Window Seat | Mrinal Chatterjee

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Hypocrite

We, human beings are basically hypocrites; Indians particularly so.

As Craig Olson writes in his book The Casual Christian, “We are willing to believe that an inanimate, impersonal universe is more capable of producing human life than Almighty God, yet we freely offer prayers to God asking Him to shape events on our behalf and we hold firmly to a belief in the human soul and an afterlife. We embrace the notion of survival of the fittest, yet we ask for mercy for our weakness. We believe that a process called natural selection spawned life out of chaos, yet we depend on the world to be predictable and orderly every morning when we get out of bed.”

In this book the author takes a look at modern church practices and contemporary Christian ministry through the lens of apostolic practices. He shows how biblical teaching has simply been set aside in preference for the prevailing practices and values of a secular culture.

Similar trend can be observed in practically almost all religions, particularly in India. Rites and rituals have taken precedence over spirituality. Temples have mushroomed on government land, by the side of national and State Highways. At Manguli Chhak, in Odisha a major intersection of two national Highways, where hundreds of commuters wait to catch buses, two new temples have been constructed recently; but nobody thought of building a toilet complex- which is a bare necessity there. Such examples could be found in all states. We immerse our deities in ponds and rivers, polluting the water body. We worship river Ganga and Yamuna as goddess but do not flinch to discharge raw sewerage into it.  The tanriks and babas swindle us every day; and we allow ourselves to be duped. From Swami Nityananda to Nirmal Baba to Asharam Babu to Radhe Ma we have witnessed many Babas, Swamis and Matas indulging in acts from sexual escapades to financial impropriety. But we seem to never learn. We swarm near them, allow them to take us for a ride.

Do we need theatre?

World Theatre Day is celebrated annually on the 27th of March across the world. It was in 1961 that International Theatre Institute (ITI), an international non-governmental organization, founded in 1948 by UNESCO celebrated it first. Subsequently other organisations and theatre groups started celebrating the day. Various national and international theatre events are organized to mark the occasion and to draw attention to theatre and international harmony. World theatre Day is celebrated in India too by several theatre groups and cultural organisations.

On the occasion of World Theatre Day, each year ITI invites an outstanding theatre personality or a person outstanding in heart and spirit from another field to share his or her reflections on theatre and international harmony. This message is then translated into more than 20 languages, read for tens of thousands of spectators before performances in theatres throughout the world. It is also printed in hundreds of daily newspapers and broadcast in several radio and television stations across the continents.

The message author of 2017 is Isabelle Huppert, the theatre and cinema actress from France.

Last year, World Theatre Day Message Author was Anatoli Vassiliev, an internationally acclaimed theatre director and professor of Russian Theatre and founder of the Moscow Theatre School of Dramatic Arts.

In his message he elaborated on the need of theatre at an age, where visual entertainment is largely accessed on digital platform. He reasoned, “Theatre can tell us everything. How the gods dwell in heaven, and how prisoners languish in forgotten caves underground, and how passion can elevate us, and how love can ruin, and how no-one needs a good person in this world, and how deception reigns, and how people live in apartments, while children wither in refugee camps, and how they all have to return back to the desert, and how day after day we are forced to part with our beloveds, – theatre can tell everything. “

He reasoned why theatre is important. “And now, in those last fifty or seventy years, it is particularly necessary. Because if you take a look at all the public arts, you can immediately see that only theatre is giving us – a word from mouth to mouth, a glance from eye to eye, a gesture from hand to hand, and from body to body. It does not need any intermediary to work among human beings – it constitutes the most transparent side of light, it does not belong to either south, or north, or east, or west – oh no, it is the essence of light itself, shining from all four corners of the world, immediately recognizable by any person, whether hostile or friendly towards it.”

He made a passionate appeal, “To hell with gadgets and computers – just go to the theatre, occupy whole rows in the stalls and in the galleries, listen to the word and look at living images! – it is theatre in front of you, do not neglect it and do not miss a chance to participate in it – perhaps the most precious chance we share in our vain and hurried lives.

We need every kind of theatre.

There is only one theatre which is surely not needed by anyone – I mean a theatre of political games, a theatre of a political “mousetraps”, a theatre of politicians, a futile theatre of politics. What we certainly do not need is a theatre of daily terror – whether individual or collective, what we do not need is the theatre of corpses and blood on the streets and squares, in the capitals or in the provinces, a phony theatre of clashes between religions or ethnic groups…”

I entirely agree with Anatoli Vassiliev: we need theatre, all kinds of theatre. As the macabre theatre of terrorism, extremism, economic and cultural imperialism, intolerance, ultra-nationalism and ethnocentricity is sweeping the world, what we need is the sane old school theatre, which connects people, which provides that much needed cathartic effect on us, and which shows us the right path- subtly, very subtly.

Yes, we need theatre now more than ever before.

Tailpiece 1

Desh me Narendra

Maharashtra me Debendra

Dehradun me Tribendra

Chandigarh me Amarendra

Petroleum me Dharmendra

Shreenagar me Mehbooba,

Dilli me ajooba

Tailpiece 2

Modiji ne tay kiya tha…

Mukhyamantri usiko banayenge…. Jiske pas Biwi ki kichkich na ho.

(Courtesy: Social Media forward)

***

The columnist, a journalist turned media academician lives in Dhenkanal, in Central Odisha. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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