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Dispassionate Musings


Kusum Haidar

ASIDES: THEMES IN CONTEMPORARY INDIAN THEATRE 
By Nemichandra Jain
National School of Drama, Delhi, 2003, pp. 206, Rs. 300.00

VOLUME XXIX NUMBER 3 March 2005

Nemichandra Jain is one of the stalwarts who has been part of the theatre movement since the earliest days of Independence. This is a collection of his reviews, musings and occasional writings over the last few decades. His deep attachment to the world of theatre is to be seen on every page. His own talents run more to Hindi literature, especially poetry, and he has never been an active performer on the stage, or a director or producer of plays. Yet he has diligently followed the evolution of theatre, since the early days when there was practically nothing to see, no plays, no theatres, no audience, no patronage, until now, when it is a bustling, expanding scene and new theatre companies come up regularly to jostle for space with those already established. Delhi is where Jain has been based, and there is scarcely a theatrical production staged in the capital that he has not witnessed, assessed, and analysed. He knows the plays and the players, the strengths and weaknesses of the companies, the inner workings of the Akademis and the other bodies set up to support theatre, the patrons and those who seek their patronage. His articles as gathered together here thus provide a useful, perhaps irreplaceable, record of how theatre has developed and grown in India. He notes the important milestones and provides a record of some of the significant performances that have been seen on the stage.   All this is done in a calm, judicious manner. The world of theatre is notorious for its slashing putdowns and its spiteful reviews. The artists who expose themselves to public audit every evening are often prickly and insecure. The critics who write about them seem to relish impaling them on a pointed phrase. Or else, they may pour out the adulation and make demigods of the performers. For the actors themselves, it is a game of chance, and there is always uncertainty about the reception they will be given. But Nemichandra Jain is detached from this aspect of the theatre scene. He never savages a performance or a performer, however much out of sympathy he may be with what is offered up. Nor does he criticize individuals who have the task of administering cultural institutions, even when he is at odds with the policies they pursue. His interests are broader and his quest is to map as well as to promote ...


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