Session IV – Jan 8, 2016

Theatre Adda – The Park Street Sessions, 4th session, was held on January 8, 2016

This session featured ‘Journey’, by Bibhaban.

The 4th Session will featured ‘Journey’, by Bibhaban. Directed by Supriyo Samajdar, this epic piece of experimental theatre as a process  , which continues since the past 15 years.

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About Journey (The Search) :

The world is changing very quickly. The old ideologies are breaking down. Everywhere there is the source of destruction. Love and harmony, are words of the past. The present dictionary has only one word – competition. It’s only you, you & you. The world is a racecourse and men are horses whose target is to earn fame and wealth.

People express their feelings through language. The present expression comprises – Hit or Die. Weak have no place in life struggle. There is no ideology. Everyone is an extremist. Time has produced family without responsibility, oblivion’s consensus, shameless lifestyle. Here, collusion is the music, suicide is escape. Human relationship is a mutual pang.

Amidst this unrest, we feel, theatre is the only medium where live people interact and show a way to others. A society is created by a man. A man returns into the unknown based on his imagination. But, the question remains whom would theatre provoke?

What do we wish from theatre? In a few words, a mutual consciousness. Consciousness about what? We don’t have a specific answer. Maybe about anything which is bad. “Bad” is again relative. Theatre workers present whatever they feel is bad and let the audience match their feelings. When the feelings of both match, we try to find a path. Thus, theatre is a path finder of individual as well as society.

It is not easy to build up people’s relationship with the actor. Common people view actors as an object of entertainment. This needs to be changed. There remains a clear distinction or a curtain between actors and audience. Both are conscious of their respective position. The feelings are not communicated. If it is, it doesn’t last for long. It’s a sort of give and take, buyer and seller relationship. An artist who sells emotion well will get more & more customers. But an artist has some social responsibilities, he is at first a human being, then an artist. A healthy consciousness should be built through mental entertainment.

With this realization beside from our performance, since Feb 002, we are conducting a regular experimental process with Open Theatre–‘Journey’ in the filed of theatre, concept by Supriyo Samajdar. Where there is nothing as actor or audience, everybody is human being .Through our research work Journey we try to build up a new relationship,to live on and imagine a beautiful, better society to live in.

Duration: 75 min (approx)

About Bibhaban intertwined with The Journey

BIBHBAN’S “JOURNEY” A SEARCH

The obvious questions that come to our mind in this context are like this:

What’s journey?

Where’s the journey to?

Whose journey is it?

Why is it a journey?

We all are very conditioned and comfortable with getting answers but not questions they unsettle us, make us uncomfortable, and sometimes even force us to rethink and question our own belief systems, thoughts and perspectives and the established norms and conventions in the society. Coming back to the unanswered question, journey literally means travel or passage from one place to another, travel upon or across, to travel over or through, to traverse. So literally journey is quite similar to travel or traverse but then the question arises why the term journey and not travel or traverse, we leave this for you to think and ponder upon. Well, it might get a little confusing. But Bibhaban loves to live & think like this. We want to understand the simplest and the smallest of things by experiencing them, by walking a little extra mile with these literary words where we can transcend their immediate meaning and understand their deeper meaning through a process where we share intimate moments with them, where we observe, experience and try to understand our existence through the co-existence of these moments. “Journey” is rather a collection of moments of co-existence in the relationship between its participants.

