RAJ MAHAL VILAS: This year, India Foundation for the Arts (IFA) is to begin its MaathuKathes — talks by artistes passing through town — with theatre persons.
These walk-in events held at its office in RMV Second Stage take place at least once a month, sometimes more often, depending on who’s visiting Bengaluru.
This January will see Sudhanva Deshpande of Jana Natya Manch (Janam) talking on Studio Safdar, a theatre space he has set up in the capital. Sameera Iyengar speaks on her journey from math to theatre, and three artistes from The Freedom Theatre, Palestine, describe how they use their art to help people connect with each other in the Jenin Refugee Camp.
The journey of Studio Safdar, set up on April 12, 2012, has been amazing, says Deshpande. “In that part of the city, for miles and miles around, there’s nothing like this that caters to the lower middle class. We’ve brought a lot of artistes in, and we’ve had no institutional support.”
And government and corporate support aren’t always the only means; artistes often have far more resources than they realise, the actor believes. “You come up with amazing ideas, and then you start thinking of the funding. You may not have money but you have resources — friends, goodwill — and they can translate into money, sometimes,” he says. But corporates should take up the responsibility to fund art events without focussing on sponsorship and visibility, he feels.
During the course of his presentation, he will also touch upon street theatre, whose role Deshpande feels is under-appreciated in starting public debates that aren’t merely academic and elitist. “It brings up issues and divisions in opinion. And it’s alright to talk about it, even fight about it without getting physical.”
Ask him if street theatre as an art form is on the decline, and he says, “A lot of it is the NGO wash-your-hands-before-you-eat sorts, which I’m not interested in. But street theatre is still active, and a lot of it is under the radar, hardly written about.”
This apart, the space and time for theatre has shrunk in the media, he rues, and there isn’t a single theatre journal in the country that runs on subscription. “In fact, all the arts that don’t draw a lot of money, don’t get enough coverage. My dancer friends have the same complaints.” Sameera Iyengar, co-founder of Junoon, agrees that there isn’t sufficient writing on theatre. “If you’re not involved, it’s hard to keep up with what’s going on,” she says. And this is a gap that Junoon, which dreams of an ‘art-energised world’, tries to fill, by initiating schoolchildren so that they grow up with it, and also through Mumbai Local, interactive sessions with people from different fields of the arts.
The theatre scene in Bengaluru, young and filled with enthusiasm, is rather promising, she expresses.
Faisal Abu Alhayjaa, an actor with The Freedom Theatre, is thrilled with the cultural exchange that’s taking place during his first India trip. “In Delhi, we heard of Safdar Hashmi and were inspired that there are similar issues here as well,” says the graduate of the acting school that the not-for-profit organisation runs.
It strives to use theatre in English to empower youth and women. “We want everyone to happily express themselves and explore their identities,” Faisal says. Gaining people’s trust in the conflict-ridden region and encouraging them to connect with one another are challenges that he and his colleagues have to overcome often, he shares. They also arrange for artistes from other countries to come and tour Palestine.
Talks by Sudhanva Deshpande, Wednesday (January 14); The Freedom Theatre, January 21; Sameera Iyengar, January 27, 7 pm at The IFA office, Apurva, Ground Floor, 259, 4th Cross, RMV Second Stage, 2nd Block. For details, call 2341-4682, 2341-4683