Wednesday, January 19, 2022

‘The world is changing, so we’ve to see all kinds of expressions’

NSD Director Waman Kendre on the selection process for the upcoming Bharat Rang Mahotsav, censorship and directors who stay away.

Written by Dipanita Nath |
January 29, 2017 11:37:11 pm
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Waman Kendre, Director, National School of Drama (NSD), proudly points out that Bharat Rang Mahotsav (BRM) is Asia’s largest and the world’s third-largest theatre festival. The numbers he offers are daunting. Almost 100 productions from 12 countries and 16 Indian states will be staged over 21 days at the 19th BRM, which begins in Delhi on February 1. A record 602 proposals were received from groups in India and 70 from foreign countries. Add to the plump roster, a series of masterclasses, sessions with directors and living legends, a Youth Forum and a Theatre Bazaar. Kendre, whose plays Mohe Piya and Laagi Lagan are a part of BRM, talks about quantity, quality and the way ahead. Excerpts:

Last year, the issue of censorship became very important after Polish play Sonka was allegedly asked to cover up an actor who appears nude on stage. Are international or Indian plays asked to censor their content?

I don’t think we have initiated such a discussion. The selection committee belongs to India. They know what is good and what is not for our audience and society. If a play is good and is required to have such kind of thing, we will have to see that. The world is changing, so we have to see all kinds of expressions. But, ultimately, this is a work of theatre and meant to be watched live. Theatre requires its own grace and aesthetics. I also make plays. In Jaaneman, there was a similar scene, known as nirvana. How do you show it? A creative perception has to be respected if such a scene is required. If it isn’t, it is a stunt and we should deny it.

How are plays selected for BRM?

A selection committee of about 40 people comes together for eight to 10 days. They watch CDs of plays at different places and share their decisions. This is how we manage the selection process. Groups of five people watch 60-70 plays in 10 days.

You had spoken about revamping the selection process to make BRM more representative of theatre in the country. Wouldn’t that be better than having a few people watching hundreds of plays in 10 days?

We have tried for the last two years that local committees should recommend plays but it did not work. I am still hoping we can do it. Proposals for 602 plays came in this time. Which committee can watch 602 plays in a year?

Does it concern you that many young groups making powerful performances do not feature in BRM, possibly because they don’t apply?

It depends on them. If you ask me, I have never sent a proposal to show my plays at BRM. Somebody might say that they don’t want to present plays on our platform, that is also a way of thinking and we have to honour that. We are planning to tap emerging youth groups and plays. If a production is outstanding, we must reach out to the performers.

A number of plays on the BRM list have been staged at other festivals. Ram ki Shakti Puja, for instance, was performed here five years ago. Why does BRM find a play after other platforms have shown it?

When BRM happens, people come from all parts of the country just to watch plays. It is like a pilgrimage for which people take out dates, reserve train tickets and book hotels. For us, it does not matter where a play has been previously held, when and why. For our expert selection committee, the only criteria is that we maintain a high standard of theatre. If a play is of high quality, it will be performed. Our target audience is always a fresh audience.

For a national theatre festival, major productions, prominently Legends of Khasak, are absent from the schedule.

There can be a hundred other examples. This is the freedom given to an expert committee. Since last year, we have started inviting actors also, such as Anupam Kher and Paresh Rawal. Hopefully, from next year, we will have some changes.

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