Fundamentals & Processes of "Theatre of Relevance"

What is Theatre?

“Theatre is a performance (an expression) of human thoughts, feeling, experience and it’s purpose”
----- Manjul Bhardwaj



Theatre is a medium of attempting at complete communication of human experiences by creating the illusion of reality with human being as actors. It has, therefore, real space, real time, real actors and experiential emotions. And a story (even incident or thought) to tell. In other words, it tries to concretize the abstract ideas, experiences, and various intricate relationships between human beings and nature for better understanding it is therefore, also intellectual and spiritual exercise of highest degree.

The strength and limitations of theatre are inter woven its greatest strength is that it employs human beings as actors (tools of communications) Its greatest limitations is a piece of real space and time for performance and therefore it makes highest demands of imagination upon actors and audience to relate action of stage to real life. It speech, movement gesture and seems are devised and crafted but radiates the energy of reality with supreme force. Hence, the limitation of theatre ultimately becomes challenges to its performers because of its conventions and traditions.










Fundamentals
of
“Theatre of Relevance”
Philosophy










Manjul further elaborates on the philosophy of “Theatre of Relevance” as follows:

 Theatre of relevance is an internal sound of a human being. It is a sound of self-realization. It has a method of uniting different parts into one despite striking against one another, which gives out a voice of oneness.

 Theatre of relevance is within a human being. It brings out the theatrical performance from within an individual and the perceptions of an individual are expressed in a group and made a part of his personality. It prepares a ground where a person being in a group is an individual and being an individual he feels himself to be in a group.

 Theatre of relevance perceives the various facets of theatrical performances such as: stage play, street play, folk play, etc. congruent with one another as they all manifest the originality of theatrical performance. Theatrical performance is not always held in theatre or on stage but it is within an individual round the clock i.e., for 24 hours. Stage, Nukkad, or any other place is only a place where one can express himself/herself before the audience. Stage is not a theatre on its own and medium of expression is not the destination.

 Theatre of relevance is a self-realization of one’s own expressions. The technique of theatre of relevance is highly developed. It breaks the routine rudiments of theatrical performances and each day looks for new ways of expressions. It evolves new ways and techniques of presentation and encourages the viewer to provide more space to the performer and be a part of the theatrical process to the viewer.

 Theatre of relevance is independent of any language and words. Though it is not related to words, yet it decides the genre of expression on its own. These methods open up and break up the human sympathies and traditional customs, where words are not only words but also new words take birth. For example, a child suffering from HIV/AIDS says that after performing in a theatre he has got to believe his existence along with other children. He does not know that his parents have cheated him because he is a HIV+ since the time of his birth. We do not know that this child would be able to tell that again after 4 – 5 years. Theatre of relevance brings out one’s belief and also one’s broken trust and rekindles a hope of life in a living being in his tumultuous life because life is itself a real and a great theatrical performance.

 The method of theatre of relevance first works on an individual and changes his indistinctive feelings to innate feelings. When a person turns instinctive, he is able to express himself in his own way. Normally, any theatre workshop starts with some kind of warm up exercises, but the theatre of relevance evolves many exercises spontaneously, which suits the need of the group at that particular time, rather than carrying a load of old prescribed exercises or methods. Further, they are evolved keeping in view the subject and target of the theatre workshops.

 Theatre of relevance is the theatre where actors are the face of theatre but not the soul as perceived in general. It is very important for the public to understand that they can participate much more in theatre, by demystifying the mystery of theatre. Theatre of relevance believes that audience is the first theatre person then the writer, director, and so on. It breaks this myth and unmasks the masks of representation of actors.

