আড্ডা, সাবেকী ভাষায় Interview | Pain is Theatre, Theatre is Lucky

 Pain is Theatre, Theatre is Lucky | Lucky & Soumyajit

[Luckyjee Gupta performing @ Ullash, organized by Urotaar
On National Street Theatre Day, April 12, 2015, Calcutta]

Pain to you?
-       Pain is neither physical nor any mental state. Pain is a thought process of living and, living is wonderful if you can respect it. You can’t define pain in one sentence. You have to experience and deliver pain in your own way. And everything in this world, be it good or bad starts from pain. Pain is inevitable organ of civilization.

And, how to handle pain?
-       Don’t try to handle pain consciously. Celebrate it. Celebrate each and every moment of life. Pain and happiness are intertwined. Be pained, you’ll be happy. Pain has everything in it. Such powerful it is. Suppose, your best friend has left you in the middle of a street. You get the immediate pain, but it also gives you the strength to move on.

Theatre, to you?
-       Theatre is pain to me. There was pain in my life, at my home, and that’s why theatre came in to my life. I learned to experience pain, play with pain, and deliver the pain to my audience. Unless pain was there, I never could do any good thing. Theatre is the platform where I can deliver the pain to common people. Remember, I want to deliver, not by passing it.

So, art forms and pain live together?
-       Yes. The day I will fail to take pain anymore, theatre will be gone. Theatre will be dull for me. Pain teaches me the art of living, and I teach hundreds of lives how to celebrate!

Does theatre heal your pain?
-       Not at all. By the mean of theatre, pain reborn in its own way. It’s an unending process. Pain → theatre, more pain → more theatre, and ’am walking like this. From art to politics, only those people could succeed who have had pain, in any form or shape.

Today is 12th April, and it’s National Street theatre day. You’ve performed here at Ullash, an Urotaar initiative. You’re such a performer who can easily adopt any format of theatre, be it an air conditioned auditorium or be it street, university campus, train, bus stand! What do you understand about the difference in performing street theatre and stage theatre?
-       This is what I see in two different ways. First, basic Difference is the level of pain. If I get an auditorium and a bunch of theatre buff, it’s easy to deliver. But if the platform is volatile, you never know who your audience is, then it’s difficult and there comes the pain. You have to perform in adverse situation also, and that’s challenge. But on second note, there is no difference at all, because you have to perform and that’s your passion, your love. So be identical to both the platforms and try what better you can give. But yes, there are few basic questions- today street theatre in India has almost lost its pride, it’s like an extinct art form which is suffocating. And this is because we, the people who live by selling art forms are greedy to take the resources and move towards proscenium. And here the noble cause of (street) theatre is being badly manhandled. An art form is that where you at least try to connect with people, philosophically or physically. Theatre is a wonderful form where you can perform LIVE and people can identify the problems in life, solutions of those, they can relate to those and of course entertainment is needed. But nowadays proscenium has concentrated on the funding, entertainment and easily attracted to the artists. Yes, theatre artists also need money but money is not everything. You cannot buy my performance by just being entertained. Unless you involve your soul to my performance, you’ll never see the best of me. We always run after fame, run after theatre buffs. Why? Because we want our works to be reviewed by great reviewers in a good newspaper. That’s it? Is theatre born for this only? No my dear, theatre is for that tea-seller also (pointing the tea-seller nearby, from whom we took our tea). He can be my audience too! Even if I give him a free pass to watch my performance in academy of fine arts, he will never come. Selling tea is his living hand to mouth. And he knows, this theatre will cost his one hour of living. Street theatre is great in this way. I can perform here in street so that eighteen year boy can see my play beside making and serving tea. Street theatre is important for the working people, who never felt the urge to go for a proscenium theatre. There was a time when Calcutta was a city of theatre. People used to travel a lot here and there and stay in Calcutta for so many months, just to perform here and there. And it’s so important for the non-elitist section of audience who still thinks thrice before watching a theatre whether it will turn out to be a bad investment or not. So, I seriously want to involve these people. Okay, you may not feel easy in air conditioned hall, but I will make you feel easy here in street. And that’s why ’am lucky to get love from working people like a rickshaw-puller who holds my hand and says in wet eyes that don’t ever stop performing. This is the success of street theatre.

