world theatre day


Love for humanity, Love for art, Love for language, Love for the sake of Love. This World Theatre Day, presenting before you a tale of ‘living letters’ which encapsulate love in most variegated forms. 

Why ‘Tumhari Amrita’? 

In times, when Bertolt Brecht and Jean Paul Sartre; Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett become so relevant in a geopolitical and existential crisis, where and entire human populace is at halt, what makes an epistolary play about two ‘simple’ lovers so special? The answer might not be substantiated by the mere witnessing of this modern play, that initially even made its makers skeptical about its reception and future but would actually require a study in entirety surpassing the actual stage. 

When acclaimed Indian Playwright and director Feroz Abbas Khan got hold of American writer A. R. Gurney’s Pulitzer Nominated Love Letters, he thought of developing something akin and approached veteran screenwriter Javed Siddiqui, who re-narrativised the play in an Indian context and etched the greatest Indian Play of modern times. 

Two people reading out letters on a stage amidst an audience that has never seen something like this before seemed very experimental and interesting, especially when the only two actors comprised of legends like Shabana Azmi and Farooq Sheikh. 

Love for Language

Perhaps, Love has no language and can never be explained through words and utterances but if there is any known colloquial diction that can provide this emotion a script, it lies in this expression by Khushwant Singh, “Agar Aap Urdu Seekhna Chahte hai toh Ishq Kar Lijiye, aur agar Ishq karna chahte hai toh Urdu Seekh Lijiye.”

When Khan modelled the Indianised version of the Love Letters he believed Urdu to be the only medium that could ‘move the audience emotionally’ and ‘paint word pictures’, the language was popular both among the theater practitioners and viewers equally, he fused Urdu with a touch of Hindustani and hence the ‘jazbaats‘ were draped in these ‘khutoots‘. Moments of silence sometimes speak more and give us the language of love. 

Love for Humanity

Amrita Nigam and Zulfikar Haider are attached with nothing but the string of love which has shreds of passion, understanding and respect; despite belonging to different religions and culture, the shared emotion transcends a timeline of thirty five years from a period before independence and then attaining it with partition following till emergency. 

The play has not only been humanitarian in act but also in approach with more than thirty percent of the entire screening done for charity, the play has traveled the entire globe and has raised money for victims of Earthquakes in Lathur and Pakistan, the Kashmiri Pandits and a special drive at the United Nations. 

Love for Art

The play was an experiment in Indian theatre and has brought the stalwarts Khan, Siddiqui, Azmi and Sheikh together to create the longest running modern play in Indian History, the journey that began in 1992 lasted upto Shaikh’s death in 2013. Over the years, the play has brought immense honor to the art and to the country, with acclaim and emotional offerings the makers received and is still registered on the memories of the audience. 

Love for the sake of Love

In today’s world, envy and jealousy has rigged the human system, the low means and harsh actions are resultant of the lost love and compassion that can only be filled back by something like ‘Tumhari Amrita’, Zulfi and America’s love for each other was propotianate to their respective emotions that resonated in their actions while arguing and getting back. 

It cannot be mere coincidence that this epic tale of love had it’s final screening at the Taj Nature Walk, against the backdrop of Taj Mahal. The fortunate will always remember the departed Farooq Shaikh and living legends – Shabana Azmi, Javed Sahab and Feroz Abbas Khan. 

Image Credits: The Caravan Magazine

Faizan Salik

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On World Theatre Day, we must apprise ourselves of the enthralling, incomparable beauty of traditional Indian theatre forms and acknowledge the need to resurrect them into mainstream culture. 

“I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.” – Oscar Wilde

Theatre is a branch of performing arts that comprises of acting out stories. It stimulates creativity and is one of the most popular modes of entertainment and jubilation. But theatre is much more than this; it is a platform for expression of different nuances of our everyday life through the subtle fusion of drama and/or music and dance. 

Since ancient times, our Indian culture has given huge impetus to the performing arts. From performing in the courts of kings to an auditorium stage, Indian theatre has grown a lot and the diversity of its forms is mesmerizing. Natyashastra, written by Bharata Muni around 500 BCE is the earliest contribution to Indian theatre that vividly describes the theory behind a theatrical performance and depicts the mind of a performer. Indian theatre is usually categorized into three specific periods – Classical, Cultural and Modern; each period bringing in different areas of interests and traditions. The classical theatre was marked by composition and performance in the language of Gods – Sanskrit and had playwrights like Kalidasa (also known as Indian Shakespeare), Sudraka, Bhasa and Bhavabhuti influenced by epics and mythologies. Cultural period saw the rise of folk theatre in vernacular languages with themes like romance, heroism etc. Beginning in the late eighteenth century during the time of British consolidation in India, realism and nationalism pervaded modern theatre and had legends like Rabindranath Tagore, Kalyanam Raghuramariah, Dinabandhu Mitra etc. composing revolutionary works. Such was the acclaim and influence of Indian theatre that the British Government was forced to impose the Dramatic Performances Act in 1876 to prevent the use of theatre as a tool of protest. 

Traditional Indian theatre is so rich in diversity and vigour that almost every state in India and further different ethnic groups have myriad forms of traditional theatre. But in all these forms the element of ‘simplicity’ is innate that leads to the development of an immediate, realistic and rhythmic relationship with the spectators. Regional peculiarities create a connection that is unhindered by social and economic divisions. One of the most magnificent facet of traditional Indian theatre is the beauteous use of dance and music. For instance, Tamasha a traditional folk theatre form of Maharashtra comprises of classical music, footwork at lightning-speed, and vivid gestures while in Bhand Jashn a traditional Kashmiri theatre form, the art of making the entry by dancing has been perfected as the way each character walks and enters the platform identifies him. Indian theatre has not remained untouched by urbanization and other changes and tried to improvise the aspects in innovative styles. Nautanki is usually associated with Uttar Pradesh. The stories revolve around mythological and folk tales and contemporary heroes. There was a time when only men acted in Nautanki but nowadays, women have also started taking part in the performances.  Swang from Haryana, Rasleela from Uttar Pradesh, Bhavai from Gujarat, Maach from Madhya Pradesh are just some other theatre forms in the grand myriad of Indian theatre culture. Koodiyattam or Kutiyattam, is a traditional performing art form from Kerala. It has been recognised by UNESCO as a ‘Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity’ as it is one of the oldest theatre forms, based on Sanskrit theatre traditions. 

Cinema and television have certainly emerged as the greatest adversaries of theatre and a falling appreciation of these art forms is witnessed. Their reach and knowledge has become limited and is popular only in the circles of theatre admirers. Theatre is such an art form that not only expresses meaning through narration but also brings people together. It leads to development of skills like listening, imagination and empathy. Moreover, its contribution to the economy and growth of neglected areas cannot be missed. The government as well as the citizens, especially the students can play a huge role in this endeavor of remembering our customs. 

Thus, in order to strengthen our roots and concretise the cohesiveness of our culture, recognition and popularization of traditional Indian theatre is very essential, otherwise we would lose these precious jewels of our sublime Indian culture to westernisation forever.

Feature Image Credits: indiaheritagedesk.com

Ipshika Ghosh

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