The National School of Drama's Bharat Rang Mahotsav that concluded this past week was the best thing to have happened on the theatre scene, though presentations by many leading directors were a sore disappointment.
The festival was a tremendous success both fro m the point of view of contents and the audience participation.
This past week the curtain came down on the 8th Bharat Rang Mahotsav of the National School of Drama, the largest celebration in Asia of some of the best in global theatre, if one may say so. The festival has now been recognised as a regular international ev ent by the International Theatre Institute, UNESCO and this year's event was perhaps the best festival organised so far by NSD.As far as the Indian contribution was concerned, it was divided into three sections - established directors, emerging direct ors and drama institutions. And as Amal Allana, chairperson NSD says in her closing report, "to select the participants, NSD for the first time chose a body of experts and consultants, who went through a selection process that began with collecting infor mation and recommendations from theatre watchers in different theatre centres and ended with watching a large collection of DVDs and VCDs". The selection committee referred by Ms. Allana consisted of Chairperson NSD, Director NSD, Samaik Bandyopadhyay an d this writer (both drama critics and theatre writers), Raj Bisaria and Tripurari Sharma who teaches at NSD.
Role of selection
If the selection of plays in quite a fe w cases misfired the fault was not entirely that of the organisers but also of the selection committee. While welcoming the association of outside experts and consultants in the selection process one feels that much more thought needs to be given to the procedure but it is indeed a step that will be welcomed by all those interested in the development of theatre both as practitioners and viewers.Unfortunately this critic could not see as many plays that he would have liked to but from what one saw one fe els that the festival was a tremendous success both from the point of view of contents and the audience participation.The festival featured more than 60 plays from different parts of the country as also from Asia and the Arab world. Whereas even if the s election, by and large, was kaleidoscopic of the new theatre scene in India and some of the Asian and Arab countries it was indeed an eye opener for all theatre lovers; but at the same time some perhaps may have felt that some of the subjects or geograph ical regions may have been a little over played, like for instance the Shakespearian plays out of which there were three Othellos - in Malayalam, Hindi and Japanese. Then again there were two Romeo and Juliets, one in Hindi and the other in Korean. Pe rsonally one has no objection to it for it gives us an opportunity to see different approaches to Shakespeare but some in the audience felt that it was over doing Shakespeare.
Then again there were seven to eight Bengali plays that some of the non-Bengali knowing theatregoers felt were a little too many. This may be so but at the same time it gave us an opportunity to see some of the excellent work bei ng done by the younger generation in West Bengal as for instance in plays like "Gotraheen" (adaptation from Arthur Miller's "A View From The Bridge") directed by Rudraprasad Sengupta.As for the Hindi presentations, most of these we had seen earlier in De lhi and commented upon in these columns. The general standard was, by and large, very good and some of the other outstanding presentations come from Manipur with Ratan Thiyan flying the banner high with his "Nine Hills One Valley". But the greatest disap pointment of the festival were the presentations by some of our leading directors like Habib Tanvir, M.K. Raina, Naseeruddin Shah, Bhabesh Chakraborty and Usha Ganguly.Yet another highlight of the festival was the three-day international seminar titled " Theatre in Turmoil" inaugurated by Richard Sechechner, a distinguished theatre scholar and director, with a large participation of theatre directors, scholars, critics and designers from China, Japan, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, South Korea and India. It was indeed an inspiring and educative theatre seminar that one has ever attended. More about it later.