Safdar Hashmi took birth on this very date, he was in active leftist politics, he sacrificed his jobs, and devoted his life to street theatre, and during Halla Bol, he, along with Ram Bahadur, surrendered his dreams to the hooligans. Moloyshree Hashmi didn’t stop there. She defined street theatre to the world just after few days how it is breathing by each blood drops of Safdar. This was the celebration of pain in theatre then, ’am talking about the 80s. And, theatre now- how would you define? People are ready to expend much to watch a film at multiplex, but still feel shaky to get a sixty rupees ticket for a theatre. Today, theatre in Calcutta costs may be sixty or hundred rupees. But a section is interested to spend more. Come on, you’re watching few people performing LIVE and you won’t pay for it? I can name of Anjan Dutt, whose theatre production costs near about three hundred rupees, but still people are going to watch his on stage performance. May be a whole lot bunch of working people are not being able to watch that art but his audience are watching. So ‘theatre-no money’ vis-à-vis ‘theatre-make it healthy’- two different standpoints have emerged in Calcutta during last ten years. What are your views?
-       True, needs come at first. Every theatre activist has to earn bread from this art form. But I don’t want to fix my price because I know plenty of theatre lovers who cannot afford even hundred rupees but still manage to watch my performance. And that’s why what I do with my audience is – I go to them, give them a blank chit and request them to price my performance according to their ability and wishes. But I admit, this can be applied to solo performance only. For group theatre, it won’t work at all. There comes the word stretching your helping hands to theatre. Government could be a good option to nourish this ‘theatre-no money’ concept and make it a bit healthy, but still you can see democratically chosen government is such a thing which cannot let you nourish. Today also, Urotaar got the permission for Ullash to be held at Triangular Park (Rashbehari Avenue) with such a condition that you cannot produce any play which speaks against the West Bengal government as this is election time. And there the question mark becomes bold. Many groups produce their plays by getting governments’ financial help and they are becoming bound not to speak against the authorities. This is pathetic. This is not theatre, if I can’t speak in my own language, my own words. This is becoming worse and worse day by day in West Bengal and in other places too. See, that tea-seller won’t spend three hundred rupees for a play; rather he would spend it in gamble or liquor. It’s his instinct. So, our duty is first to strengthen our plays, make it so powerful that working people start to respect it. Yes, LIVE performance is always more painful than retaking a shot in front of camera. People will be ready to pay for it, when theatre will be LIVE enough. When theatre persona like Habib Tanvir, Anuradha Kapur used to visit Calcutta, people waited in a long queue to get the tickets. But gone those days are! No next Safdar has come till date.  

You remind me of Badal Sircar. He was a person of such a stature who was genuine in his admiration and defined the third theatre.
-       He is an institution in himself. A school of theatre. Most translated playwright and an influential character. Badal Sircar understood that audience is to be involved, otherwise a play will be just a play, can’t touch the heart of audience. Parallel thought processing with audiences can give birth to better theatre. Make the audience feel along with you, make her feel that she can be a part of your theatre too. Oh yes, it can go worst also! I remember one day I got beaten by a man, he tore my shirt off and slapped me because he could not think parallel with me. He could not understand that it was a play. But it happens. You get all these reactions of working people when you get involved with them, otherwise not. At the beginning, I used to keep my handkerchief on street, after performing and people used to give from one rupee to one hundred rupees. Sometimes, even more than that. But with time I learnt that few audiences feel sympathized with me that I have nothing else to do than street theatre. I got pained as I didn’t want HELP from audiences; rather I believe that theatre has come to help them. Every art form has born to help mankind. Yes, human have given the birth but don’t think you’re doing this for the sake of the art. The art is doing for the sake of you.

Why do you involve audience in your play?
-       The simple reason is that I want them to walk with me along with their parallel thought process. What I do feel at the time of acting, I want to let them feel also. May be sometimes I fail, but sometimes I do not fail because of the audience.

Tell us about ‘Maa Mujhe Tagore Bana De’?
-       “Maa Mujhe Tagore Bana De”, a play based on a Punjabi story written by Mohan Bhandari. And yes, I’m playing this text since a long time back.

Do you prepare your innovative ideas back of the mind before performance?
-       No, you cannot do this. You can’t prepare the ideas before performing. It comes within while you’re performing. The script and design gets changed each and every time I perform. And I do that according to time, place and audience. Planning is not required, you need your LIVE situation and you have to act LIVE. Live for the moment. Act for the moment. But keep the essence lifelong. 

Your theatrical inspiration(s)?
-       Many are there. Seriously, many. Like I always say, there is a Tagore inside each of us. And I do believe that. I take inspirations from them. I used to play few different plays earlier. Proscenium was not working for me. So I started performing at various schools, where children at least can see my work. I remember it was a Saturday and I started to think twice on my theatre whether I should leave it or not. On Monday, I had a show in a hillside school, they promised me to give some honorarium after the show. I didn’t have my money to take a bus even. I borrowed money from a kindhearted shop-owner and went to that school. Children enjoyed my acting. They laughed, they cried. They gave immense love. After performing when I asked for the five hundred rupees the school authority promised, I heard that the headmaster wasn’t there; so I’ve to wait for few days more. I was demoralized once again. I could remember, I was thinking that this is my last day in theatre. I was sad and was standing near the main gate of the school. Suddenly I heard a little boy calling me ‘Sir, wait…wait for a minute’. He came and told me that they loved my acting. Just listening to this I cried there only. He also requested me to perform in a nearby school where his brother used to study. And then he gave me little handkerchief in my hands. You know, what was it? It was the Tiffin money of the students, few fifty paisa, and one rupee coins. I earned love and ninety eight rupees that day. And I know, after that day I never thought to stop my theatre. That’s why I’m talking with you right at this moment.

Lucky, see I’m getting emotional now. You always do this. Be it in your acting, or be it in your conversation. We should stop here.
-       (Smile… parenthesis remains unclosed here

[Maa Mujhe Tagore Bana De | Luckyjee Gupta | Performance]


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