Lack of Govt. support, bane for Jammu theatre

Lalit Gupta
Showcasing the engagement of creative individuals to reflect upon the contemporary reality and changing landscape of social and moral tenets in a society their effects in shaping individuals, the arts with their respective media acts like mirrors for all of us.
Theatre, by virtue its unique audio-visual form that reproduces a live enactment of life’s reality, has since time immemorial considered as most appropriate tools of social change. In above context the Theatre Festival, organized by Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and
Languages has emerged as an annual milestone in Jammu’s cultural life.
A site for fierce competition amongst local amateur and professional drama groups, the festival through the years have witnessed theatrical productions ranging from classical Sanskrit, Greek to William Shakespeare and contemporary works in Hindi, Dogri, Urdu, Punajbi and of lately in Kashmiri also which as its distinguishing feature reflects upon the standards of theatre and also the composite culture of Jammu.
To talk about the just concluded Annual Drama Festival-2013 (Jan 10 t Jan 24), especially in the background of recent stellar performances coming as high watermark of Jammu theatre like Natrang’s William Shakespeare’s ‘Richard III’ (Jan 10 to Jan 13) and Amateur Theatre Group’s experimental production of ‘Ghosts’ marked with creative approach in production design, it could be best called as a mix fare that ranged from skilled to weak productions.
The schedule of 12 plays in festival was decided when after receiving 18 play scripts: three each in Dogri and Kashmiri, two in Punjabi and ten in Hindustani, the scripts were reviewed by a committee of experts set up by Cultural Academy. Committee selected 12 plays for the Festival, after watching the rehearsals which commenced on December 17 and continued till December 21.
Held at Government College for Women auditorium, in view of unavailability of Abhinav Theatre due to objectionable protracted renovations, the festival started under deficient infrastructural support on January 10.
On its first day, Samooh Theatre Group presented Dogri play ‘Malika Da Khaas Salahkar’ written by Dr. Om Goswami and directed by Ravinder Sharma. The second play ‘Lahore Di Chhithi Ambarsar De Na’ was presented by Yamini Cultural Society and third was play was written and directed by
Rajneesh Gupta. NatyaKarmi presented Kashmiri play ‘Gaad Bateh’ written by Rajesh Roshan Bhat and directed by Rohit Bhat. The Natshalla Group presented Hindi play ‘Bichoo’ written by Moliere, translated by Vasi Khan and directed by Tapeshwar Dutta. Manoranjan Kala Kendra presented Punjabi play ‘Parinde Hun Jaan Ge Kithe’ written by Dr. Sahib Singh and directed by T. S. Premi.
Unison Cultural Troupe presented Dogri play ‘Khede Khede Che’ written by Parveen Kesar and directed by Vijay Malla. The Performer Group presented Hindi play ‘Julius Caesar’ originally written by Shakespeare and directed by Vijay Goswami. The Hindi adaptation was done by Ashok Grover. Naqaib Rangmanch presented Kashmiri play ‘Farz’ written by Som Nath Koul and directed by Daisy Naqaib and Vinod Chopra. The Pancham Theatre Group presented ‘Kasturi’ written by Mark and
Desh Pandey and directed by Gurmeet Jamwal. Kashmiri play ‘Graed’ written and directed by Makhan Lal Saraf was staged on January 22. On January 23, ‘An Accidental Death’ (Hindi) written by Amitabh Das Gupt was staged while the Dogri adaptation of ‘X-Reflection’ originally written by Chander Shekhar Kambar and translated into Hindi by Kumar A Bharti, staged on January 24, brought curtains on the Festival.
Lack of Original Scripts: Theatre fests are traditionally occasions for experimenting, staging new plays by emerging as well as well-known and respected playwrights. It is about creating dialogue and looking at modern issues square in the eyes. In this context Theatre Festival-2013, came short and reflected upon the fact that despite battery of writers and poets in each of the scheduled languages, there is woeful lack of such playwrights in the state. A look at the scripts performed in the festival by the groups would corroborate this fact. Out of the 12 productions, the five new scripts staged for the first time ever were Rajneesh Gupta’s ‘Lahore Di Chhithi Ambarsar De Na’, in Punjabi, Kumar A Bharti’s Dogri adaptations of Chander Shekhar Kambar’s Kannada play Siri Simpige, Paerveen Kesar’s ‘Khede Khede Ch again in Dogri and Roshan Bhat’s Gaad Bahet and Makhan Lal Saraf’s Graed in Kashmiri.
Three plays were translations of well known original works in English like Moliere’s Scarpio, William Shakespeare Julius Caesar, Dario Fo’s Death of an Anarchist and rest were acknowledged scripts already performed many times like Makrand Deshpande’s Kasturi, Dr Sahib Singh’s Hoon Prindey Kithe Jaan, Om Goswami’s Malikka da Khas Slahakar.
Experiment with Form: Innovation is defining credo of all creative arts which seek strategies not only to articulate the contemporary reality and state of affairs in any society but also evolve appropriate forms to express and communicate it. In this regard, in Jammu there is a serious lack of opportunity for young local theatre creators to produce their own work and experiment with form and story.
Govt. Apathy: In the long list of reasons for such a state of affairs, the absence of higher academic and professional courses in performing and other arts in the universities of the state tops the list. Next comes Cultural Academy which has conveniently abandoned its mandate of promotion of performing arts under which there was a grand tradition of holding theatre workshops and repertories by invited and local experts and which had led to the renaissance of theatre not only two metros of Jammu and Srinagar but in districts headquarters also. The discontinuing of inviting national level groups to perform here has also robbed the local groups of the opportunity to witness the latest trends in theatre technique and presentation. Lastly the absence of drama as a subject in schools and colleges and lopsided emphasis on so-called job oriented subject.
Individual Efforts: With the result while productions in the festival like ‘Ek Aur Durghatna’ by Mushtaq Kak’s Amateur Theatre Group, engaged in regular performances in national theatre festivals and otherwise, ‘X-Reflection’ by Natraj Natya Karmi, having the advantage of having an academically trained director in Abhishek Bharti, ‘Kasturi’ by Pancham, run by dedicated team wife-husband team of mature actors and like Gurmeet Jamwal, Bhupinder Singh Jamwal, ‘Graed’ by Bhoorang with veteran like Makhan Lal Saraf as director, topped the chart for presenting entertaining dramatic performances that reflected well thought out production design supported by preparedness of actors and coordination of technical factors like sound, light and background music, costumes and make-up.
While the productions by other groups in the festival exhibited lack of exposure and training of self-designated actor-cum directors in conceive proper appropriate production design, weak actors and little no-how of technical design of music, sound and light.
Although as compared to other centers in north-India, the overall standards of vibrant theatre scene in Jammu are much better. The overall apathy and failure of State in starting drama schools in Universities is not only letting our youth to drift to other nefarious or antisocial engagements but depriving them the creative and healthier way of expressing themselves through the language of theatre.
Till then it is left to few dedicated individuals who despite the handicap of proper training, resources and infrastructure but smitten by creative bug as well as social duty to keep theatre Jammu’s civil society.