 “Stage is performer’s mother and script is soul when they meet gives birth to performance (innovation, creativity).”
Elobration of “ Theatre of Relevance” process impact:
• A chid labour was daily abused by his employer. After participating in TOR process. The child performed in the play “ Mera Bachpan” at the same place where he was working. His opresser, Employer was one of the audiences. After the performance the employer clapped. The child was surprised. He could not believe that the same man who thrash him daily from morning to evening, who humilates him every moment is clapping and appaulding his talent, potantial. This reaction of employer has ignited the child`s mind. The revolution happened. The child was empowered. He said to him, “ I am not borne to serve the society. I am a human with equality & dignity.” TOR process struck the chord at tendom with the oppressor & oppressed. The ethos of theatre broke the cocoon of Entertainment and brought Revolution.
• A landless daily wage labourer questioned the powerful officer in front of the tehsil office in Khurja, a block in Bulanshar district of Uttar Pardesh from the stage in between the performance. This one question touched the ego of the officer or the power of the mighty was questioned. This sense of being in power of questioning was generated in the laourer by TOR processes.
• TOR put the challenges in front of the creator, the most effective behavoural scientist to intervene & perform. The angry officer was ready to destroy or to use his power or command his man to shoot at sight. The behavoural scientist held the hands of the angry officer and said to him,”Your anger is their satisfaction!” The behavoural scientist emerged a leader in the likes of Subasha Chandra Bose. The officer was reformed. The daily wage labourers were empowered. The system & society greeted each other for this bloodless “ REVOLUTION”.
• TOR processes in BHEL GM – programme triggered the feeling of ONENESS: Participants were divided into four groups. They were asked to envision (visualize) some thing and execute it together in their respective groups. The groups separately prepared for 15 minutes and then executed it one by one. The intra-group process was fantastic – visualizing individually, taking the risk, and sharing with group members, selecting one out of so many alternatives, making improvements over others’ ideas involving decision making, persuading, and a number of behavioural processes occurred providing valuable opportunities for learning.

• Finally, a display by the groups, one after the other followed. Every presentation aroused positive feelings not only in the participants but the observers themselves. Leadership, followership, replacement of leader, replacement of followers – the emerging feelings, impact on group effectiveness – provided intense learning opportunities in most interesting ways. The members of different groups broke their barriers – it so happened in a couple of displays, that one or more members from one group joined another group’s displays to make it more attractive. The feeling of ‘inter group competition’ had transcended to ‘inter group collaboration’.

• Workshop on Rehabilitation of Women and Adolescent Girls in the Red Light Areas of Mumbai
Far away from the dingy brothels of Kamathipura and Falkland Road, the screaming brothel owners and madams, the mean and selfish customers, was the serene and calm environment of the workshop for the rehabilitation of women from the red light areas of Mumbai. The Workshop was organized to bring about social change and transformation through theatrei.e TOR processes. The aim of the workshop was to generate a sense of dignity, self-esteem, and selfhood in the women. A dried leaf, a broken stem, a flower, a piece of stone changed the self-concept. The women experiencd Naya Jeevan (a new life) for themselves.

• A HIV infected sex worker was ready to jump from a hill in Khandala to kill herself. IN the TOR process she realized her space. She participated in the improvised scene about her life. The process brought her back from the jaws of death to life.

How the theatre of relevance is redefining the rudiments of theatre
Theatre of Relevance has broken the following general prevailing myths of theatre:



Myth No. 1 : Auditorium is not theatre

There is difference in auditorium and theatre. Auditorium is a venue for performance. It does not cover the theatre in totality. It is one of the component of theatre. However, many theatre persons limit themselves only to auditorium and also influence the people that auditorium is theatre.

Manjul Bhardwaj believes that theatre is an experience and the minimum requirement for a theatrical experience is one performer and the other one the audience.

One performer and one audience completes the theatrical experience. Wherever these two essential elements of theatre meets, the theatre starts. Theatre is not captive of a particularly designed auditorium or a platform which is called as stage. Whenever a performer and an audience meets, a stage is created automatically and invisible auditorium covers both the performer and the audience. Where two elements of theatre experience each other a chord is struck, all the walls are broken i.e., theatre of Manjul Bhardwaj.

Myth No. 2 : Only specially gifted or special talent or super-special can become a theatre person

The general prevailing impression propagated by theatre fraternity that special people can only perform in theatre. The National School of Drama, New Delhi and other formal government institutions of theatre in India selects only a handful people for training them in dramatics. The euphoria is that these institutions are training the most talented and special people for theatre. Manjul Bhardwaj breaks this myth and believes that every human being can and possess the ability to perform in theatre. He has performed a number of plays with the people who are destitute and deserted. All the plays have been received well across India and the world. For example, “Vishwa: The World” and “B-7”.

