(i²) remembering the frayed 3rd edges: dust to dust – a tribute to badal sircar with a special performance by subol das bhairago (bohurupi)

Culture Monks, Best of Kolkata Campus in collaboration with Drishya  & Alliance francaise du Bengale present a tribute to Badal Sircar- who was one of the most influential contemporary thinkers and playwright in post colonial Bengal. This program is being supported by Iris Home Fragrance.

This is performance which brings together elements of theatre, spoken words, live music, poetry & video projection. We will also be privileged to witness one of the rare performances by Subol Das Bhairago, who is an veteran Bohurupi performing artist.

The performance highlights the neglect of Badal Sircar and many other post colonial intellectuals, thinkers and contributors of India in documented history and also attributes of Badal Sircarś activism against nuclear weapons, apart from presenting  vignettes from his plays.

Sanjoy Mukhopdhyay who is a noted film and art critic will be giving a short introduction to Badal Sircar and Subol Das Bhairago. There will be a session of reading of of Bob Dylanś poetry as translated in Bengali by Deepak Mazumder. 

About the performance

Special Opening performance by Subol Das Bhairago (Bohurupi)

Seed Text: Badal Sircar’s Tringsha Satabdi (Thirtieth Century-1966), Pormanu Bishoye (About Nuclear politics-from the special issue by little magazine Punoruthhan), Kobitar Khonchai Kobita (Poems poking the poems) and Baaki Itihaash (History that Remains-1965)

Additional Text: A Letter to Badalda by Mahesh Elkunchwar and Pradeep Dutta

Video essay, curation and dramaturgy: Parnab Mukherjee

Storytelling, mis-en-scene and silence: Janardan Ghosh

Live Music : Pradip Chattopadhyay

Montage, sound installation and mis-en-place: Sudipta Dawn

Soundscape: Sangat Haldar and Baishmapayan Saha

Other Details

Venue : Alliance Francaise du Bengale, Park Mansions, Park Street, Kolkata
Date : August 1 (Tuesday) , 2017
Time : 6:45 pm onwards
Entry is free and open to all.

(I²) REMEMBERING THE FRAYED 3rd EDGES: DUST TO DUST

 

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An introduction by Sudipta Dawn

An earthquake followed a tsunami in March 2011 led to a meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant,  leading to around 1,600 deaths with highly increased probabilities of radiation induced thyroid cancer and other radiation induced mortality in the population which were exposed to nuclear radiation.

Badal Sircar was diagnosed with colon cancer in April 2011 and passed away the very next month in May. His body was donated to NRS Medical College and Hospital for medical research.

Sadanand Menon in his eulogy to Badal Sircar writes :

¨In 1966/67 in his ‘anti-nuclear’ trilogy Baki Itihaas (Remaining History), Tringsha Shatabdi (Thirtieth Century) and Shesh Nei (No End). To date, these remain the only critique in Indian theatre of the country’s demented nuclear pursuits.¨

¨In 1970 … she (Chandralekha) asked me to drop him to his hotel ( in Madras) on my scooter. Immediately Badalda went “No, No, No” and recoiled in protest. Later I learnt he was sitting on a scooter for the first time.  Forty years later, last year, I happened to be on the jury of the International Theatre Festival of Kerala (ITFoK) which selected Badalda for the first Ammanur Puraskaram (2010) for lifetime contribution to theatre. There was a hefty purse with it to. I called Badalda to congratulate him and also to convey that there was provision for an escort to travel along with him for receiving the award. Promptly, from the other end came the exclamation “No, No, No”. I laughed and reminded him of the same protest I had heard forty years ago and said, “Now don’t tell me you are travelling in a plane for the first time ”.

This performance is a tribute to Badal Sircar and the many others who are but a footnote in history, condemned to alterity or folklore which could be attributed to the eugenical motives of a media peddling the totalitarian narrative.

This performance also looks critically at Badal Sircarś & indeed ours conflicted relationship with science & technology particularly nuclear energy and weapons  which in the words of Hannah Arendt is one of ¨the irritating incompatibility between the actual power- of modern man (greater than ever before, great to the point where he might challenge the very existence of his own universe) and the impotence of modern men to live in, and understand the sense of, a world which their own strength has established. ¨

Badal Sircar was 67-year-old when he completed his Masters of Arts in Comparative Literature from Jadavpur University in 1992.

It is his indomitable human spirit which leads us to frame that which otherwise should not be framed.

It is I² (iodine) – intake of which is prescribed in the event of  radioactive exposure. Maybe that time is NOW .

NOT A CURATORIAL NOTE: by Parnab Mukherjee

Whenever, I mention the name of my city
I don’t want to be questioned by the
other person as to what exactly
happened that night.
As to to precisely, how it all unfolded?
I haven’t met anyone so far,

who said: I have come from Hiroshima
I came from Nagasaki
with what face do i go and meet others
win what face do i tell them
that I belong to this city
that I am from this city

(English translation by the author of this piece from of a poem from the cycle of poems by Rajesh Joshi on Bhopal gas tragedy)

As I was sitting to write this one, I felt it would have been best to make the entire performance an oral reading of Sadanand Menon’s brilliant and important piece called Sound of Silence that greeted us on the pages of Indian Express on January 1, 2012…the piece says (here’s an extract) ..

As a writer, I’ve had to deal with two requests from editorial desks this year. One was just an apologetic grunt, a pause, and a cryptic “Well can you, by this evening?” query, referring invariably to a tribute obit on a hugely important art/culture personality who had just passed away. The other was the pre-emptive exclamation even before my wary “hello” — “No, no; this is NOT for an obit”. That has been the year, when an unusually large number of distinguished citizens from the arts have walked in a procession to the great beyond. .

