Theatre vs cinema.
By Rachna Saxena
It was a different edge with all the great engulfing moments of plays .The yellow pagri that transported the audience one into the depaths of India’s culture. The singers in pink. The whole play was marked by precision.
The addition of folklore, good use of instruments came across well and gave a different meaning to the play. Welcome on board Suman Kumar the actor. The rapturous tone and the coming of the social saap to Albela’s marriage, the song, the analogy of the snake spoke many a times of that which was presented.
When asked to bite, the snake called dada remains steadfast to his vow that he won’t touch a human being. He becomes an epitoma of great joy and plays with the villagers. Ultimately he is taken for granted and begins losing his strength out of misuse and disrespect, then mahatma advises him that all he had asked was not to kill but he could use fann for his self defence .
Interestingly there is the idea of the folklore that mesmerises and then comes the strength of his grandson who Albela defends against the kaal balieyin – those who kill snake for their venom and meat. Telling that he would apprise home of a secret jewelled cave, Albela hides him in his tokra which had great sweet dishes. But the snake changes and resolve to kill him despite Albela saving his life.
Albela got married at when he was four. And after 24 years proceeds to receive is his wife has upon hearing his tragic story; wife counsels him that between life and death they can celebrate life or live with fear.
They ask justice from the buffalo and the tree stump who says that they should be killed. Finally the three go to a siyar who cleverly asks the snake to get into the tokara that Albela ji had, seeing they would not believe him the snake enters the tokara and with everything ducked inside the siyar closes the tokara.
Intelligent part of how India breathes into villages, the folklore is now a wonderful play as espoused, enacted scripted by Suman Kumar. He says he had the audience enthralled with his mesmerising performance in the first 10 minutes.
Know how the journey has been as Suman Kumar talks to us about his endeavour, his theatrical stint and the milestones he has achieved. He is the deputy secretary of Sangeet Natak Academy at the Copernicus Marg Mandi House.
Nugara ka tamasha – we know you write about topics which teach new lessons to the society what was your muse behind this play?
We know that theatre is a live medium. When we create a theatrical experience or dramatic experience, they come from the same society we create. It shows the society of which we are all a part, so society is there, aliveness is there, a contemporary human being is there. Nothing is uprooted in a live medium whenever we do anything on stage to become the contemporary voice. Whatever we are doing is new, nothing can be repeated. Only a film can be repeated.
This is the beauty of theatre. The person acting on the stage acts according to contemporary human desires and questions that we face in our daily life. We can take references from literature and epics like the Ramayana, Mahabharata, folklores, Puranas and the Vedas. When we take reference points from these texts there is simplicity and aesthetics then we have it form folklores and great epics.
How is theatre so different from Cinema?
Cinemas are not a live medium. They are made for one interaction to one although it is seen by the masses, they’re seeing the same thing.
In theatre, the director creates it, they do not shoot in pieces, they rehearse and everybody participates in the creation. Cinema is seen by the eyes of the cameraman dictated by the director.
In theatre an actor is standing with full strength and body. There is no close-up; we can cut back on by light but it’s three dimensional commands. People can give instant different directions and different responses while being live.
Theatre is a medium of continuity. Here, if the performance is of one hour, then it is an hour. In cinema it is not so, we can shoot the end at the start. In theatre there is no cue, only scene changes are there. You can say “cut” in cinema, not in theatre.
Here the audience from every corner in theatre will have a different view points. In front there will be a different visual perspective, from the last to corner scene, the audience will see a different perspective, and from wings it is different.
In cinema, the camera faces, in theatre everything is seen by the whole audience that makes theatre different. In theatre if something is more interesting the audience will come in front, to the front seat, which can happen only in theatre.
In films it’s the same visual. So a live thing is that in which the audience creates a role in creation. Their responses, their clapping, their smiles, their laughter and their anticipation too.
In cinema the audience can only respond to within themselves or through a talk dession. Your thoughts?
In theatre, different perspectives are what you will enjoy. Something new that you experiment through the time experience. Theatre is closer to society and more responsible to the social structure.
Films are more commercial.
Theatre does not impose. They ask for participations in their lives, live theatre is different. There is the capability in film of close-ups. Close ups can change visual perspectives, also with long-shots.
In theatre, the human is seen as human – not as a single eye not only hands. Only the actor can make him see them. For example, I was just acting like the snake, I was speaking the mind of the snake that it you are aware of feeling the snake is talking. My expression was blank only my voice was acting as shown by my hands.
In cinema there will be graphics to portray the snake.
Here, the treatment is different. We cannot bring a snake on stage because it has a different kind of behaviour. In art we can impressive ourselves, as if the snake was speaking. We care of speaking our desires, our motives, our placing into different kinds of living beings. Here, we’re shifting your soul to different people making yourself universal. Amazing… It is said there is a genetic code of the resources of the universe. We have all the features of the universe, animals etal making yourself universal.
Nugra ka tamaasha’s an amazing playwright. What inspired you and what made you write different voices with so much simplicity and spectacular ease?
This is done in the entire story. Actually, when I started reading these folklores written by Vijay Dandetha. Everybody heard these as popular stories. I read these stories, then I thought let’s make it as a play. I was seeing an interesting play in the structure.
Then I started searching for more. I started talking depath people and sharing these stories. That time, my own experiences also came in between, slowly included more stories. There are four-five stories in Nugra ka Tamasha. The mahatma story, Jabbar Singh story, the woman story who finds the snakes brother.
Particular sources – habit lay I read folklores to my 11-year-old, then I got some more snake stories of bihula bisara. The region where i came from – it is of goddess the snake daughter, of lord Shiva. She struggles a lot for recognition from male-dominated society. She struggled for the role of goddess. Also known as Mansa Devi. In the eastern region of Bhagalpur where I come from. On the sunderbans, the Chandiva Upal story of Mansa Devi, the struggle for the snake goddess to be treated as a goddess – that is why we have a soft corner for snakes.
