The theatre of Revolt … Manjul Bhardwaj

The theatre of Revolt
… Manjul Bhardwaj
 From its origin street theatre is the theatre of revolt. When  establishment is not listening to you and no option left then you come to the street and demand for your rights or protest against injustice. So by nature street theatre is a theatre of protest. It is the voice of voiceless. Hence it`s nature is political. Street theatre is a political theatre; it has an in built revolt against system .So the practitioners of street theatre must be very clear about the ideology and purpose of street theatre. Street theatre practitioners should not mix street theatre with folk theatre or theatre of celebration as it is being written in many news articles and also on Wikipedia.
Street theatre is a modern word, referring to the theatre performed on streets, grounds to create consciousness about the contemporary political, social and economic situation to provide political, social and economic analyses of the contemporary situations and provide a direction to the consciousness of the viewers to raise the voice of victim.

This form of theatre is being discovered and practiced by the workers after the industrial revolution in Europe for their demands .The workers used their real pain, sufferings, marginalization and use theatre form on street and it has a huge impact on the system and the demands of the workers fulfilled.
In India the street theatre has a mixed history of being performed by different groups. Those groups with political affiliation have used this weapon very effectively and rest has done more harm to this challenging art form by mixing different folk forms. These performers were not very clear about the purpose of folk and street theatre and thus confused themselves and limited this form of revolt to awareness.
During the strong era of mill workers movement across India street theatre movement was very strong and kept the capitalist forces at bay.  Like Indian Peoples Theatre Association (IPTA) for a long time has used to this form of theatre very effectively, Gurusharan Singh , Badal sarcar and  then CPM cadre Safdar Hasmi has laid his life for his commitment to this theatre of Revolt. These names are repeatedly mentioned in any article of street theatre because of their commitment and long struggle for people`s cause and use of street theatre to fight the exploitative dominant forces. There are countless street theatre performers and groups who occasionally perform street play on very critical issues in the remote villages of India but their efforts are for a short period and their groups don’t have a long term vision.
But after the collapse of organized workers and peasant movement and rise of middle class in India street theatre movement has also become scattered and sporadic. Some groups occasionally performs on some issues of national importance and disappear as soon as the issue fades out from the limelight thus lacks in vision, consistency and commitment towards street theatre.

From 1992 Experimental Theatre Foundation (ETF) has used effectively street theatre to its spirit. When Babari mosque was demolished and the nation face communal violence. Mumbai also engulfed in communal violence and hatred, during this challenging time ETF performed “Door se kisi ne Aawaaz di” among the riot effected and affected areas to bring peace and harmony. Similarly ETF`s another play Mera Bachpan  is the voice of 20 crore or more Indian child laborers  has been performed more than 12000 times across India to liberate and restore the childhood of these children .Street theatre has given the children self-confidence & a sense of self worth. The children were amazed to find the same employer who beats them at work applauding them for their acting skills. This triggered a revolt in children`s mind “Children realized that they are not borne to serve the society as slaves” this world belongs to them too and broke the vicious circle of exploitation. Till date more than 50 thousand laborers left labor and joined schools. Street theatre requires a personal commitment and fire in belly to fight injustice and ETF performers are up to these challenges till date.

Now a day’s National Federation of Indian women (CPI) outfit is using street theatre for the gender egalitarian society to challenge the feudal, patriarchal and neo liberal mind set along with many women’s Rights organizations. Domestic workers Union ( Ghar Kamgar Molkarni Sanghthana ) a union of unorganized domestic workers has taken up the corruption in public distribution system (PDS) in Mumbai and performed a street play “Rashan Amacha Hakkacha” ( Ration is my right) and exposed the nexus of black marketers and  profiteers . In this experiment street theatre helped these unorganized workers to get organized and grow in strength and enhanced the belief to fight the mighty corrupt system.

Today the street theatre movement in India has gone through the journey of constructive systemic change to the mode of awareness tool. From visionary groups to seasonal performing groups, from committed performers to opportunistic performers, from passion to fashion where a group of none committed youth in khadi kutra and jeans perform for their college NSS activity. There is nothing wrong in that but the performances lack of commitment, clarity, on the issue and performance is time pass and superficial. Many foreign funded NGOS also use street theatre as an awareness tool and avoid confrontation with the system which is an escapist route. 

As the neo global forces are rising in the world, the African continent is dying of hunger, and multinational companies are taking over control on their minerals and natural resources, the middle east is on the brink of everyday crisis, the number of unorganized workers is on the rise, as the largest democracy in the world is selling all its assets to corporate world and running away from its democratic commitment to the people, as the poor and rich divide is getting widened every day , as the control of corporate is on rise ,the workers of world and India will unite and fight against the capitalistic forces. This is not an old communist rhetoric any more. Earlier it was mentioned in the articles and books but today the ugly, inhuman face of neo liberalization is visible in the forms of mall culture. Where only rich is getting richer and inflation is used as a state tool and policy to exploit, divide to eliminate poor unorganized workers. When right wing forces are rising then left will and naturally rise and street theatre is an apt mass medium in the hands of poor and voiceless to counter the bluff of corporate media to fight for their rights!


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