Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Theatre of Tragic Comedies

It was indeed heartening to know that the forthcoming Ravindra Manch Theatre Festival will pay a decent fee of 30000 rupees to the performing groups. It was also assumed that the organizing committee would formulate certain criterion for selection of plays and do the difficult task of taking most of the people along. The majority of the members of the committee are experienced and yet they have failed miserably. When asked how they arrived at decisions with in less than half an hour, they have strange defenses.

The scenario resembles a tragic comedy of errors.

The lord convener is rumored to have arrived in foggy stupor and fails to remember any thing worthwhile. But was aware enough to select a play written by him, already staged by his group espousing cause of revolution and perennial fight against million injustices across the world. The gentleman has made a name for slapping court cases against appointments with out well laid out criteria and those positions still lay vacant. The main reasons for these actions were personal animosities and ideological differences. It is strange to see him indulging in same pathetic practice he was supposed to be against in past. Not so long ago the place was supposed to be going to dogs by actions of the government. Suddenly he did an ideological summersault forgetting the old seething antagonism, joined the bandwagon and started to lord over decrepit Ravindra Manch. Having old friends at powerful positions does help indeed.

One member arrived late and promptly agreed with other members, sparing him of expected tedious deliberations.

Another worthy with ample foresight wisely chose to stay away from impending ugly controversies. Other two members agreed to stage own plays but were thankfully magnanimous enough to gift largess to two others. And Jaipur theatre got five plays out of seven, how that was justified is not clear.

It is sad to witness the shameful conduct of committee members selecting own plays. The fact that nobody differed on an inherently dishonest idea is a matter of greater shame.

Is this the professional theatre, we were so often belittled and mocked at for not having it?

Surprisingly the manager of Ravindra Manch did not make any efforts to stop such grave mistakes being committed and put some semblance of order. Instead she had reported to ask all members to include their own plays and that of an old man who just lobbied so hard. May be the personal friendship of the lord convener with high government officials come in her way. Just another officer appeasing higher ups and not taking a principled stand does not surprise any one now. These are the norms to be followed while waiting for the coveted posting.

The average tenure of the manager at Ravindra Manch is around six months and it has become notorious as a posting of convenience for various reasons. The historic anomaly has been brought to notice of higher ups repeatedly and so far no remedial action has been taken. When an officer if at all about to know the job, the anxiously expected transfer order takes one away from boring lack luster office with its thankless job of dealing with moody and some times agitated artists. It’s indeed a welcome good riddance after few months of recuperating rest.

There has been a sad precedence of members of Rajasthan Sangeet Natak Academy distributing awards between themselves. It was stopped by a court order and later related modifications were made in the guidelines.

For years there have been various attempts to get more governmental funds sanctioned for revival and greater appreciations of efforts involved in theatre productions. But now all that seems to go waste as we witness personal greed overriding larger concerns. The experienced people entrusted with this noble task have proved themselves to be insensitive towards the larger issues involved.

First of all why five plays have been selected from Jaipur alone and on what criterion? Theater groups from other cities should have been given more representation leading to greater interactions between performers along with distribution of funds in a larger way.

But such an exercise could have only been possible after formulation of well thought out objectives of the forthcoming festivals. And that is too much to be expected from people seeped in narrow vision.

Jaipur theatre has been afflicted by deep personal animosities and personality clashes for long. The tradition of meetings for critical assessment and valid criticism so important for fresh creative input are abhorred by most of the directors and actors. At the same time an utterly casual environment is allowed to breed patty differences and jealousies is a matter to be addressed by all involved.

There is a wide spread anger about the shameful spectacle being enacted and the matter seems to heading towards courts. The sorry episode will not bring any glory and the responsibility will rest with the "eminent professionals" at the helms of affairs.

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