Theatre director Sanjay Upadhyay laments the absence of worthy names in Natya Naad
“Music has always been an intrinsic part of Indian theatre but the contribution of the practitioners of this vital art remains largely underrated. It is encouraging to know that Bharat Rang Mahotsav has organised a special focus on Natya Naad — stage music this year,” says Sanjay Upadhyay, a stage music director and theatre director from Bihar who has come to Delhi to speak on stage music at a seminar as a part of the mahotsav organised by National School of Drama. “However, it remains to be seen whether NSD, which has hitherto not paid adequate attention to stage music, recognises it as a highly specialised field of artistic expression to develop its grammar and provide better training facilities.”
An NSD graduate, Sanjay is the director of Nirman Kala Manch and Safarmaina based in Bihar. A leading theatre worker of his state with deep grounding in folk music and traditional theatre, Sanjay has worked as stage music director for eminent directors like Bhanu Bharti, Robin Das, Bansi Kaul, B.M. Shah, Ram Gopal Bajaj, , Satyadev Dubey, Barry John, D.R. Ankur and Avtar Sahni.
As stage director his acclaimed works include “Bedesia”, “Parti Parikatha”, “Kahan Gaya Mere Ugna” and “Harsingar”. He has evolved a new style to dramatise literary luminaries and their works. Music is the soul of the majority of his productions. “Folk music is in my blood, which I have imbibed from my mother — a singer in love with folk music of Bihar — and Sanskrit literature from my father. When I direct my plays, music comes in a spontaneous way, which blends with the text. I do not know whether I am a stage music director or theatre director at intense creative moments while working on my plays. But direction is my first love,” says Sanjay.
Commenting as an expert in theatre music on Natya Naad, the inaugural piece of Mahotsav, he says, “It is a documentary on the works of great music exponents of contemporary Indian theatre but lacks insight. It appears that it is conceived in a hurry without exploring the vast field of Indian stage music, an ocean. It is strange that the organisers have forgotten the contribution of Bharatendu Harishchandra, the father of modern Indian theatre, to the stage music and his incessant struggle as a playwright, actor, director and music composer. Similarly, Jaishankar Prasad's rich heritage of poetry which he wrote for theatre, and Nirala's theatre music, who was able to establish Hindi theatre in Kolkata, do not find mention.”
Sanjay is sad that in the festival, the Hindi belt is given a step-motherly treatment.” I am not unhappy over the choice of plays selected for the festival simply because my works are not considered good enough to feature at the festival but I am disappointed because the whole tradition of Indian theatre represented by Bharatendu, Jaishankar Prasad and Nirala is ignored. Similarly, centuries old traditional forms of Hindi regions, which are very vibrant, do not find place init. After all, it is the mahotsav of Bharat, the whole of India, and not only of metropolises which are capable of producing slick and smart theatre.”