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Creating A Synthesis

Sunil Kothari

By Diwan Singh Bajeli
Niyogi Books, New Delhi, 2013, pp. 155, Rs. 450.00


As a dance critic, I came to know of the work of Bhanu Bharti, through his friend and celebrated director Ratan Thiyam. Bhanu’s adaptation of K.N. Pannikkar’s Malayalam play Pashu Gayatri, a community theatre of the Bheels of the Mewari region of Rajasthan had drawn the attention of serious theatre practioners. It was translated into Mewari by Deepak Joshi. The highlight of the production was that it was presented with original performers and outside their environment before an urban audience on the modern stage. At one point it became Bhanu’s signature play and he followed it up with two more plays—Kaal Katha and Amar Beej in Gavari style, giving a contemporary ring to the beliefs of Bheels, their rituals and legends. In the 80s it was shown at the most major Indian theatre festivals and even today there seems a demand for that play.   Diwan Singh Bajeli, the reputed drama critic has studied the Gavari form visiting Rajasthan. He also visited Rajasthan with Bhanu Bharti to acquaint himself with the style and life of Bheels and get a proper perspective of Bhanu’s theatre. Under the Ministry of Culture’s Senior Fellowship (2007), Diwan Singh spent valuable time for this study. He has devoted three chapters on Gavari: the Bheel theatre, Beej: With Bheel cast and Kaal Katha: The Bheel suffering. The two photos of Pashu Gayatri (1984) with Bheel performers shows rituals of Bheels associated with their community theatre Gavari and one of Amar Beej (1991), a play on environment issues with Bheel actors based on a Bheel legend which gives the reader a feel of the plays through visuals.   The author has spent a long time, covering Bhanu’s early life, bitter-sweet-experiences of life at the National School of Drama, Bhanu’s quest and creative freedom, his thoughts and understanding of the state of Emergency, anxiety of artistic freedom in peril and his visit to Japan to study Noh, Kabuki and related forms. The play he wrote and staged after that visit viz., adaptation of a Japanese tale told by a scorched tree, Kathaa Kahi Ek Jale Ped Ne (1981). After reading absurdist playwright Betsuyaku Minoru in an avant-garde Japanese magazine, his play The Elephant deeply impressed Bhanu. It captures the aftermath of nuclear bombing on human society, the relationship between men and the absurdity of the human situation in a dreadful world infected by radiation. The ...

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