Requiem for the stage?

AMBITIOUS ATTEMPTS `Pralay', staged by URT, focused on the criminalisation of politics.  

After five years of chequered history, the Utkal Rangamancha Trust, the latest attempt at reviving professional theatre in Orissa closed down, thanks to a government decision. So it was quite appropriate that under aegis of the now-defunct URT a seminar on `Revival of Professional Theatre in Orissa' was held recently. Professional theatre in the state, which flourished well in the 1950s died out in the 1960s. Thereafter most attempts at reviving it have been abortive. The reasons are not far to seek. Other modes of entertainment have drawn the people and even the artistes away, cost of production of plays have gone up and there is little patronage forthcoming from the government. Group theatre still exists in the state and the number of plays staged is quite adequate. But it is amateur business and for good theatre to exist professional theatre is a pre-requisite. Utkal Rangamancha Trust made an attempt in 1999 to stage a regular play at the Bhanja Kala Mandap and was trying hard to make the professional theatre stand. But it was fighting against heavy odds and had to buckle down finally.

These were some of the aspects discussed by noted theatre personalities at the seminar that was organised by URT in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture. The two-day event had a play presented on the second evening. The play Pralay focused on the contemporary theme of the unholy nexus between politicians and officers on the one hand and the judiciary and the politicians on the other. Of how society gets increasingly criminalised because of this and there is no protest. However, in the play the protest comes from the weakest quarter — the retarded son of the judge. The boy appropriately called Pralaya (the deluge) cleanses the system symbolically by eliminating the criminals.

The stage was divided into different light zones to suggest different locales and the artistes of URT did a fairly good job with director Ananta Mohapatra wielding the baton.