While 2012 has seen production budgets expand, dramatists tell Pheroze L. Vincent that experimentation may become a norm this year

The previous year has seen some interesting trends in theatre and productions that have made a mark. We’ve also seen many new faces on the Delhi stage, carving niches in a crowded theatre space. Three popular directors told The Hindu MetroPlus about what they took home from last year and what they expect from this one.

Bhanu Bharti, who directed Tughlaq, a grand production at the Ferozshah Kotla ruins in October and November last year, says that the success of his play proves that given the means and funding, it is possible for a serious play to attract large crowds. “Theatre has a different connection to people, that hasn’t lost its sheen to TV or cinema. It caters to a deeply felt cultural need of society,” he explains.

Value addition

Tughlaq had a enviable cast, with cine actors Yashpal Sharma and TV star Himani Shivpuri. This was enabled as the production was sponsored by the Delhi government. Bharti says that it is still better and easier on the exchequer, than inviting film celebrities who charge a lot more for a lesser performance time. “Funding will pave the way for innovation and enable theatre to reach a professional level.” He adds.

His views are echoed by Nissar Allana, who runs the Dramatic Arts and Design Academy and is the driving force behind the Ibsen festival. “We’re following an international trend of shifting the focus from purely the actors to the production. The value of production has gone up and even smaller groups are gathering the wherewithal for stage design and lighting,” he says.

However, Allana warns that though there are many new plays available, they don’t match the literary genius of earlier works. “Creating performance scripts rather than literary works is the trend. Groups work on scripts these days, not individual playwrights.”

He added that young directors from the North East are the ones to look out for. “After greats like (Heisnam) Kanhailal and Ratan Thiyam, a new wave of directors is emerging. They use indigenous forms of theatre and performing art. The play is still modern, but beautifully incorporates the aesthetic sense and understanding of traditional art.”

Dramaturge N. P. Ashley, also a lecturer at St. Stephen’s College, feels that physical theatre, which actively uses the nuances of the body of an actor, will gain prominence.

“Look we are competing with TV and cinema. On YouTube, everyone is an artist. The body is the only element that has not been replicated by technology. This does not mean we will fetish-ise the body, but a more energetic use of the body for expression is gaining prominence,” he explains.

In 2013 he expects Delhi’s theatre to be more responsive and socially oriented. In the recent protests against the gang-rape of a student, theatre group Asmita played an active role staging street plays on women’s rights amidst the protests and police action. “People think it’s all been done. But this is not propaganda. We are going beyond finality of art. To be relevant, theatre needs to imagine society and think about society’s issues,” he says.

An important trend, particularly in campus theatre, which is being mainstreamed are devised performances. “Earlier, acting without scripts or taking from many scripts were exceptions. Now it is becoming the norm. It is becoming more process oriented – where how we say it conveys more about the play than what we say. Departure from scripts, or doing without them is something we will see a lot of,” he adds.