An impulse, an association. The body is the tool — to transform an impulse into an image. When Jyoti Dogra performs “The Doorway,” the sound, noise, movement, gesture and twists are meant to spur an image, an association — a personal one at that — for the audience.
“The Doorway”, devised and performed by Jyoti, evolves with each performance. “It is a piece based on my understanding of Grotowski (experimental theatre director). It is devised and is not based on a story, but builds on an impulse, the associations and images created by that impulse,” says Jyoti, who performs the play this afternoon at the ongoing Bharat Rang Mahotsav.
If an idea is at the core of plays in general, here, “you begin with an experience and then give it shape. If I say a blue sky, it can mean expansive, wide, happiness. So what do I do to bring that experience to the body, bring it back to the unconscious?”
Impressions in the body
Engaging with Grotowski's technique over the past two years, Jyoti explains, “At a very basic level, he says, all our memories are impressions rooted in the body. A classic example is you are never told what to feel, you just feel.” Movements make “The Doorway.”
However, there is no particular art/dance form adhered to. “There are a lot of movements in the play. If a cockroach falls on you, you don't decide how to react. But you react in an energised, natural way. Let the body lead, the mind follows,” says Jyoti.
Taken on as a research project funded by the India Foundation for the Arts, the play had no text to begin with, says Jyoti. “I have a script now, after two years of work.” “The Doorway” shirks the linear for the disjointed. Death, sexuality and emptiness are the only constants in the play where the approach to them is often tweaked. “There are changes, some new segments come in, others are cut out and replaced. Some that looked beautiful earlier now appear ugly, violent or vice versa,” she says.
She opened the play last year in Mumbai, from where it journeyed to smaller centres — Thrissur, Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, Puducherry, Ujjain and Bhopal. It is at these places, says Jyoti, that the response was forthright. “They were either very moved, very offended or very, very pissed.” If after one performance, she was advised to get married, at another, watching the depiction of sexuality, told it was unbecoming of her to portray it. “In the bigger towns they are more guarded.”
In a play about associations for the audience, quiz her on her impulses when enacting them, and Jyoti is not very forthcoming. “It is inspired by a lot of personal history,” she says.