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Archive for the ‘What I think’ Category

Will I post more?

A few people have asked about this. Not anytime soon, I’m afraid, because I’m seriously working on a book. I need to get that done soon. If I do (or when I do) it’ll have to be about the attitude of government servants in India (don’t get me started – I don’t have the time! 😉

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By Rasana Atreya
Published in The Times of India, Pune Edition

“The 4-wheeler class is killing theatre!” exclaims Mohan Kulkarni in despair. Kulkarni, of the theatre promotion company Manoranjan, is convinced that this class is “abandoning theatre to go to multiplexes.”

Kulkarni says, “Only the hardcore audience comes. New audience is not getting created. The youth is not interested at all in serious drama. This is because they don’t have too much knowledge about Marathi literature.”

Manoranjan does its bit for experimental theatre by offering concessions, but Kulkarni isn’t too sure about the future of serious Marathi theatre. He says comedies, or what he calls the “tapori” shows, are what bring in the crowds – the raunchier, the better. This is especially true of the younger, college-bound, mostly male audience.

Prasad Vanarase emphatically disagrees with Kulkarni. Marathi theatre, he says, is a thriving, vibrant entity. And young people today are more interested than ever. With his involvement in FLAME (Foundation for Liberal and Management Education) and as director of ACE (Academy for Creative Education), which he started, Vanarase has been involved in the promotion of experimental and amateur theatre in the city and interior Maharashtra for years. He is trying to create awareness about grants for theatre that are available from the Ministry of Culture, and the major concession the Railways offer to traveling troupes.

Vanarase, a National School of Drama graduate, credits the Maharashtra government for having taken a major initiative in 1955 to organize state-level competitions. This, he says, “actually converted many people, who would have remained theatre goers, into theatre makers.” Vanarase feels this initiative kick started a huge industry. In state-level competitions there are about 450 groups performing in 22 different centers. This involves thousands of people in acting, directing, marketing, backstage work.

Another entity, the Maharashtra Cultural Center (MCC) has been involved with theatre, both children’s and mainstream, for the last 15 years. They have their own theatre, the Sudarshan Rangamancha, where they subsidize plays.

MCC President Dr. Mohan Agashe has imported from Germany a branch of theatre called GRIPS. GRIPS portrays the world through the eyes of children, but is performed by professional adult actors. It does not offer solutions — the intent is to make children think. This has been extremely popular with school children, MCC’s Shubhangi Damle says.

About the “sleaze” factor in theatre, Vanarase says that it is like a wave, demand goes up and down. But he is convinced that serious theatre is not going anywhere. “How do you define success?” he asks rhetorically. “If you base it on the response of the theatre goers, we are very successful.”

Like Vanarase, Damle doesn’t believe either that cinema is affecting theatre, “Because theatre lovers love theatre and come to the theatre despite films.”

Published in The Times of India, Pune Edition

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By Rasana Atreya 

Sachin Tendulkar recently found himself in the midst of a controversy – for cutting a cake, of all things. The Indian High Commissioner to Jamaica had arranged for Tendulkar to cut a cake decorated with the Indian National Flag. A television news channel ran a scoop on this “disrespect” to our flag. The BCCI (Board of Control of Cricket in India), in turn, felt it necessary to defend Tendulkar – by pushing the blame on to the High Commisioner. A Union Minister got into the act by saying the person who commissioned the cake should be held responsible. And now Tendulkar may be charged for this disrespect.Am I the only one that finds this situation completely ridiculous? It was just a cake, for goodness’ sake! To blow something which was conceived out of good intentions so totally out of proportion is, I feel, indicative of our misplaced priorities. I think we Indians are a confused lot when it comes to what really constitutes national pride. And if our laws say that this is unacceptable, maybe it is time we changed the law.

As a counterpoint, the American Flag is freely printed everywhere – on T-shirts, on bed sheets, even on swim wear. And yes, for the 4th of July, the American Day of Independence, a lot of cakes with the Stars and Stripes get baked, cut and eaten (I’ve eaten some myself, and not gotten into trouble with the law either. Then again, I’m no Tendulkar).

In contrast, how many Indians do you know that actually celebrate our Independence/Republic Day?

Every 4th of July is celebrated in most American households and in virtually all communities across America. At the end of the day friends and families get together, to celebrate the day with a traditional barbecue meal. Perhaps a guest who fought in any of the American wars (set aside George Bush’ ill-conceived Iraqi war for the moment) reminds the younger generation of the sacrifices that were made by the generations past, for the freedoms that Americans enjoy today. How many Indians do you know that give our Independence Day more consideration than the fact that is a holiday?

One of the most stirring Independence Day celebrations that I had the privilege to be part of was when my husband and I were vacationing in Seattle. Since it was the 4th of July weekend, we decided to go to a park attached to a public library, to be part of the celebration. Every single person there was dressed in red, white and blue, the colours of the American flag. The roads leading to this event were packed with people proudly waving their flags. There were parades where little children performed, their parents beaming with pride. There were charity drives for the war veterans, where people donated freely. And endless food stalls set up by volunteers (regular people, not shop owners), with home made food mostly in the colours of red, white and blue.

And when a disabled World War II veteran got up to share his experiences, people weren’t ashamed to let tears openly flow. After his speech, there a long line of people patiently queued up to shake hands with this veteran, to hug him, to thank him for his sacrifices. And when the festivities came to an end, the gathering rose as one, put their hands on their chests and recited the Pledge of Allegiance, and spirited sang the National Anthem. People broke up from the gathering with flags printed on their hats, clothes, bags, tattooed on their bodies. I don’t think disrespect to the American flag is what these people had in mind.

The Republic Day celebrations from my childhood that come to mind are the endless, boring speeches by politicians atop the Red Fort in New Delhi. Not quite the way to incite the masses to patriotism. It didn’t work for me then, and I sure it wouldn’t work for me now (if I could ever get myself to watch it again).

What I would like, is to be able to wear the colours of my country with pride. Instead of being constantly reminded of what our country was thousands of years ago, I’d like to be able to feel pride for what it is today – a tolerant, accepting, patriotic society.

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