Every journey has a beginning. Like every feeling has an experience similarly journey too has a beginning. Those who carry the “Journey” on their tender wings too have a beginning. The churning of memories doesn’t always bring sweetness but at the same time it feels great to see that Bibhaban is self-sufficient and more or less independent in its way forward even after crossing many hurdles on its way and with its own contradictions. Bibhaban came into being in the month of December of 1996 with it’s first play “Bikalpa” and then in a span of 15 years they have dramatized intimate plays: “Tarpor”, “Swapno”, “Abartan”, “Khanan” “Maithun”, “Ekti golper khoje”, “Hangar” “Maya” “Anway” “For You”, “Bechara,” “ Offering”, “Black Coffee”, The Other Story,and “Approach To Silence(A research in Open Theatre)midst all these “Journey” has been going on mainly with the association of Y.M.C.A- 113 Vivekananda Road, kolkata, ,Padatik,Max Mueller Bhavan Kolkata, Prosenium Art Centre and different places in kolkata and abroad . Many people from outside the country too have participated in this “Journey” through open theatre in this dynamic and perpetual process. To start with the idea behind the birth of Bibhaban was a simple wish that there will be a reflection of their thinking in their work in their application and experimentation.

They descended from the altar of the proscenium to the streets of the common man and journeyed again from the streets to the rooms of the common man to touch the most intimate space of the mind and heart of the man, to reach an extra mile closer to the hearts of the common man. And from this endeavor Bibhaban wants to touch and work upon those experiences and feelings which carry him and his existence. And thus the term “audience” is seen in a different light in this process of “Journey”. The physical and the mental space between the actors and the audience ceases to exist in this process. It’s a system or a process which breaks through the concept of passive audience and the active presenters (actors) who share a very morbid relationship and presents a space to the participants to share their intimate feelings and thoughts. Here the audience is our friend or participant in the process. If anyone wants to participate in this process of “Journey” then he or she is welcome irrespective of his/her background.

In the words of Bibhaban: – “we don’t want to fix any direction or path for the dynamic and moving process of “Journey” consciously and which is even not possible for us. We endeavor to enter into a “dialogue” with the participants in the process of “Journey”, perhaps one is into a constant process of dialogue with one’s own self, with one’s feelings and experiences; perhaps this is what keeps a person alive; and perhaps in this way we imbibe a freshness and liveliness into our existence.”

Every form of art speaks about and reflects the beautiful relationship of a man with his one’s self. The journey from the outward pretentious world and constraints from the relationships in his day to day life that he has to go through to the core of his body: his soul. “Journey” is just a stride forward in search of this relationship lost somewhere amidst the mundane of daily life. And from this search they have given birth to their own language “Mukta Natya” (Open Theatre), where there are no actors or actresses everyone is a participant in the process at that moment, an attempt to connect with the man hidden by the mask. As I have said before it’s all about an attempt to create a dialogue, a search for a new language.

We fix the word “commune” with the help of our dreamy imagination and try to apply its auxiliary and literary meaning into a world blinded by literary faith, where emotions run beyond the wildest imagination of literary system of faith. But the person with whom we try to connect the word commune might be thinking something very different, contrary to our system of belief. The present system of belief which guides us, move us stops us from trying to connect to the person right beside us very much alike us, stops us from trying to understand him. We get stuck in the “immediate meaning” or definition and dare not transcend the boundaries.

Bibhaban’s “Journey” questions these definitions or literary words in their own way, perhaps want to test the truthness of emotions like the sentiments in a love affair of the youth.

The present state of social, economical and political affairs has made the very existence of human beings vulnerable and a question looms large on the very existence of mankind, it has made every man very lonely and has forced him to lean his back in the walls of his very own dark room of emotions, perhaps somewhere our “journey” wants to give this message that we can still stay together in the sweet home of our hearts without building artificial skyscrapers, we are still human beings without losing the sweet bonds of humanity that are inherent in us.

You can either accept or reject our attempt or abstain from it but taking any middle path which we have become very used to in today’s world do not have any ground here. Today when our class identity is under duress, then a “JOURNEY” becomes necessary to face ourselves in the mirror upfront, to connect with ourselves, rediscover ourselves, to rediscover the life lost in living.

In Bibhaban’s words “Journey” is actually a space where everyone can spend some time actively in his own way, “Journey” does not have any definite storyline or plot where a well sequenced action could take place with the help of dialogues & monologues, it does not have any barrier or restriction of language, neither does not it has any restriction nor any barrier which it has all but transcended, it is a smooth and free flowing process where anyone can come and share his feelings, so with time and space and participants our presentations or performance moulds into new shape every time.

