Saturday, May 14, 2011

Badal Sircar (15 July 1925-13 May 2011).

Badal Sircar

The legendary playwright and director, who revolutionalised Indian theatre with his lucid scripts with sharp direct political analysis and with a newer and simple form that made theatre close to the reality of the audience, passes away at his Kolkota home yesterday night. My salutations to the great inspiration, who vigorously propounded the alternative theatre, political in its form content and aesthetics, a direct and transparent theatre, that link the audience with the performance.

His plays including Evam indrajith, Michil, Pagla Ghoda Stale news, Saaari raat etc was questioning the integrity and honesty of the establishment and revealed the very base of hypocrisy on which the existing social structure is built upon. He related the incidents and characters to the day to day experiences of an average Indian and at the same time was analysing them in a universal perspective, as a continuation of history everywhere, the history of class conflicts and struggles. He was searching the human being as a continuum along ages, and surveyed the colonial history of India to discuss the current problems of the Kolkota youth. Thus he was specific at one level and at the same time was reading the political history of mankind as a continuum that made plays relevant and meaningful.

Badal Sarkar was born in Calcutta, studied civil engineering and a Master in comparative literature, started his career as a town planner in India, England and Nigeria. But his love was theatre and he started as an actor, moved to direction, but soon started writing plays, starting with comedies. His two year stay in London, acquainted him with the theatre of London especially the left theatre of people like Joan Littlewood, Anthony Serchio, and also the experiments in form by Richard Schechner and Polish theatre director Jerzy Grotowski. We can see that the works of Badal Sircar was derived from the special utility of space and loose placid style of Schechner, the physical theatre of Growtovsky who focused theatre on the body of the actor in concept and practices of ‘poor theatre’. Thus with the focus on physical theatre, a space out of proscenium, a loosely knitted structure, clear political understanding and analysis, a theatre which is closer to the lower middle class, linking history to the contemporary reality, he formulated his ‘Third theatre’ . These characteristics were very new in Indian theatre and differentiate the works of Badal from his contemporaries like Sombhu Mitra, Utpal Dutt, Mohan Rakesh, Girish Karnad, and Vijay Tendulkar. His angst-ridden Evam Indrajit (And Indrajit), written in 1963, first published and performed in 1965, a play on the "the loneliness of post-Independence urban youth with dismaying accuracy" became a landmark play in Indian theatre.

He started his acting career in 1951, when he acted in his own play, Bara Trishna, performed by Chakra, a theatre group. In 1967, he formed "Shatabdi" theatre group, and the first production he directed was Ebang Indrajit in 1967, a play about three people - Amal, Bimal, Kamal and a loner Indrajit.

Taking theatre out of the proscenium into public arena, he evolved the angan manch (courtyard stage) inspired by the direct communication techniques of Jatra rural theatre form. "Third Theatre", in form and principle, was a protest against prevalent commercial theatre establishment. Often performed in "found" spaces rather than rented theatre halls, without elaborate lighting, costumes or make-up, where audience was no longer passive but participatory, added a new realism to contemporary dramaturgy. At the same time retaining thematic sophistication of social committed theatre, he started a new wave of experimental theatre in Indian theatre. Starting with Sagina Mahato, which marked his advent into arena stage, the subsequent plays, Michhil (Juloos), Bhoma, Basi Khobor, Spartacus, etc. were performed in parks, street corners and remote villages with the audience sitting all around.

In 1976, "Satabdi", started performing at Surendranath Park (then Curzon Park) Kolkata on weekends; these open-air and free performances lead to his troupe travelling to nearby villages on other weekends, where it employed minimal props and improvised dialogues to involve audience further into the performance.

He broke the barriers between performers and spectators. According to him theatre must be a collective exercise to awaken and enhance the social consciousness of participants, including the viewers.

The plays like Baaki Itihaash (Remaining History) (1965), Pralap (Delirium) (1966), Tringsha Shatabdi (Thirtieth Century) (1966), Pagla Ghoda (Mad Horse) (1967), Shesh Naai (There's No End) (1969), all were performed by Sombhu Mitra's Bohurupee group.

He is one director and playwright who had a great impact in contemporary Indian theatre, almost a fanfare among theatre enthusiasts all over India, people travelling to Kolkota to meet Badalda, and do workshops with him, study his theatre, techniques that made the politics of the play crystal clear, and travelled back with increased energy and conviction about what India theatre should be. Many theatre activists like Probir Guha (Bengal), Balwant Thakur (jammu) etc, inspired by his work in form, content and political ideology expound their theatre and take his legacy beyond and forward.

Theruvujadha, adaptation of Badal Sircars Michil, directd by Chandradasan, for Gramavedi vallarpadam, 1987. Art Shobha Menon

I remember that it is the play “Theruvujadha” performed by Gramavedi Vallarpadam Kochi (1987) an adaptation of his Michil, launched me as a director of theatre. It is this play which was performed more than 300 times all over Kerala from cities to rural interiors placed me strongly in the theatre scenario of Kerala.

I remember the late eighties in Kerala were almost teeming with Badal Sircar and his theatre. Productions including Bhoma (Jose Chiramel), Evam Indrajith (Babu Aluva), Stale news (Paulson Thannikkal ) Beyond Hattamala (Surjith) etc was performed many times successfully.

Sircar directed his last play in 2003, and after that his movements were restricted after a road accident, but even many years in 2011, he continued performing at play readings and writing new works like adapting, William Shakespeare's Macbeth, two stories by Graham Greene and a novel, History of Love. According to him, reading plays is another way of reaching out to the audience, especially younger ones.

