digambarim : philosophy, influences and practice

The influences of Derrida and philosophy of eco- feminism have sparked off our creative juices when we decided to start a storytelling platform which would deconstruct the way stories were told and perceived & the paradigms which they represented. This is how the idea of ‘Katha’koli‘ emerged. We decided to approach the semantics of paradigm in a manner, which maybe is angular &  abstruse.

The devious idea behind ‘Katha’koli’ is to problematize the ‘ours’ & audience’ normative thinking & practice and his pre – conceived unity of idea regarding any theme, event or subject & to render their comprehension ineffective, leaving them to take a fresh look at assumptions. Our performances of the Katha’koli genre, reflects the trend in contemporary arts and performance to what Amos Vogel states in his seminal article of 1974, World View of Subversive Cinema, “at the core of modern (which is definitely post modern) art stands concepts that still strike scorn or fear into the hearts of many, as they are subversive to the very notion of conventional ‘reality’. Dissolution, fragmentation, simultaneity, decomposition – these are words in the service not of obfuscation but of clarification”. The art of our century, says Katherine Kuh, has been characterized by shattered surfaces, broken color segmented composition, dissolving forms and shredded images.” coming as we are from a modernist upbringing sometimes too close to the classical, which sought clarity and coherence; where the Cartesian dominance of intellect over emotion where the former was to inform the latter and refine, discipline and punish if required; this series of performance is a definitive attempt to reestablish the equilibrium of  the body-mind in performance. Performance as an experience, which does not merely simplify for your consumption and assuaging of ego, embellishment of chrono- normative thoughts but which disorients time & space to upset the apple cart.  This is a time when the mind so focused on the simulacrum of unreality which we so happily accept as real, and also the feeling that the pursuit for truth maybe a dubious pursuit, but that the ‘philosophical suicide’ may be the only tool in confronting this reality of the post -modern that it is difficult not to imagine ‘ post modern contact less at odds with paradox, a way of problematizing places that disorient time and space, and a way of working into the indecipherable”

We approach the postmodern through aesthetics; with a great amount of honesty with regards to our experienced reality has  been our concern in  creating an new aesthetic experience . Coming as are from specific sites of culture and practice, we interact with our philosophies; opinions of the past, present & future; and of course influence from others practices, hence or work progresses trying which reacts, reflects and reconstructs these factors and allow for a new re-combinant entity.

This entity is also but a “social relation among people mediated by images” (Debord). In forging this social relation is a journey of wading through reality towards a future aesthetics, which can only emerge from the tools and resources available and how it flows through or around various obstacles which are both ‘real & ‘unreal’. The process of negotiating and renegotiating is hence the very essence of finally putting up a performance which does not partly represent our deepest intents which we are hopeful to finally reach or strive for, maybe like ‘Sisphus’. It is at the moment a ‘burlesque’ and evolving and we feel that we’re moving towards a point of departure where each one of the performers will achieve what Janardan Ghosh calls ‘the Moksha’.

We are here confronted by rapid globalization & ” The idea of reducing cultural dynamics and human activity to a principle of instrumentality for the sake of increased political and economic efficiency is a disturbing notion when considered in the light of the hope for happiness and satisfaction in an age obsessed with management systems.” No one is unaffected by this trend and the body has been machinized to be a political medium and an economic tool separated from its own will and consciousness. These ideas have formed clear paths for success and failure in economic terms, they have turned the mass of people in consumers of mass media and embedded rationales and created illusions of a horizon much like the one in ‘The Truman Show’.

It is within this reality and that we approach performances, which seeks to unfetter the people involved in the process from this paradigm. Needless to say it is a very challenging process and the path is steeper with limited resources at our disposal.

‘Kali’, the motif of creative destruction, the expression of Shakti, the power which many seeks to overcome obstacles, to come out naked and unborn , fearless of death to be ready to confront the world, is then where we seek inspiration.

We started to experiment with the theme of Kali in performance in early 2016.  It was in our work sessions with an group of Butoh performers, musician, sound artist and a visual artist who came from all over the world which sort of further crystallized our interest in Kali as a a central theme weave stories around. It was very interesting that although we decided to name the performance as ‘Resonating with Kali & Sick Dancing Princess’; Sati (Jiyo), who is a Butoh performer from South Korea, and decided to call it ‘Dualilty’, kind of justifying the saying of Ramkrishna ‘Joto mat; toto path’ ( there are as many roads for the different beliefs). Well, the performance – it turned out to be a very interesting experience. This experience was the first performance we did with Pradip Chattopadhyay (Bulada), who has since become a core monk !

Images from the performance “Kali & the Sick Dancing Princess¨

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and the link to the video of the performance

So emerged in a another few months the idea of Digambarim: The Body Alone.

We had a script to start which was as enigmatic as the Janardan Ghosh is and the quintessential experimenter in Bulada, and nothing more, or maybe there was & we did not know.

