Industry status must for Indian theatre: Amal Allana (Interview)

November 3rd, 2008 - 12:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Bangalore, Nov 3 (IANS) Indian theatre has its roots in the Vedic times, but today it is fighting for survival and needs industry status to make it commercially viable, says acclaimed stage director Amal Allana.”Theatre as an art form in India has its roots during the Vedic period. But in spite of such a long period of existence, theatre persons are still fighting to make theatre commercially viable,” Allana, chairperson of the Delhi-based National School of Drama(NSD), told IANS in an interview here.

“Theatre cannot survive in isolation. The status of an industry will help theatre persons work in a coordinated manner for the growth and development of theatre,” Allana, 61, said on the sidelines of a 10-day theatre festival at Ranga Shankara, a theatre facility in Bangalore.

The festival celebrating the Nataka Mandali or company theatre tradition began Friday with “Nati Binodini”, a play directed by Allana on the struggle of the mid-19th century actress Binodini in Kolkata.

The 100-minute play in Hindi was staged by Theatre and Television Associates. The story brings into focus how Indian women in every stage of their lives have to fight a tough battle to fulfil their ambition.

“The play set in the mid-19th century is still relevant. The position of Indian women has not changed much since that time,” stated Allana, who is the daughter of theatre legend Ebrahim Alkazi and has till date directed 50 acclaimed plays.

On the television and film industry being a major threat to theatre, Allana said all hurdles would be sorted out once theatre got the industry tag.

“Theatre has to be made commercially viable for its survival. Although thousands of theatre troupes are working hard and staging plays in India, they are suffering from financial penury,” she rued.

“Be it Manipur, West Bengal or Karnataka, India has some of the most talented theatre troupes producing world class plays. But there is no financial backing for them. The government has to pitch in to bail out theatre from its financial bankruptcy,” she added.

Lauding the support extended by several corporate houses, Allana said since its inception theatre had survived because of royal patronage. “Corporate houses coming out and helping theatre troupes in recent times is a welcome sign. Hope more such support comes our way,” she said.

For instance, the Ranga Shankara theatre festival is being supported by cellular phone company Vodafone.

“Contemporary theatre is working under terrible conditions. We need to find a solution soon,” Allana said.

On her stewardship of the NSD, she said “We at the NSD have various plans to bring some elementary changes in the way theatre across the country operates. Hope we achieve all our goals,” said Allana, who won the Sangeet Natak Akademi award for direction in 1998.

Some of the well-known productions executed by Allana along with her husband Nissar are “Aadhe Adhure”, “The Exception and the Rule”, “Hayavadana”, “Khamosh Adalat Jari Hai”, “Birjis Qadar Ka Kunba”, “Ashadh Ka Ek Din”, “Mahabhoj”, “King Lear”, “Himmat Mai” and “Begum Barve”.

In 1990, Allana received a Ford Foundation Fellowship to research the contemporary theatre movement in India.

(Maitreyee Boruah can be contacted at m.boruah@ians.in)

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