There is a constant search for a new language in this “Journey” away from the realms of life. Sometimes I do wonder if it happened so languages and dialects were so lucid and arranged in a manner comprehensible and understandable by all then our lives would have been a little less complicated and complex.

But amidst all these voices running down the by lanes of my mind, when I hear that my journey from the darkness of the womb to the lighted world is drenching me of my own blood and flesh and taking me towards another dark and gloomy world. Or when someone says that failure doesn’t exist it is only a relative momentary disposition of time then I start wondering again how these people where they have immense faith on the humanity and human beings on side and on the other side they have a beautiful expression of the immense turmoil going within their own self . This is life all about. That’s why Bibhaban assigns great value to life

If we try to decipher “Journey” with our intellect the n we are bound to get struck because the life which propels and guides the brain is interpreted in a different in this “Journey”.

“Journey” puts a litmus test before it’s participants to know if /wheather he/she has a perfect blend of intellect and life or not in him/her?

So, the participants fear and shy away from proceeding and entering into the world of journey with the burden of our heavily safeguarded veiled and masked life.

In a room painted with darkness, tinged with the faint candlelight and where the light sound of live music fills our ears we find it difficult to face this compromise stricken and passive ‘me’.

And when suddenly the candle lights are blown off and complete darkness reigns in, we try to search for light -the elixir of life. This search for life reminds me of the last words of Oedipus: “I want light, give me light.”

The role of at is to highlight the truth in our mind. Where is the light amidst the world stricken by the plague of happiness among the glittering empires of modern technology and dazzling sky penetrating Babel of the post-modern world?

“Journey” takes us by the hand and guides us through this experience of emotions and feelings, sometimes through words, sometimes with music and sometimes through visuals.

One question buzzes through the corridors of the mind how do they want to view or introspect the contemporary time and society? How are they thinking? / What’s going on in their mind? And so on.

Art may only propel or force us to confront some bitter questions but the search for the answer pertains to the seeker. And I come back again through my perpetual search for answers. Then after sometime I free the chain of thoughts which had clung to me till yet for I feel skills cannot be learned in this way.

We can form some opinions or gain some knowledge after reading learning some concepts by heart, but they remain as mere storage banks of knowledge or as mere opinions after all.

Let me revisit the thoughts going on in the minds of those among the audience who in the process of “Journey” have allowed me to participate in their way of living as an active friend: “Friend- with whom we can spend some moments, with we share the myriad colours of life. Many thoughts of these kind comes to the mind when we start thinking about the word “friend”, but many disturbing questions start hovering on the periphery of my mind and I start pondering: ‘why do they consider me worthy of my friendship ? I may not be one of their nearer and dearer ones! I may attack them ruthlessly; I may force them to think on the wrong path. I may give a wrong interpretation to their work. Perhaps all of these things are possible from the perspective of being a friend.”

How such an immense amount of faith could be born in a short span of time. And I start wondering again coming back to position – a little and confused; that all of these things are possible from the perspective of being a friend.

Once a common man who has not been involved in theatre, felt its charm and warmth and told me that: theatre educates people. I wouldn’t like to mention his name here because I do so we would start thinking about the person in a different which he never wanted. This is what happens when you try to see life in a bigger way, in a way different from what everyone does, away from parochialities; when the wish to see life a in a different way becomes a crime, when in spite of being a social animal you have to spend the life of an unsocial then while walking down home with Bibhaban’s “Journey” in your mind, you try to figure out the answer to some questions, – theatre-human beings-art-relationship-society-man.