Even in my remote village called Darpa, also there were snake which were seen in homes. They were dangerous ones we can see them in the fields. Generally, if we don’t kill snakes, they do not attack us.
Different voices are there. There was no effort at transformation. “I was speaking their mind. I did not change anything, no prop was used. The only prop was pacca,” used for begging life of my husband doing the rasa kassi, otherwise I did hand gestures.
I was playing with the psychology of the characters. It is changing the concern and I was like an advocate who is advocating from either sides. Playing with the emotional thing not to imitate anyone. I wanted to be a storyteller using minimum gestures. Sometimes I was enjoying and then sometimes the actor within was enjoying the sitatuation.
An old alienation theory was applied which was coined by Bertold Brecht a German n playwright. It talks about Alienating from the character. Keep your philosophy, playing king is not important, let the people think you are playing the king.
Walking comfortably was very relaxed. I have not written the script, only the storyline, there were points of departure, and there were transformation points. I knew where the story is changing. If but don’t remember the story. I was creating the poetry at the same time I am writing the script at the same time too. I did not learn it as a dialogue. Some words were added and crossed out. Sometimes I was a step ahead then came back, a live performance a creating performance. There was not a written thing.
An the points my crew knew, we did not miss them. In my area I flew, at the same time, we were aware of audiences. Keeping them interested. Changing on the spot added many words.
After two – three years such a two hour play this time it was a 70-minute play.
The thought was amazing to see Albelaji in a marriage at an age as young as four years. But how come Albela interacted with his mates when he did not quite venture outside the house that his grandmother built?
Albelaji stopped interacting with the outside world for the fear he would see an unmarried woman and a snake would bite him. This was a protective policy. Friends were there as he faced no problem with males.
In our culture there is a problem; males and females are not allowed to intermingle. For example, with a boy talking to a girl, the elders say what are you doing, what were you talking?
We have created customs like the early child marriage. This was also taken a responsibility of caring of a girl, how that boy at a grown age what will be his likes and dislikes. They simply do not care. The elders have to wait till the boy comes and takes way the girl.
This is not the sitution today but it’s a dramatic situation in the play a boy who has not seen any girl. It creates curiosity, desire to see things. Simple things like seeing a woman with open faces is a very dramatic thing. “Adhbhut ho sakt ahain, uske liya. Uska aesthetic bahut alag hoga, uske liye sabse zyaada khoobsurat hogi in the absence of comparatives. This imaginative world is created by his friends as male members are allowed. No danger there. Albelaji is curious to know how will my wife be. What is beauty? These are dramatic feelings which give a lot of excitement but he does not know how to imagine. Kaha sochoon, kya sochoon, aurat kya hai that is that, vahi comparative nahi hai.
When he comes outside he sees the world. Women with pitchers on their heads, greenery all around. Meri patni bhi aisi khoobsoorat hogi can’t imagine the sensuousenss.
The friends must be exaggerating. Bachpan – during childhood there is just one image of a woman, care giver as one who gives food, essentials like milk, someone who serves. There is no other concept of a woman. In society there is just one image of a woman, who is divine. We do not encourage any another image of a woman, we don’t discuss it.
We do not share details with a young child though they are watching everything on television; we presume they do not know such things. There is purdah.
There are so many discourses “main zinda hoon,” I am alive we are attracted to different theatre activities of the world, and we have that exposure. It is enriching me.
Main bolta hoon, the I am, which is radical. Theatre provides you with space where you are radical. There, you do not talk about biases but about humanity. There is an audience that belongs to different cultures, religions, kinds of concepts, communities with different beliefs, theatre should respect these. So human elements are relevant. I am acting Lord Shiva, for humanity and not for Hindu religion.
I am acting a snake, for all.
Any play we are propagating, we even enact god through that of a human, god will talk about human things, and otherwise he will talk of moral conducts which make them gods. Gods are created by beliefs.
Does theatre reinforce the moral conduct.
The moral code that theatre gives is very simple respect human beings. We have to bring about a harmonical society. Sometimes people propagate fights. But fight against what? Art goes beyond a country which is totally involved in war, their art expressions will talk about humanity their art.
The grandmother as an image speaks of self-sacrifice and also empowerment. Your thoughts on it?
My mother she is 80 year old. She is really nice. I think I am because of her as she took me to films. She stays in Bhagalpur. My mother Indu Bala and my father Jagdish Mandal used to act in plays. She has been extremely interested in novels, magazines, stories.
What was the one aspect of your mother Indu Bala that rubbed onto you?
Her highting spirit. She never left it. A woman comes from a different society. When she marries she enters into a new family, thinks this is my family and I have to survive here. It is a huge change. At that time there were joint families. Elders must guide but they remained elders. My mother came from the rural land, so crops, production of crops were her biggest concerns and she made us relate to them.
There is a different touch and a definite point of the rural so convincingly said. How did you attain that expertise or did you ever have a firsthand experience of it?
On our every holiday we used to got to villages. There is a bride now, there was steamer, train and then a long walk carrying our luggage. The bullock carts, the long rivers. While going to the river for bathing, no one crried soaps and with the soaps we got we as they were rubbing buffaloes with soap. That was a comical sight.
The aesthetics and the geet were something that just gel together. From where were these songs inspired and how were they written?
These songs were written from folkore at the time of birth to marriage, the play was started with these songs for providing an aadhar. One chaupaii was written by me. The play starts after 10 minutes. Only one song is there.
Thank you so much, it was wonderful to speak with you.