The function of theatre

Theatre needs to reach a certain standard to engage an audience

January 27, 2018 04:00 pm | Updated 04:00 pm IST

 Centrestage (Left to right): Mukund Padmanabhan, Nissar Allana, Santanu Bose, and Arundhati Nag.

Centrestage (Left to right): Mukund Padmanabhan, Nissar Allana, Santanu Bose, and Arundhati Nag.

Contemporary theatre is still a young creature, said Arundhati Nag, the founder of Bengaluru’s Ranga Shankara, speaking at the session titled ‘At Showcasing Theatre: Do Festivals Serve Theatre? at The Hindu Lit for Life. Arundhati compared contemporary performance culture in India to traditional performances like Koodiyattam and Yakshagana. The panel also featured Nissar Allana, a theatre professional who conceptualised the Delhi Ibsen Festival, and Santanu Bose, Assistant Professor of World Drama at National School of Drama (NSD), in conversation with Mukund Padmanabhan, Editor, The Hindu .

Padmanabhan steered the conversation towards the question of finances. It came in the wake of NSD hosting it’s eighth Theatre Olympics that envisions facilitating about 400 shows this year across the country. He asked Bose whether the money assigned by the Ministry of Culture for the Olympics would go to other groups as well. “Would the cause of Indian theatre be served better?” he asked. Bose replied that NSD was only a facilitator. “We act as a nodal agency for the government to work through. We will be in collaboration with around 600 theatre groups, 50,000 volunteers, designers and actors. This is a social duty for us. We have to see it reaches all corners of the country and all kinds of theatre practices.”

On the idea of self-sustenance in theatre, Bose maintained that theatre was not a lucrative profession. Allana said he believed in funding performers and offering them the technical support they need. “Theatre needs to reach a certain standard to engage an audience. Eventually, you have to deliver in terms of quality, otherwise it will not sustain.”

“Festivals needs to happen. There is evolution in process. Otherwise, you won’t see the variety,” Nag responded when asked whether theatre festivals served a larger purpose. This was the goal behind conceptualising Bharat Rang Mahotsav 19 years ago, said Bose. “we knew learning cant happen without our students seeing other people’s work. They will be limited to a particular vision of NSD theatre.”

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