Coming back to the words with which the idea of the article was born – what’s ‘journey’? Where’s the ‘journey’ to or whose journey? Bibhaban proclaims or believes itself to be a process for those who love theatre, for those live for theatre or do theatre for their living. May in this process of Bibhaban I (because of the love for theatre) was just longing for this “Journey”. In the following years of World War II many experiments were carried out in the world of theatre.

Among them the significant ones were Meyerhold, Piscutter, Antonin Artaud, Brecht and afterwards during 1957-58 came Jerzy Grotowski’s ‘Theatre of thirteen rows’ which gave birth to many further works and presentations in India – in Kolkata during 1971-1972 Shatabdi’s theatrical presentation, during 1977-78 living theatre’s theatrical presentation and after that from 2002 came Bibhaban’s ‘journey’, and perhaps all of these myriad display of the Grotowski’s thought rhythmically want to convey that it’s not difficult to stand upright with your spine straight and keep yourself within the rigors of external physical discipline but it’s difficult to keep the man cocooned inside the shell of your body awake from its perpetual slumber , it’s really difficult to keep it active, fresh and upright to face things boldly. Is this turbulent time when the wave of greed is engulfing, for sheer recognition we are forced to compromise to keep ourselves in tune with times , then in these times ‘Journey’ beacons us to think afresh.

Times are changing and in keeping in tune with these times the way people perceive theatre is also changing. It’s often heard that that this generation Y is not interested in theatre. When we ourselves are not comfortable thinking about the future then where’s the point in putting the blame on them (our next generation).

At a time when theatre workers are losing their faith in their work then Bibhaban’s ‘Journey’ stands out from the other group theatres and proclaims its uniqueness among the others.
If theatre is a reflection of our times then I am forced to say that an attempt of this kind to seek the human inherent in the word ‘human being’ has never being done before an attempt to understand the nuances of a relationship has never been taken before.

Thus I think this ‘Journey’ of Bibhaban is an essential work of our times. In these turbulent times when there is rising totalitarian centralization of political, military and economic powers all over the world then I think we can view this humble attempt far from the realms of the so-called boundaries of the theatre. I cannot prophesize about tomorrow but I think the time has come for all of us to unite and come together. If those who love theatre want to or claim to see a reflection of the times in their way of living then it’s time we should unite together.

It takes a while for a group, brand or product to familiarize or known among the people. Perhaps at the beginning which is just a name transforms to symbol or icon through common usage. Perhaps Bibhaban’s ‘Journey’ is a symbol or icon which strives to go ahead to bright and beautiful day with our thoughts and experiences where one day we hope that theatre will transform from being a passive entertainment to leading to a path of internal self-discovery.

Supriyo Samajdar

( This article originally written in Bengali and later translated in English by Maitreyo Bhattacharya )

About Supriyo Samajdar

Supriyo Samajdar is director.He Born in 1969 in India. Theatre director and practicioner. Studied directing at the Rabindra Bharati University in Kolkata. Worked with many acclaimed artists: theatre directors Salil Sarakar, Probir Guha, Raul Iaiza, Abani Biswas, actress Rena Mirecka, dancers Ranjabati Sarkar, Tripura Kashyap ,baul singers Paban Das Baul, Parvathy Baul and others. Founded Bibhaban, an experimental theatre company in 1996 and has been directing, writing plays and leading it since. Since 2002 Samajdar is running his research project on mukta natya (open theatre), exploring the communication between a spectator and a performer,Through this resarch work presently he is working on a project calledApproach To Silence, inspired by the works of Antonin Artuad and Jerzy Grotowski. He participated as a director in Regula contra Regulam, research project of Teatro La Madrugada, in Brzezinka (Poland) in 2008.His research paper” in search of a new form -open theatre” was selected for a international symposium-“Language(s) of Theatre”, organized by Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and the Indian Society for Theatre Research (ISTR).at the Jawaharal Nehru University in Delhi(India) in january 2009, “Grotowski – Alongside – Around – Ahead” at the University of Kent in Canterbury(England) in june 2009 and selected at the “Indian Drama in the Culture of Occident” International Conference organized a by Department of Drama and Theatre University of Lodz( Poland) in March, 2011.