He was diagnosed with colon cancer in April 2011. He died on 13th May at Kolkata at the age of 85.

He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1972, Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1968 and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship- Ratna Sadsya, the highest honour in the performing arts by Govt. of India, in 1997.

He was offered the Padma Bhushan by the Government of India in 2010, which he declined, stating that he is already a Sahitya Akademi Fellow, which is the biggest recognition for a writer.

The playwright was honoured with the Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Award for lifetime achievement for 40 years of creative contribution to the country's contemporary theatre movement.

The first Ammannur Puraskaram, instituted by the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi to honour leading theatre personalities at the national level for their lifetime achievement, in the memory of the late maestro of Kutiyattam, Guru Ammannur Madhava Chakyar, was given to Badal Sircar on the inaugural day of Itfok 2010, the International theatre Festival of Kerala at Trchur on December 22nd 2010, and that was his last visit to Kerala.

When theatre goes more frenzied about the art craft and technique, gets more apolitical, and becoming ornamental and out of substance, the writings of Badal Sircar remains to re-educate the Indian theatre aspirant.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A workshop of chavittunatakam

This video is recorded by Anne dubos, a French Scholar and researcher; this is from the workshop of Chavittunatakam for theatre actors conducted by Lokadharmi.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Watch out for Vinay Forrt

Manu Vipin

Upcoming actor Vinay Forrt. Upcoming actor Vinay Forrt. KOCHI: With an innate talent, drive and passion for acting, Vinay Forrt is a name to watch out for in Mollywood. You must have noticed his acting prowess in the movie ‘Apporvaragam’ written by GS Anand and Najeem Koya, and directed by Sibi Malayil. The multi-starrer movie had actors Nishan, Asif Ali, Vinay Forrt and Nithya Menon in the lead.

Vinay’s debut Malayalam film was ‘Ritu’ directed by Shyamaprasad but he considers ‘Apporvaragam’ as a milestone in his career as the character of Narayanan in the movie was a challenging one.

“It was a bold character with shades of black but I enjoyed doing it and was well appreciated by the audience,” says Vinay. But he says there was a negative impact to it.

“I started getting more negative roles and I was not so excited about it,” says Vinay who has already acted in more than a dozen films and for a newcomer with no film background it is no easy feat. Luckily for him, the negative tag did not last long and you will soon see him in the lead in some of the movies slated for release in the next few months.

blossom For Vinay acting is his first love. “I also love dance and martial arts,” says the actor who is more into contemporary dancing but is interested in all other dance forms as well. With basic training in all leading martial art forms he now longs to explore the mystical depths of kalaripayattu. A focused actor who is ready to put in all his efforts to the character that he portrays, Vinay says even as a child he was artistically inclined. But his parents and teachers failed to notice his passion.

Unlike many actors who entered the films just by chance, Vinay knew what he wanted to do with his life even as a nine-year-old. A native of Fort Kochi, Vinay says he had to battle all odds to pursue his passion.

“I studied in a conservative school. Other than academics it did not promote any extracurricular activities,” recollects Vinay.

When he was a student of Std IV, he joined the Bala Sangam and was a part of their Kala Jatha. “That was the beginning. I could travel a lot performing at many places. I was initiated into music and dance during my stint at Bala Sangam,” he says. His stint at ‘Lokadharmi- The Centre For Theatre Research And Performance’ headed by Chandradasan was a turning point in his life.

It is at Lokadharmi that he got the chance to enact good roles in several plays and could hone his acting skills. He even got selected as the best theatre actor and awarded national scholarship by the Department Of Culture and Human Resource Development for advanced training in theatre during 2004-2006.

“Apart from learning acting what I found in Lokadharmi was a community of like-minded people. The theatre group played a vital role in sustaining the creative spirit within me,” says Vinay.

It was during this time that Chandra Mohan Nair, former chief of the acting department of FTTI, came to Kochi to head an acting workshop in which Vinay also took part. “After seeing my performance in the play staged by Lokhadharmi titled ‘Porandi’ written by Kavalam Narayana Paniker, Nair asked me to apply for admission in the Film and Television Institute, Pune,” says Vinay who got the second position in the all-India entrance test of FTTI. There he got to learn from the stalwarts of Indian cinema. He also did roles in short films like ‘Show Must Go On’, ‘Paper Boat’, ‘Maram Peyyumbol’, ‘Totha Maina’, ‘Man With An Axe’, ‘Lost Kingdom’, ‘Lonesome Colours’, ‘Carchu FX’ among others.

The character in ‘Ritu’, which he got soon after passing from the film institute, gave Vinay the much deserved break that he was looking for. Before ‘Ritu’ he had acted in an yet to be released Hindi feature film titled ‘Chatak’ directed by Reema Borra who has worked as an assistant to Rakeysh Om Prakash Mehra. Vinay also acted in Anup Kurien’s film, ‘The Hunt’ before entering Mollywood. “It was a great learning experience. I could shoot with one of the versatile actors in the country, Naseeruddin Shah, for four days,” says an excited Vinay. Watch out for Vinay in the movie ‘Kanakompathu’ in the lead role. In  ‘Karmayoji’ by V K Prakash based on the theatrical adaptation of Hamlet, Vinay again has a challenging role. “The acting pattern is different in the movie. It is more theatrical,” he says.

There are many more movies up his sleeve and each role is different. “From an auto driver to a DJ, you will find me in a variety of roles soon,” says Vinay.

Apart form acting, Vinay is also doing anchoring for a reality show on Surya TV. No doubt he has unpredictable work schedule, yet he is finding time to keep alive his passion for theatre as well. We wish this young talent, all the very best.

Courtesy  Express News Service : 03 May 2011