Ace theatre-director Parnab Mukherjee wonders why Hyderabad’s public space is not being used for theatre

Ace theatre director Parnab Mukherjee’s wears different hats with ease. He calls himself, ‘a theatre nomad, political spoken word performer, independent media analyst, art curator and a performance consultant by profession.’ His solos, be it on human trafficking, HIV and segregation, on South Asian genocides and issues concerning north-east India especially on the impact of AFSPA (1958) seem to hold a mirror to the society.

With 135 productions of performance texts, performance-encounters, performance-interventions including five international collaborations, his new production — to be staged at the end of next month — will deal about the proposed Coca Cola plant to come up in Nellore. “I have collected some field studies and I know about the Plachimada plant in Kerala and how it has polluted the ground water level. We are planning this one-hour production in such a way that it is not preachy street theatre and doesn’t talk down to the audience,” he states. While in the city recently, he conducted a theatre workshop for youngsters as part of Twin City Cultural Festival and also for Asmita.

If some directors prefer to work with trained actors, Parnab works differently. “I like to work with non-trained actors as there is a certain rawness which comes across in their performances. They do not have a mental block that they cannot do a certain role,” he says. Without any script, his production is a combination of speeches of different leaders, interesting essays, and Op-ed articles among others. “We discuss bhakti saints without discussing about the body. We talk about Kabir ke dohe but cannot discuss the body. Body is taboo and never part of our discourses. We talk about body in terms of lust but never in terms of mind,” he states. Parnab talks about activist Irom Sharmila with whom ‘he has been working for the past 10 years.’ “I have not seen Gandhi but I have seen Sharmila,” he says and adds, “Sharmila still finds time to do yoga in the morning and write poetry. It is reassuring to know that her gentleness has never compromised the political stance.”

Parnab calls himself a ‘critical person with hope.’ “I am a hopeful critique and a Gandhian left. I believe in ‘Gandhi-Ambedkar-left’ and cannot do one without another,” he says.

He dispels the notion that political theatre means street theatre which means sloganeering or marching with a flag. “It has a distinctive representative as a genre. It is where city’s theatre scene is defined. And, when one says street theatre, one thinks of a black kurta-jeans guy who falls and stands five times.”

He wonders why Hyderabad’s public space is not being used for theatre. “There is an exciting public space in Hyderabad and not even two per cent of it has been used for theatre.” He concludes with this suggestion for young theatre enthusiasts of the city: “It is so fascinating to see the old public libraries in Hyderabad or space behind Hotel Park where a metro station is coming up, the area in front of Secunderabad railway station or Tank Bund… these places can be utilised in a different way.

Plays can be staged here without causing any hindrance to public. It would be so wonderful to take class IV children to Salarjung Museum, narrate the story of Rebecca and stage a play right there in front of the white marble statue Rebecca."