On Open Theatre, Bibhaban & The Journey

There you are… by Supriyo Samajdar

Falling in love is a means to feeling time. Does age matter? Sometime the questions are not so important , may be the reality of a relationship is also not so important , may be the important thing is the feelings you experience for someone or inversely, someone feels for you so you feel for her. An exchange of emotions, the emotion where you moved, where silence can express more than words , where you are not alone – beside you there is a thinker , who is thinking about you and your emotions.

We talk about trust when we are in a relation – the trust that we need to understand thoughts, the place from where we communicate. Sometimes the word communication is difficult to understand because the meaning of a word is not as given in a dictionary , it changes with the way you exist, in your presence, that is when you question the definition with your own thoughts you find something which is new, which may be a different meaning or even a search for meaning.

Talking about trust, the word first talks about believing in a person and to believe in someone is not an easy task; it takes time. If you want to move with someone whom you love then what is the thing that moves you behind the word trust? For me it’s the struggle to see myself , my source from where I am thinking about love , for that particular person. What exactly gives you the feelings that you are in love, what are you seeking from that relation?

To look into myself there sometimes I found that my sexuality and my way of understanding love is not the same. To love someone is to understand their movement , their silences, their words. Sexuality is something with my being, my body, my pleasure , my pain. Few years back , when I tried to express my confessions towards my work through the form of theatre , I felt that there was a problem with my approach, rather I would like to say it creates confusion.

Sometime I am asked by the participants what is sex for me? For me it is a communication. Beyond sexual pleasure , there is also a human being who even in those very particular feelings tries to unmask his/her social condition. So when they associate themselves with the ‘Journey’ they come to a point where they find their art is living. The work they want to do with this form is more challenging because you have to build new thought and you have to first de-condition the thoughts which are in your body and mind given to you by society.

Looking at something seriously means you are with it consciously through your knowledge, with your understanding of things; the very presence of your being as you are. It is important to give others your presence, to truly understand a moment.

There are a few articles about my work , which are written in different phases of my understanding of work, in terms of my own views on those article I found that the thoughts which I want to express in those articles are the feelings of being with a form which I loved . I try to find what moves me in my relation with theatre. Through this search movement changes, my way of looking at things changes, I myself change, my understanding of emotions change.

When I started doing theatre, I wanted to do this , because it gave me another identity to know me in another context. May be I am also looking for the space where I can do something new. I don’t know , that is I can’t define the space, I was searching. Perhaps every man wants something which he does not know but when he asks himself what he loves in a relation , what is the first thing he likes , that he moves towards , what will he say ? Sometimes there are no answers; or maybe there are but they are a little difficult to put into words, while you are in that relationship. So today , when I try to write about 19 years old relationships with art , I have experienced a lot, being an alternative theatre activist the journey was not always easy , there were problems; but it still goes on with new situations, new people and new emotions.

There you are, with your love, your presence. In every public presentation of Journey lots of things happen; it is a space where my emotions are guided by friends. In the presentation some things are defined but mostly I try to create a space where audiences feel a relationship beyond that of audience and a performer and instead think about their existence as a human beings.

Sometime I am told by friends , who are close to Journey that, this day’s presentation was good or that day’s presentation was not good. Why does this happen – the answer lies within them. For me I feel that every time when I am in the space for the presentation, I try to be there with my presence and my concentration while I consider the time and the work. So I tell them that for me there is something in Journey and Open Theatre and what I feel may not be felt by them, our needs are different, so they see the work for their needs and expectations, my own needs and expectations are different.

If you are a visitor , your observation is to know from the outside with your own knowledge but if you are living there then something else happens. And that is within you, everyday there is change- relationships change , time changes; you have to feel them , at the same time you are also changing. It shows in our presentation, and so there in the judgment of not good or good. It is you who is in this Journey , and it is you who feels good or not good. The audience is not, they think differently. After all while living your life there are misunderstandings , but yes, there is love and that is why you are in this Journey; and that is important.

