari Katha (Karnataka), artists from traditional theatre.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

One India, One Kavalam

Spacing Theatre is happy to share the news that playwright, poet & theatre director Padmabhushan Kavalam Narayana Panikkar has been awarded the one India one people award by the one India one people foundation, Mumbai for his unique contribution to the progress, glory and unity of India.
The award carries an amount of rs. 1 lakh and a citation.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Probir Guha gets National Award....

I am extremely happy to share the news that our friend Probir Guha from Kolkota (Artistic Director of Alternative Living Theatre) has been awarded with Sangeeth Natak Akademy award for theatre this year.

Probir is a long term friend of Lokadharmi and has visited our group many times to do workshops, to exchange ideas and collaborate. Also he had come with his productions of Kalo Basti, Ahalya, and Waves of Darkness way back in 1996, and again with Tridiya Yudha in January 2008.

He may be collaborating with Lokadharmi in a production of Oorubhangam in the near future; we have been communicating about this for the last one year.

And Probir is coming to Kochi as the Director of a 21 days workshop with selected actors from the district. The workshop starts from January 23rd. This workshop is part of Natakakalam, a project of District library Council and C-hed of Corporation of Kochi.

We are extremely happy and proud of you Probir...

Lokadharmi is organizing a reception to honor Probir on the eve of 28th of January at Changampuzha Park, Edappally, where we will screen the video of one of his important productions.

We welcome everyone to join this event to congratulate Probir. He is one among us...

Know the man from his words

Here are some of the quotes from Probir which he keeps on saying. His words will speak about him and his theatre.

Probir Guha says

· "Imperialism has been adopting the same old tactics of divide and rule. This is exactly what is happening in Iraq. The American occupation forces are unabashedly capturing oil resources, ravaging the culture of the people, destroying their liberty."

· "My experiences and experiments have resulted in the extension of Living Theatre to a new concept called Journey Theatre, which provides actors more opportunity to establish direct contact with the spectators."

· "I have learnt from my own tradition, recreating it for modern times. Theatre is very much region specific and culture specific. What I learnt from Grotowski is his devotion and commitment to the theatre which is free from illusory devices and which captures life in an authentic manner. His use of the human body has also influenced me. The body movements are not acrobatics but these are spiritual incarnations of the performers."

· "In terms of theatre philosophy we (Probir and Badal Sircar) appear to be similar, but in approach we are different. His theatre is limited to the urban educated audience. I do theatre for the common man in villages as well as for the city people. My approach is not rigid as far as presentational style is concerned. Sometimes I stage on pavements, roadsides, streets, rooftops, and sometimes I use intimate theatre and proscenium - I use all these areas as space. I love to explore spaces."

· "Schchner uses a conceptualised theatre, he designs the space. In contrast, my theatre space is improvised. I use nature as it is."

· "Alternative Living Theatre is not the name of a group, it is a movement. It will grow as people become conscious of their right to use theatre as a medium of self-expression. It has nothing to do with economic viability. It liberates spectators from their passivity, inspiring them to be in direct contact with the actors. The movement for a strong Alternative Living Theatre will grow in the future."

· "Our own indigenous culture is beautiful and if we have to fight globalisation it has to be with the power of our own tradition,"

· "It is a social duty for me and I have seen the changes that have come through it. We are searching for a way to inspire spectators to get up and react and act. I do not go for a storyline because that has its own pressures. The idea is my hero, not the character playing the part."

· "I was a political activist but got disillusioned with political parties and thought theatre might be another medium to make a difference with."

· Theatre is a journey, it is storytelling. It is a real secular space that cannot lie. It is truth from your perspective.”

· “mere sloganeering will not help, it has to be artistic.”

· “I exercise caution in my use of words because word carries power and each word creates a response in our bodies

· “When they (the new artists to ALT) come they are free to interact, question, and learn. Some do leave but the ones that stay on help take ALT forward. We are like an extended family. We all know to starve and survive on a frugal meal. Each one of us knows poverty, so coping with lean periods is no problem at all”

· “Theatre has to be intimate. It may not bring a revolution by itself, but it certainly is a rehearsal for revolution.”

The words of Probir quoted extensively above clearly speak about the theatre of Probir- his priorities, approaches and concerns. After the illustrious start Probir had also undergone through a very gloomy and sad phase where his theatre was almost in a standstill and lost in dilemma. As many other artists funded by Ford foundation, Probir was also adrift in the crossroads, deserted and alone. This sad phase made me and many other people question about the hidden agendas and the political implications of external funds.

The theatre of Probir was intense and sharply political for the imperial agencies could stand and promote. Anyway this is not the time to discuss about the pleasures and perils of funding, but I want to say that Probir had overcome the bad patch and was able to recoup and rebuild his theatre, almost starting from the scratch.

And in this second coming Probir did not loose his political ideology nor dilute his vision about the form, content, methodology, working ethics, aesthetics, ideology and the essence of theatre. I had seen him working harder with a clearer perspective in this phase of theatre.

In the first phase his theatre was more violent and rustic. In the funded period he had the chance to study the various martial arts and traditional forms of the country more closely and also was able to train the actors in these respects. To the earlier physical format that might have been in lineage to Grotowski, Probir could definitely add the flavor of many Indian traditional forms like Chou, Kalaripayattu to the repertory of the art and craft of his actors. This gives a further ambience of authenticity, and a root into the culture of the land and this accent further the political angle of his plays.

And I wish Probir goes ahead with his theatre, stronger, clearer, brighter and upright with candid perspective and commitment, typical of him.

With this Sangeeth Natak Akademy award Probir joins the bandwagon of the illustrious theatre directors from Bengal including Sombhu Mitra, Shyamanand Jalan, Ajitesh Bandopadhyay, Rudraprasad Sengupta, Tarun Roy, Usha Ganguly, and Arun Mukherjee.

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