In search of her lost identity

Dr. Monojit
Once a little girl saw a very respectable looking middle-aged non-Sikh lady transform within seconds into a communally affected Sikh woman weeping piteously over some communal tragedy and asked her father “Daddy, how on earth she can do all this?”
The place was Abhinav Theatre Jammu where actresses as asked to enact a scene from K.S. Kasali’s play ‘Aag De Beej just one the spur of the time. She had been doing the role but this time had been given so little time which even a poet, whose name is announced all of a sudden to recite his poem, would find it insufficient to mentally prepare himself for the occasion. But the actress came smiling on the stage and lo: she was no more an actress. She was already a Sikh lady shedding real-life, non-glycerin tears and had the scene been a little lengthy the entire audience would have burst into tears. Even now the audience was completely carried away, mesmerized, many eye lashes were wet and minds choked: And the question which the little girl asked her father so innocently might have been passing through many a mind in the audience. Before the question was even answered the actress was no more a Sikh lady but transformed into her usual Santosh Sangra mould, nodding humbly to the spell-bound audience’s applause, yes, had forgotten that she was Santosh Sangra and so had the audience.
The question posed by the little girl remained unanswered for long. On the other hand, deeper I went to find the key to its answer, more baffled I became. Every question gave birth to a new question. Was the transformation real or it just looked like it? Means, may be by a process of repetition she had become too familiar with the Character to need any mental transformation into its frame and type?
If so, then it needed no further analysis and could not provide any insight into the working of the actress? If no, then could the transformation or changeover be categorized as an identical feature of Santosh Sangra acting prowess and take place with the same momentum with any character she had already played and required the experiment of Abhinav theatre, to which the little girl was a witness to be repeated but with some other Character? If she passes this acid test, this surely meant that within the frame-work of her exterior lay submerged the too many identities of characters she had already played? For example, you could find mother of ‘Aag De Beej, stela of ‘Prishth Bhoomi’ and ‘Makho’ of ‘EK’ Parchamba Badli Da’ all living and breathing with their peculiar individual circumstances within the personality of Mrs Sangra and did not cease to exist after their stage presentation was over, this way she could easily be said to provide an extension of the stage lives of characters of fiction and drama and there seemed to exist an emotional bond between them and the actress, To her these and other characters which she provided flesh and soul over a span of more than fifteen years over the stage of various places in the state and outside it and on radio and a few films, are not mere characters but living personages and friends who haunt her during her hours of solitude and question her about her very existence of comfort and affluence when they are struggling with life, against life and for life, in a way inside of Santosh Sangra an internal theatre is always being enacted where the dialogues delivered may not exactly be the same as written by K.S Kasali, Baljit Raina or Professor Madan Mohan Sharma.
They raise questions about powers which unleash the forces of communal disharmony they raise questions about exploitation of women, about social injustice meted out to them and about their rights in a free society; That means she is always one with her characters and her being called to the stage to play any one of them involves a process of mere externalization of the theatre already being played at the stage of her internal self which to the audience may look like transformation; In a finer sense this process of externalization of internal theatre surely involves a change of roles where Santosh Sangra traverses the artistic, distance maintained with her characters in the internal theatre and loses her own identity within them and leaves the role of audience (which is hers in the internal theatre) to the people assembled before the stage. And this journey is not without body and soul which she offers at the altar of sacrifice. Those characters have souls but no bodies. She provides them her own body and adopts their soul.
This is where the question of her versatility creeps in which can be looked into with reference to her capability to be one with characters of different ages, cultures, socio economic groups and backgrounds, different mentalities and role types, and with reference to non – conformance to stereotypes of different theatrical prototypes, within natural limitation and sometimes even outside them. Though these references decide the scope and canvass of her versatility but to her these are mere trifles, for to her transculturation poses no problem, stepping down a few ladders in the chronology of emotional age needs no mental labour, shedding her class mannerisms to identify with the ignorant vulgar and deranged means simply nothing and flight back into history is a joyride. And the ease underlying all these mental mechanisms has its seeds in her very nature. At her age, she has preserved the emotional freshness of a youthful teenager, but not at the cost of her age maturity. She presents the picture of proverbial model woman of which the intellectual has always been talking and to which he would like to talk for gratification of his intellectual thirst, she always has been strongly conscious of her handicaps as a woman and hated to accept herself as a part of somebody else’s identity. These perhaps present the broader outline of reference which needs elaboration and analysis to understand her versatility. The woman character played by her may be far stretched with regard to aforesaid morphological references, still the common string of their being exploited one way or the other runs through most of them. And this exploitation has rendered them faceless, subtracted meaningfulness from their live and bestowed upon them a clear cut loss of identity. And in each such character which comes before her for performance Mrs Sangra seem realizing to have lost a few shred of her own identity. Whenever such opportunity springs forth before her, she changes places with the character, losing herself in its turbulent streams of consciousness and experience its crisis which becomes hers at once. Might not the character be begging of her then, to provide it expression and take it to the court of people who shall finally solve its crisis? Might she not be feeling of injustice to her very soul in case of non-obligator at that time? Does not the fictional crisis of the character make her more conscious of her own personal crisis and assist in the process of identification and transformation, irrespective of a wide range of varied references; And does not this pronounced consciousness provide her a missionary zeal and force her to express herself through this strange intermediary with enhanced intensity and vivid alacrity? Yes, of course, yes.
So there you are, Santosh Sangra, out in search of your lose identity, definitely and surely, theatre, in your case, is the best place of find it, Bravo and buck up.