When talking about Open Theatre form, there is no meaning in terms of other forms of theatre. Mostly , people know about proscenium form and other forms like, Open Air Form, Intimate Form ,where mass acceptance is less than proscenium . There are many senior theatre workers who do lots of research to find communication in alternative approaches. Some have been appreciated for their works, some have been forgotten, so if we are thinking about appreciation of form then it’s different, because appreciation brings expectation , where there is something you want from it. When you start planning , you are thinking about structure which is based on your experience and there you expect respect, that it must communicate successfully. So your experiments are within an expectation and here is when you are going along with society , and its way of thinking. Society which is conditioned by the politics of power , money, sex .And when you questions this system, you shouldn’t expect appreciation , because society is based on human beliefs , faith and knowledge; human life. When you exist as an individual you question all of this disagreements and separation follows for individuals who are thinking. And finally comes silence, the truth of the moment , from where the condition of thoughts change and so we and our vision changes.

Open Theatre form is something which tries to work on individuals and it moves from their interaction of thoughts. The Journey where every day you feel with your existence, where you and your partner search for the meaning of relationships and togetherness. In that hope may be someday this love can be communicated, so we live life happily with our own way. Open Theatre starts from an individual , their way of thinking towards life. Our work wants to move with an alternative way of living and raise questions , which our civil society does not allow because the system does not want any questions about its work. When you are questioning, there is theatre, art.

Training and workshop are two different things. In training one has to know the technique to perform a particular action repeatedly , from the beginning it is a practice of the same action to discover your ability , concentration, learning. Mostly in theatre groups there are two kinds of training – physical and vocal. As an actor these two elements are important to express their emotions in performance, but if you are doing not only a typical performance but something beyond it then what its training? What is beyond typical performance? Open Theatre deals with the human being mostly.

Any actor can join our training but we want know why they pursue this craft, that is what are they looking for? Why did they choose acting for their expression? Who is the person, who wants to act? We try to work on that person. There is no physical or vocal training as other groups use. In our training we try to explore that very human being who has chosen this path of art.

Normally we work once in a week but sometimes it changes. We do meditation and open discussion, with the trainee we try to understand their need. In this work two things happen, through that person, we also try to understand their needs but also a relationship is developed in any kind of creation, so we try to focus on that also in our training. However when we do workshops about our work , due to time constraints we work on some basic ideals of our work from where a participant can realize the process.

I have had the pleasure of working with many theatre directors throughout my journey , I have tried to understand their way of thinking towards their art. Somehow I feel that few of them are doing their work to build something mechanically from the outside. They believe in one thing and do another. Some of them are working with typical structured performance and some of them ‘beyond performance’ that is performance which breaks down audience – performer divider but truth is they are following some structure , which are based on other’s work. Meaning they think they are doing something new but the problem is that this is only in thought. It is generally known collaboration is needed, otherwise it cannot be called art.

“My work is inspired from a number of sources, I use those elements with a new meaning but it was not invented by me.” This truth is very easy to accept for us who are in this art form. But this truth is missing from their relationship with art. Some directors claim that there is a process which they use to understand their living with art but what they convey in words their thought runs in opposite directions. To me they look like they are in a crisis as if someone is chasing them to take something or I find them egoistic about their work. After all there is a human being behind all this, who is this person? Perhaps you are a great director, may be internationally acclaimed, so what? Where is your work and you? Open Theatre tries to raise these questions –where am I and from where I am thinking about my art so the training in our workshops is finding a belief through which one can know that one is discovering oneself.

Acknowledgement : Greeny Francis

Communication: Bibhaban – 37 Baguiati 4th lane,Kolkata – 700028, India Email: bibhaban@hotmail.com Phone: 09830034978

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