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Reinterpreting A Classic

Suresh Dhingra

By Devendra Raj Ankur
Vani Prakashan, Delhi, 2010, price not stated


What Bharat wrote about theatre has always been discussed as a theory of poetics by critics like Abhinav Gupta, Dhananjay, Bhatt Nayak, Bhatt Lolak and others. This tradition has travelled right up to our contemporaries like Dr. Nagendra. Did this tradition benefit either poetry or drama, the present author, Devendra Raj Ankur, asks. The concern of a modern practicing theatre worker then naturally, can only be exploring the practical aspects of the theory propounded by the ancient. It was after several centuries after Bharat that dramatists and theatre personalities like Bhartendu and sometime later Jai Shanker Prasad, who deservedly should be credited with revival of the theatre movement in the Hindi belt, wrote about how and what theatre should be. It may be argued that their approach was reactive to the prevailing British theatre and the Parsee Theatre in their respective times and that they wanted to revive the lost Indian theatre. But it is what, perhaps, Bharat wanted to do in his own time and what Aristotle wanted to do in Greece. They all tried to reestablish the banished tribe for its unconventional practices and behaviour and the revive art they possessed; they all had to fight out the established social beliefs and customs and general approach to the very art dramatics, eclipsed by hypocritical attitudes. The author has fathomed the depths, semantically as well as practically to not only seek a new interpretation of the classic, but also to emphasize that many a device that are erroneously or due to popular belief accepted as imported from the West are actually indigenous and that they should be credited to the maestro. Such devices include the proscenium, partition of the stage into different areas, stage craft, natural lighting, acoustics, direct communication with the audience, freeze technique, types of acting, etc. Simultaneously, the author removes the confusion over concepts of lokdharmi and natyadharmi. He clearly states that what follows the real is the lokdharmi and what follows the rules of the theatre is the natyadharmi. And in the latter is included the folk theatre after which an impression is gathered that folk theatre itself is the lokdharmi. It is on this interpretation of the lokdharmi and natyadharmi modes Ankur later builds his case on India as the origin of the realistic theatre. It is a social pointer that acting and theatre have been in the domain of the lower strata of ...

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