Play asserts that it is a modern political thought and questioning of rights
MADURAI: It is always an extraordinary experience to be part of a theatre performance which is unconventional or, to be more precise, an alternative one that tries to promote a counter culture focusing on larger issues.
One of India's leading alternative theatre exponents, Parnab Mukherjee, rendered a performance titled ‘Unbound' at the American College here on Monday. The performance was based on Gandhi's Hind Swaraj, a text which was written by Gandhi in the year 1909 as a manifesto for self-rule. Chennai-based Cordis Paldano assisted him in the performance.
Swaraj, for Gandhi, was not just to address the apparent historical circumstance of British rule over India, but also to meditate upon the larger question of how capitalism, industrialism, imperialism and nationalism had come to dominate the world.
Prior to the performance, video clippings of police atrocities committed against Manipuri youth and Anand Patwardhan's music video, ‘Images you didn't see,' a series of horrifying images from the war in Iraq set to Bob Dylan's ‘Blowing in the Wind,' were shown.
‘Here,' ‘There,' ‘Everywhere,' ‘Why,' ‘When' and ‘How' were the major expressive means of ‘spoken words' at the performance which talked about issues of violence, identity, ecology and the idea of justice.
References to people's struggle in the North-East against special powers given to the armed forces in the name of combating terrorism, tribute to Irom Sharmila, who has been observing fast for the past nine years against military repression in Manipur, silences maintained during the 1983 Nellie massacre and 1984-Bhopal gas tragedy formed the oeuvre.
Cordis, playing as Sayed, a second-generation Moroccan Muslim settler, addresses the question of citizenship which comes into the fore when Moroccan Muslims who immigrate to France try to adopt French names thus claiming French Identity. This condition of French Muslims could as well in some sense be related with that of Indian Muslims, particularly in Gujarat.
Giving a fine description of the urban conditions existing in France and how clean and beautiful the city is and how restricted the access is for the working classes were well explained. The condition of Parisian sewage workers could well be related to India's own untouchables who do conservancy work and keep the cities clean.
Is Paris Paradise?
Cordis had a dual role — as Mohammed, an African refugee from across the Mediterranean, carrying a dream that ‘Paris is paradise on earth,' only to find himself in misery, chasing him to live a life in the most appalling conditions.
Intervening on every occasion, Parnab, who plays as Gandhi, often quotes his words from the text which is believed to be valid more now given the exploitative market conditions which denies self-rule and freedom. Swaraj is a modern political thought which talks about sovereignty, non-violence and the question of rights.
The performance rejected conventional theatrical practices where the meaning is primarily derived from the actor's narration and not from the incorporation of external theatrical components such as sets, costumes and lights or any other technological intrusion except for the projector.
The cellophane tape remained as the metaphor for the silence, the muzzling up of voices which were expected to protest and how important it is to be a ‘constant critic' than a ‘comfortable critic.'
The performance tried to explain that Swaraj is looking at freedom in a positive way, going for shared technologies and explicating that Swaraj means nothing without protest. The performance ended with a Bengali song about genocide.
The event was organised by Department of Visual Communication of the American College. It was the 30th performance based on Hind Swaraj which started on Republic Day and the duo is expected to complete its 100th performance on October 2, Gandhi's birth anniversary.