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Unmasking reality

DIWAN SINGH BAJELI

Inspired by Badal Sircar and other pioneers, Parnab Mukherjee practices a form of theatre that is meant to abolish the distance between audience and actor.



MAKING MOVES Parnab Mukherjee attempts to raise audiences' interest in alternative theatre.

Influenced by Badal Sircar, Yoshiko Fajita and Eric Bogosian, Parnab Mukherjee is one of the pioneers of a highly unconventional theatrical art called the alternative theatre. Badal Sircar names it third theatre. The aim of this new kind of theatrical expression is to remove the barrier between the performer and the spectator and to liberate it both from the Western inspired drama and the Indian tradition of folk theatre. Recently, theatre that belongs to this genre was presented by the Law Students Association of India (Delhi University Chapter) and Mefcom Capital Markets Limited at the LTG auditorium. The core thematic element that formed the presentation is Vijay Tendulkar's "Silence! The court (is) in Session".

In tune with the concept of alternative theatre, Parnab tries to create an intimate theatre by using different spaces both in the auditorium and on the stage. A chair is placed in the centre in the auditorium. This kind of placing of the chair is part of the strategy of the alternative theatre, which suggests that what takes place in a theatre is not equally visible to all the spectators.

Director Parnab has replaced Tendulkar's realistic play with a drama that seeks to destroy the illusion of reality. Tendulkar's play is a drama-within-the-drama. Parnab has no love to create such a complicated structure. Like Luigi Pirandello's "The Pleasure of Respectability", the mask of respectability in Tendulkar's play breaks down before the stark reality of life. Tendulkar's Benare is unmarried, sexually exploited and has to abort her pregnancy to maintain the facade of honour. Benare is cast in the role of an unmarried young girl who is being accused of an abortion on legal and ethical grounds. In the course of rehearsal, Benare breaks down because the story of her character is similar to her own. The outward appearance gives way to the truth about the life of Benare.

Parnab is not concerned with the mask and the face. He concentrates on the burning issue of premarital sex and abortion. In his version there are two character-types: male and female.

To portray Benare he has cast three female actors who reveal different shades or ideas of Benare. In Tendulkar's play the male characters are well defined. Parnab considers all men as manifestations of `one man'.

Premarital sex and abortion are debated from the perspective of women struggling to liberate themselves from a world dominated by men. The exploration of the body and sexuality is done through fierce and bold debate. Monologues often rendered in melodramatic style echo in the hall. The heated debate, discussion and polemic offer disturbing moments. Vijay Tendulkar's own troubled vision is expressed through a character.

Although this new theatre is economic and gives freedom to the director, it is not able to explore the psychological, emotional world of dramatis personae as well as the deep philosophical content of the play with subtlety and intricacy.

Despite the efforts of Badal Sircar and young and enthusiastic directors like Parnab, it remains restricted to the experimental stage.

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