`Laughter is a celebration'
The tragedy of our times is the death of humour in our lives, say theatrepersons Bansi Kaul and Anjana Puri
Photo: K. Gopinathan
FUNNY BONE Anjana Puri and Bansi Kaul feel that one needs a good rhythm and body language, rather than words, to play the perfect clown
This was a conversation that came alive as the clock struck 12 and the rest of the world was in deep slumber. It was a "serious" discussion on laughter between Bansi Kaul, noted theatre director and head of the Bhopal-based theatre group Rang Vidhushak, and Anjana Puri, his colleague and music director.
As the two started talking, SHILPA SEBASTIAN R. was amused to discover the serious side of humour.
Bansi: If we get talking, I'm sure it'll be just a lot of nonsense (with a big grin).
Anjana: When do you talk sense?
Bansi: Let's have some fish then. It's good for the brains. May be it'll motivate us to talk some sense. Tell me, how do you bring in humour in your music?
Anjana: I learnt it from you. Seriously, every time I think of your voice, humour automatically creeps in to my music. I feel music should be done without words, but only with sounds. It should be a language of clowns.
Bansi: Right. Even children start only with sounds. It's the sound that has innocence and peace, without corruption. Humour actually starts with the mother and child. Each becomes a clown for the other and what transpires between them is a language of sounds. If that is achieved in the arts, that's the best humour.
Anjana: You don't need words to make someone laugh. If you have the perfect rhythm, tune and the body language you can be the perfect clown.
Bansi: That does not apply to the music of today. I think laughter today has to be redefined. The so-called funny acts shows on TV channels fail at creating humour. They rely on the laughter record that is played through the show. Soon even theatre artistes will start using them as humour is becoming very boring. We end up mimicking or imitating someone. Laughter in theatre today means live caricature. But that's not the ultimate. Laughter has become a commodity today where people suddenly wake and decide that they need to see a funny movie or a play and switch on the TV to make themselves laugh. For me, laughter has to be used as a weapon to release you from your tensions.
Anjana: One can also see many categories of laughter that of a child filled with innocence, one of sarcasm, the sensual one and so on. It also has a sociological background and has different roles to play.
Bansi: Why do we need "something" to make us laugh?
Anjana: I think it's the situation that makes us laugh. No one thinks before laughing.
Bansi: I think laughter can be very cruel also. We break into laughter when someone slips on a plantain skin. But the poor person who actually falls would have hurt his butt! That's because we've limited ourselves to laugh at other people's pain. First, one should learn to laugh at one's own pain. That's what happened with the Bhopal gas tragedy.
Anjana: What do you mean?
Bansi: See, when they were loading the trucks with all the bodies, they also put an unconscious man into it. When the truck was almost ready to leave, the man suddenly woke up, saw the bodies, screamed and jumped out of the vehicle. It became sensational news and there were many jokes and caricatures done on this incident. Laughing at your pain also eases your pain. After each tragedy, people see a lot of laughter and also pain in it.
Anjana: It's a form of relief.
Bansi: Take, for instance, the tsunami. There was this man who had hung on to a tree for dear life. At that time, it was a matter of life and death. But two months later, he was making jokes about it. One needs guts to be like that and only an ordinary human being has it. One always builds a story around his/her painful experience. The more positively one looks at it, the more humour he adds to it. Laughter is a special emotion, which is tragically getting lost these days. Laughter is a celebration and is always born out of pain.
Anjana: It may be tough, but accidents themselves come to your rescue in certain situations.
Bansi: Everyday situations make the perfect set up for comedy in the performing arts.
Anjana: But it's not always easy. Have you ever laughed at your problem?
Bansi: Yes, many times. When I try to sing at the rehearsals, especially in your class. Anjana: It's a mystery how you just can't get the right tune, pitch or even rhythm!
Bansi: I suppose there is always a problem when you work with trained musicians. You treat others like wild animals around you.
Anjana: You are being rude.
Bansi: Why, even a child cannot be disciplined in six minutes. It has to be taught umpteen times where to shit! Actors are like that: they need time to understand music.
Anjana: Six years is a long time. By saying this, you are negating my training methodology.
Bansi: I think you have to design a training methodology for my actors. I think you should see what they are capable of and then work with them.
Anjana: Now you are saying that I am not doing my job right. I simply disagree with you.
Bansi: See! You lack humour when it comes to you. You even fail to laugh when you fall during a rehearsal.
Anjana: You wicked man! How can you say something like that on record? (Turning to us) I didn't fall, I just stumbled.
Bansi: My actors have to wait for one-and-a-half hours for you to move and give a cue.
(Again, to us). In one of the plays, she dons gorgeous ankle-length hair and a crown on her head. But she moved like a ruptured football on the stage and her long hair got stuck in her leg and the crown slipped to her hips! (Peals of laughter).
Anjana: You are being veeerrry meeeaannn...
Bansi: (To us) She also makes funny faces while singing. Her eyebrows go up by two-and-a-half inches while she starts on an alaap and the chin drops to the floor while her hands are vigorously trying to measure the universe!
Anjana: Well that's better than walking around like a live chimney. (Bansi, incidentally, is an unapologetic chain-smoker).
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