Myth No. 3 : Theatre captive: Sets, lights, backstage, etc. (Western influence)

Actors are my props. Manjul Bhardwaj believes in this value of theatre. He is never capitive of backstage instruments. While directing his play “Laadli” on female foetus which was priemered in Tata Theatre, NCPA in Mumbai with houseful audience, Manjul moulded his actors with the theme of the play and the impact was soul searching.

Myth No. 4 : No space for people

“Manjul feels it is the holistic expression of contents of the issue. It is about involving people, in true theatrical expression, by equally involving them to participate in writing, in acting, even directing and finally, as part of the audience too.” He relates another incident involving a play which deal with communal fights, `Door Se Kisine Awaz Di’.

It was performed right in the middle of sensitive areas. And hopefully, some where, someone realised the folly of the whole issue.. This is the richness, the power of theatre. This is the essence of the ` theatre’.”

Theatre makes the common aware of their problems and the drastic consequences which are not visible and have far reaching effects in society. Theatre gives voice to their issues to stir the chord human souls and hit their conscience.

Myth No. 5 : Theatre is merely a medium of entertainment

The question is, where is the scope for entertainment of people when a women has been raped, where a girl child is killed before she sees the light of the day and where there is a dowry death. How can you entertain the people where a natural or un-natural calamity has shattered their dreams? Manjul believes that his theatre is a roti (bread) and not an ice-cream. Theatre empowers people. IT gives an opportunity to express & voice their concern which leads to empowerment.

Myth No. 6 : Theatre cannot bring social change

Theatre of Relevance has broken this myth by liberating by more than 50,000 child labourers across all over India.

“Theatre of Relevance” essentially deals with the person. When I say person that means, the person i.e., who is he or she? What is his or her relationship with society? The internal process of the person starts working. And “Theatre of Relevance” provides an opportunity to the persons to express this internal process in the form of a theatrical performance.

This exactly is the relationship between “Theatre of Relevance and Child Labourers”. For instance, the child labourer is living in a disintegrated “self” that means, no self-concept, no self-confidence, lot of pain, no hope, etc. The parents also live their life with an attitude “born to serve the society”. Theatre has given the children self-confidence a sense of self worth. It help them interact with other people. It helps their powers of concentration, memory and observation skills and aids improvisation and imagination. It develops their personality. Theatre of Relevance breaks this web of exploitation by motivating these people through performances by themselves for the society at large.

The moment you think of theatre of relevance, the process starts of self-exploration. It is two way process, as person and as performer (performer include, actor, writer, director, conductor, musical, lights man, craftsman, designer etc., every personal required/involve in theatre). You look (perform) inside before you express (perform outside.

It starts from self-assessment. Your strengths and areas to work which enhance your capabilities (strength). Theatre by birth is a medium is a medium of communication. Communication means expression. Expression is the need of every human being. Every human being has the will and capacity to communicate. But the intensity and frequency (of the required matter to be communicated) is more or less. This causes the problems i.e. like listening, speaking, speech patterns, spontaneity, common sense, presence of mind, etc. This problem can be tackled by theatre.

It starts from the confidence rather collecting your breathing to get in touch with the feelings-putting together, making decision with a little risk and than speak out. This leads your journey to the character means analysis of self. Who am I? What have I to perform? Where? For whom? When? Etc., the questioning starts with self. As many layers you explore of character for characterization as many layers you reveal of yourself with authenticity, courage and conviction. Your imagination, visualization kicks off very fast on rapid scale. The outer behaviour comes in great influence, which touch your feelings in depth, attitude and finally your values. The values decide your personality. The way you lead your, life. Theatrical processes assert you, accept you and project you which no other medium does with your personality in totality.


Manjul is himself amazed with the range of theatre and the vast areas it covers. People have restricted themselves to a particular aspect of theatre that is street, operas, environment, etc. He observes that one can visualize a vast range of world through it and it becomes difficult to limit it to such faculties as: acting, direction, or other rudiments of theatre. He has tried to take it to a new horizon. He was amazed to see the effect of theatre upon himself and was equally disturbed to see how people have tried to limit it. It is like a river that can nourish and sustain culture by its strength.

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