'Indian theatre's strength lies in its diversity'
‘A society which can laugh on itself is a healthy society and theatre makes you laugh on yourself, which ultimately broadens your thinking’.
"W e have Kalidas, Maha Kavi Bhasa, Rabindranath Tagore, Vijay Tendulkar, Girish Karnad, Mohan Rakesh, Badal Sarkar, then why is it that the world is still unaware of Indian theatre," asked Prof. Waman Kendre, director of National School of Drama, New Delhi, in an interview with Millennium post. He says that as a society and country, we never promoted and projected Indian theatre on a global level like the Britisher's did with Shakespeare or the German's did with Bertolt Brecht. "These playwrights beat the flow of time because of the quality of their writing but it was society as a whole who took the initiative of projecting them on a global level. This is exactly what we want to do for Indian theatre through the ongoing Theatre Olympics," said Kendre.
Hosted for the first time in India by the National School of Drama, under the aegis of Ministry of Culture, Government of India, the 51-day-long nationwide, 8th Theatre Olympics is happening for the first time in India – presenting the finest productions of well-known theatre practitioners from around the world, till April 8.
The Theatre Olympics was established in 1993 in Delphi, Greece, on the initiative of the famous Greek theatre director, Theodoros Terzopoulos. Since 1993, the Theatre Olympics has been held seven times in the following countries: Greece (1995), Japan (1999), Russia (2001), Turkey (2006), South Korea (2010), China (2014), and Poland (2016). And this year, after constant efforts put in by the National School of Drama, the theatre extravaganza has been brought to 17 cities of India with 450 shows, 600 ambience performances and 250 power packed youth forum shows with the participation of 25,000 artists from the globe.
8th Theatre Olympics is in its second phase now and Prof Kendre is elated by the response. "In every city, people are rushing to watch the plays and in every play, the auditorium is jam-packed. In India, we don't have much communication amongst ourselves but for this extravaganza, at least a thousand productions from different states and cultures applied. Even Theodoros, our international chairman, was amazed after watching our plays. We also have master classes, seminars, workshops with legendary people of the theatre industry to come and interact with audiences almost every day," proudly said the director, who wished to host at least 1000 shows but couldn't, due to financial restraints and other pressures.
There was a time when theatre was the main source of entertainment but slowly it lost its space to TV, commercial movies, and of course, internet. But the academician, who has been in this field for at least 30 years now, says that no matter which medium comes, theatre is the mother of all arts and won't ever lose its deserved space in our culture. "Theatre is live entertainement, karne wala aur dekhne wala aamne samne hoga tab theatre hoga," asserted Kendre. He further said, "It is a medium of education, transformation, sensitizing youth, making healthy and positive citizens, making people aware about sensitive subjects, a medium which disturbs you because there are so many subjects which you should get disturbed about, and also, a medium of entertainment. It is a medium of purifying your soul. People will run to the mediums which gives them more money and glamour, but some don't, they will always come back to their stage. Lack of infrastructure and facilities is a huge drawback for numerous theatre artists but in the end, theatre connects with people like no other medium. It is a live medium after all, and its strength lies in its liveliness."
8th Theatre Olympics is a proof that even India can host a magnum-opus festival with as much efficiency as Russia, China, Japan and Korea. "Since the last three years, I have been listening people say that India can't host such a huge festival but ultimately, NSD will make India reach to a level where we will be able to say that even we can do such a thing, we can also host world's biggest festival. When we theatre practitioners get that confidence then theatre will start vibrating," resolved Kendre.
He ended the note by saying that the world has always learned from Indian theatre and vice-versa. "We have classical theatre, folk, modern, tribal, musical, post-modern and ultra-modern theatre – it's an endless list. We just need to promote its diversity on a global level and the world will follow us."