Black Hole preview: The third reality

From astrophysics to philosophy and dreams, Jyoti Dogra’s Black Hole attempts to explore interconnected concepts

August 08, 2019 04:48 pm | Updated August 25, 2019 06:37 am IST

Jyoti Dogra explores the cosmos with a white bedsheet in Black Hole. Three-and-a-half years in the making, the 90-minute experimental piece will be her fourth solo play. The 48-year-old from Mumbai, who counts Jola Cynkupin and Khaled Tyabji as her inspirations, talks the liberation of working solo.

Excerpts from an interview:

How difficult is it to device, direct and perform solo?

I think that is the wrong question. There is a different kind of difficulty when you are working with others. In the last 12 years, I have worked very little outside, so it is difficult to make a reasonable comparison.

What about it works for you?

One of the essential ingredients in working alone, is the possibility and luxury of time, for research or to train in a particular skill which I feel would be an important part of my performance. I am comfortable with the idea of looking for something without actually knowing what I am looking for.

Even when you have a text, you don’t know what you are looking for. You however, have a foundation of where to start from, that becomes a solid base. When I am working alone, the base is created over a period of time.

There is also the economic perspective. When working solo, time and energy are yours. My decision to work solo started more as a practical than creative one.

I have directed a Girish Karnad play, The Fire and the Rain, and collaborated with a filmmaker — that is a different animal altogether. One way has a set process while the other allows the piece to evolve and you evolve with it.

Have you formally studied theatre?

No. I believe in the Grotowski technique. The emphasis is on the actor, the body, the impulse; the text comes through the actor. You do active research. Like in the case of Black Hole , I started by reading up on astrophysics, which moved to philosophy and painting. It is like you are a plant, (laughs ) you constantly feed yourself stuff, and wait for the fruit and flowers to come.

How did Black Hole come to be?

I wanted to work with astrophysics. I have been interested in it as an amateur. When I looked at it to create material for a performance, larger philosophical questions cropped up. Science and philosophy are intrinsically linked. I thought that philosophy would be easier to grasp than science but that is not true. If you read enough, you can grasp scientific ideas eventually.

Philosophical ideas are more unnerving. When the two connect, they create a third reality. In the play there is dream, reality and scientific reality. I also discovered that various ideas overlap across religions. Infinity, for instance, is an abstract mathematical concept but can also stand for singularity.

Why did you choose the sheet as a prop?

I wanted to work with something which is outside of me. I tried different things from a table that broke to haldi , which made a mess on the floor, before deciding on the sheet.

What has been the reaction to the play?

I have performed in small towns. I performed in Himachal Pradesh. I translated it into Hindi. The ease and concentration with which audiences enjoyed it was heart-warming. I have performed before scientific communities, including at International Centre for Theoretical Sciences in Bengaluru. While the science is correct, the scientists were more interested in the philosophical aspects.

What about astrophysics fascinated you?

My understanding of it changed something in my experience of the world. There is a reality of me talking to you and there is the reality of the earth spinning on its axis. That we don’t fall over thanks to gravity, is also scientific fact. These two facts give rise to a third reality: that is where the play resides.

Tickets available on  and The Hindu's Theatre Fest page

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