To start with we were looking for a script which was abstract and dealt with the question of the gender relationship. When we think of representation of women in Indian literary and philosophical contexts, we are certainly served with motifs of  he struggle of the feminine energy to overcome the tremendous dominance of patriarchy and then in takes an eon to express herself and even the renaissance had her confined in the vessel of love, say perhaps like  ‘Savitri’. Why with ‘Savitri, Sri Aurobindo created a new kind of hero and a new kind of woman. Her strength is spiritual, calm and independent not given to weeping or helpless lament, Savitri makes her choices, sometimes quite unorthodox, knowingly. She follows death without fear, not to seek immortal realms with her beloved but o rescue love and bring it back to transmute the world’s pain & division’ – Anu Mazumdar. The goddess, she is worshiped, put on a pedestal as a mother, as a lover she remains a whore. What then could explain the stance of Gandhi or Vivekananda, or indeed that hoarding i saw yesterday on ‘Women’s Day’, which exhorted us to see women and ‘mothers & sisters’ and expects a certain morality and propriety exclusively from them. Yes the equilibrium of society is much in these carefully negotiated positions, where one party has basically acquiesced to the wishes of the other & we don’t need to speculate which party.  It has been voluntary and indeed the world has been left better or worse for it, neither is there a panacea for this, an alternative which could claim a higher ground. Yet, do we not detect a distrust in the position and volition of the woman, something dreadful in the release of her powers, a shrill war cry which can burn our bridges, destroy our castles and hence she needs to be placated – that’s the paradigm, which contains all the rationales  of consumerism, of satisfying the whore and may tribute to the mother and an asexual love for all others, ‘brothers & sisters’, lest savages would run amok raping and fornicating, hence conditioning all as potential sexual offenders.. Then this is the paradigm which we confront.

In Digambarim : The Body Alone, then sadly speaks of incestuous rape, maybe metaphorically….. or was it ‘rape’, Is the question we ponder on, who & why did the father suddenly shed his moralities, why indeed do motherfuckers evoke the name of Mother India or the God, while ramming into her day in and day out.. question is does she want it ??

Or maybe then if God & country & morality are fictitious concepts. Then Digambarim is as real as you are, a power which will confront & flow ……

As we explore the equilibrium in sexual practices as the yonipuja – a tantric practice which separates itself from the yore of Brahmanism order yet which salvation is a purely male prerogative & the woman merely an object, a medium, without an identity but that of the semantic of desire which one ruptures in his path towards salvation.

We are seeking out a new per formative form. Much as we’re enamored by the western theories and practices of theatre and especially their tradition of physical theatre, everyone here is bought up  different milieus. They have trained to perform, to use their body, voice as an object to express the character- the subject. They constantly see performance as a way to make themselves visible in the public sight, for money , for fame, for the sake of survival. They have been bought up in an era where arts, literature, theatre were mere weapons used by communist masters as propaganda. They are in shackles, which are anchored deep and uprooting them would create enormous disruptions; but some disruptions which are necessary.

Albert Camus said ” The climate of absurdity is in the beginning. The end is the absurd universe and the attitude of mind which lights the world with its true colours to bring out the privileged and implacable visage which that the attitude has discerned it.” We are in an absurd position and on this road to absurdity we discover neologism as to define our relationship with these various absurdities through this performance.

Digambarim : The Body alone has been scripted by Janardan Ghosh. It has been prior academic journey and a part of his research on ‘Shri Ramakrishna & Performance’ from Ramkrishna Mission University, which is a rather challenging and intriguing subject of research. As a personal journey perhaps we were all seeking to move from the rather didactic nature of theatre to a more aesthetic experience, which is cathartic for him and leads to his moksha.

We have collaborated with several artists for Digambarim : The Body alone in course of our journey and research and continue to so.

Let me now recount some of our experiences.

It was a hot summer day, actually it was the day when the skin suddenly burned after a generous non – summer, which decided to shed its mask and welcome us back to reality of a local train ride which takes about 3 hours to Gobordanga. Gobordanga, a quintessential Bengal village town or more appropriately Kolkataś hinterland, or more appropriately Gobordanga – a town which arguably has been catapulted to glory for its flourishing theatre practice and numerous groups, who have gone to make a major impression in the national theatre scene. It is here that every year the MRIDANGAM UTSAV ( Theatre Festival) is held in March. Staged in a tent house with reasonably adequate facilities in lighting, set and backstage, the festival brings theatre from all over India to its citizen.

In this act Rakhee Bose joined Janardan Ghosh, Praadip Chaterjee & Vidyapati Chakroborty. The video projection and sound was by Sudipta Dawn. Barun Kar took care of the lighting for this one.

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The next show is April 29th at Padatik Little Theatre, Kolkata at 7 pm.

In this act Rakhee Bose joins Janardan Ghosh, Praadip Chaterjee & Vidyapati Chakroborty.

Entry is free & Open to all.

….. this writing is a work in progress and will be updated and revised keeping in mind our journey.

Here are some images from the performance at Padatik Little Theatre

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do write to me if you have anything to say or share. My email is sudipta@culturemonks.in.

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