`Homogenisation of traditions, a challenge'

Mysore Jan. 28. The quest for social justice and idealism embodying the message of the medieval Bhakti poet, Bahuroopi Chowdaiah, will reverberate during the national theatre festival which commenced here on Tuesday. The crosscurrent of communal disharmony and religious fundamentalism eroding cultural pluralism, the forces of globalisation and liberalisation bulldozing diversity at the altars of the market economy, and the need to challenge the "homogenisation'' of the multifarious traditions that enrich society were the pertinent issues underlined by artistes during the inauguration of Bahuroopi. "Social Justice'' is the theme of the eight-day event and more than 40 theatre productions are participating in it. The festival will showcase traditional narratives and folk theatre performances and contemporary theatre productions inspired by the narrative mode.

Habib Tanveer, veteran theatre person, in his inaugural address, summed up the rationale of the theatre festival's theme on social justice which he described as the "cry of the day''. "We are living in a period when people are fast losing faith in the political parties and hence have to depend on ourselves and draw on the intellectuals, scientists, artistes, and the public to drive home the point that we do not want the kind of incidents happening in the country today. There is corruption everywhere and people have lost faith in the legislature, the executive, and even the judiciary. We live in such a situation that there is hardly anything left to fallback upon for justice,'' Mr. Tanvir said.

He drew a parallel between forces of terrorism and fundamentalism emerging in society with State-sponsored terrorism as evident by the policies of the U.S. in the international arena and terrorism abetted by the State in Gujarat. He described the latter as a black day in the history of India. Yet there was a saving grace as it did not spill out to the rest of India and there was sanity all around. He said the so-called laboratory of Gujarat could not generate anything elsewhere, but cautioned people against complacency.

He said artistes should strive to bring about a saner society, better polity, better development, and external policies. He regretted that people could not see that globalisation and liberalisation were leading to homogenisation by the market and the Government was bungling the issue with a ministry purporting to "protect Indian culture'', but another ministry opening up the market for MNCs.

He appealed to the artistes to blend the folk and the classical with the modern. He described modernity as something to be discovered in its relevance to contemporariness.

Mr. Tanvir called for exploring myriad forms in the field of music and art, and seek an alternative form of governance. The Rangayana Director, Prasanna, in his keynote address, underlined the role of the masses in the evolution of culture, and said it was the poor and the socially backward section of society which enriched cultural diversity be it in India or abroad.

The festival was an effort to reflect the cultural vitality evident in the narratives of the economically weaker sections which found its way into the folklore of the masses.

The quest for social justice was as much reflected in the folklore and theatre as in political movements.

He cautioned against equating Hindutva with Indian culture and the growing tendency to arrogate all claims to culture and its monolithic projection. He said Hindu and Islamic fundamentalists had much to imbibe from people such as Habib Tanvir or Bahuroopi as harmony was the cornerstone of their works.

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