Suddenly, in that place up there, the new flush of creative infusion must be leading to great rejoicing. Consider the roll call — musicians Bhimsen Joshi, Bhupen Hazarika, Sultan Khan, Asad Ali Khan and Jagjit Singh; artists MF Husain, Jehangir Sabavala and Mario Miranda; theatre persons Badal Sircar and Satyadev Dubey; filmmaker Mani Kaul; cartoonist Kutty; writer Indira Goswami; photographer Gautam Rajadhyaksha; actors Shammi Kapoor and Dev Anand.

Why do we need to respond to these dear departed? Why do we feel that each of these departures took away some part of ourselves? And what makes us incapable of articulating the loss in a marginally intelligent way?

Part of it, perhaps, has to do with our hypocrisy with history. It is on a par with the fact that we do not have one decent, honest account of, say the Indian People’s Theatre Association (with which Badal Sircar, Bhupen Hazarika and Dev Anand were associated) or of the Indian “new cinema” movement of the 1960s/’70s to which Mani Kaul’s contribution was seminal or of the Kirana gharana of Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, by far one of the most sublime musical schools of the 20th century.

It is significant that a large number of the creative souls who left us this year were in their 70s and 80s and were, therefore, active during the formative “nation-building” decades of the 1940s and ’50s. These were the decades when, in the heat of the pre and post-Independence idealism, some of the most exciting artistic and cultural battles were launched and won, during which the kalakaar was centrally integrated into the “project” of the new nation. It was the period when notions of “aesthetic nationalism” consolidated. This was when gender taboos were challenged and many creative women found centre-stage. It was the period when important cultural institutions like the National Museum, the National Gallery of Modern Art and the three Akademies were established, leading to the formation, in the early 1960s, of the National School of Drama, the National Institute of Design (NID) and the Film and Television Institute of India. It was a period which was convinced of the role of the State in supporting the emergence of a “new” culture and every artist active during the period participated in the task. By remembering these artists, we remind ourselves of that unfinished agenda of artistic renewal that a newly “liberated” nation set out on.

However, it seems remarkable now that we have reached such a state of cultural amnesia that we find ourselves unable to evaluate their contributions within the mosaic of the larger cultural grid. Can this be put down to some kind of a generational incompetence — a generation bereft of the tools and equipment necessary to assess its immediate past?

Perhaps, not. It seems more like the failure to create an institutional framework within which to map the coordinates of our collective cultural and artistic practices. It is evident that even cursory archival mechanisms are not in place in our artistic and academic institutions. Most artists are forced to make their own archives, which is often done whimsically and without any professional support. Most Indian artists pass away without anyone being responsible for their legacies. The few universities that do have “art history” departments are unable to generate research programs based on the available material.

To give an example, artist/designer Dashrath Patel, who passed away last December, was a founding-father of NID. However, even after his demise, the NID has institutionally shown no interest in inheriting and being responsible for the 20 years he put into the foundational processes of the institute — a period so crucial to the idea of “design history” in India. A future researcher will be hard-pressed to gather this material once it scatters or goes abegging.

If the national media cannot positively respond to the passing away of say, a Bhimsen Joshi, and, or if it ignores the passing away of a Badal Sircar or if it goes over the top, as it did, in the case of a Dev Anand or a Shammi Kapoor, then all one can deduce is that the crisis in the media has only deepened…….Obviously, if even “popular” material cannot be creatively and rigorously analysed, the fate of more complex contributors to the Indian creative matrix, like Mani Kaul, can be imagined.

The short point one is making is that every one of these departed luminaries needs to be treated as an entire university in herself or himself. Their passing away signals the shutting down of a flourishing fountain of creative energy, which is also the repository of the cultural metabolism and a meta-narrative of the nation. We need to be able to find a collective means to tap into that story and relay it back to us for renewing our own humanity. Towards this, it is the media that needs to re-connect with its sense of agency in this task of recovery.

The second option was to make a chorus in an empty space repeatedly speak Sircar’s lines: “For this theatre does not only involve a change in the inter relationship of the spaces occupied by the performers and the spectators, it involves a basic change in the relation between the performer and the spectator as two human beings that leads to a change in the language of performance. In the conventional naturalistic theatre, the performer changes his identity to that of the character in the play. It is done through costume, make-up, movement, gesture, expression, mannerism- everything copied and applied, in short, faking. This is generally known as ‘acting’ but now the performer comes down, comes close, appears as the human being he is, to the human being that the spectator is. Now he can no longer fake, he has to take of his own mask and be himself.”

We chose the third option which stems from the first two. Therefore our performance tribute begins from where we left last year. However, our focus is a wee bit different. We have chosen the fortnight after Badalda’s birthday and a few days before the Hiroshima Day to perform our piece. Because Badalda’s concerns about anti-nuclear movement, politics and polemics of the global nuclear energy and his own birthday are probably over lapping ideas of birth and death. Not his physical death or the death by uranium or the spectre of Chernobyl. Our date sandwiched between dates (July 15, 1925 and August 6, 1925-Hiroshima Day) is Badal Sircar’s birthdate and is also a tribute and a re-tracing back of the character Sarat Chowdhury of Tringsha who accuses and becomes the accused himself.

So we re-trace and turn our bodies into a living archive. The ones that is between wannabe Sircars, quarter Sircars and half-a-Sircar and pretentious Sircar.

That’s fine. While having a dialogue, duologue and monologue simultaneously at a time of accepted universal phenomena of structured shutting up and practiced silences. The visuals accompanying this piece is from Spartacus, Shesh Nei (There’s no End) and Hottomalar Opare (Beyond the land of Hottomala).

So we have here Presence – Voice – Absence
……..

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