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A spirited adventure

Arvind Gaur and his team get ready with “Gandhi Aur Ambedkar.”

Photo: V.V. Krishnan

A viewpoint Arvind Gaur has pinned his hopes on the power of campus theatre.

Venture into director Arvind Gaur’s work arena to realise Indian theatre is young and vibrant. Evenings at Nav Shakti school have youngsters sitting in a wide circle rehearsing while the seasoned ones discuss the upcoming production.

Asmita theatre group will stage its new production “Gandhi Aur Ambedkar” this weekend. Gaur’s 64th endeavour, he admits, is quite like many of its predecessors — a social and political play.

Written by Rajesh Kumar, the play tracks two prominent personalities of history — Mahatma Gandhi and Bhim Rao Ambedkar. Their political dialogues on the social concerns of the time, their often antithetical views and also the realisation that their vision was one, but means different — form the fabric of the play.

“There can be no talk of contemporary issues without understanding history,” asserts Gaur, placing the play in perspective. The issue of untouchability and the plight of the Dalits is a significant thread of the play. “If we search for the roots of most problems in contemporary Indian politics, they may lie in the 1930s,” says Gaur.

In his almost 15 years in theatre, Gaur has traversed a journey that includes Shakespeare, Brecht, Arthur Miller and Eugene O’ Neill to Girish Karnad and Mahesh Dattani.

Quiz him on adapting to the different sensibilities of these plays, he says, “I make every sensibility our sensibility. I relate it to myself and to our surrounding. If I am doing ‘Tuglaq’, I am searching for my Tuglaq.”

The social power of theatre is not missed by Gaur. “Social awareness was always important in Hindustani theatre — be it folk theatre, Parsi theatre, which despite being commercial highlighted social issues, or Sanskrit plays,” he says.

If mainstream theatre is split between the advocates of “theatre for theatre” and the believers of theatre for social change, Gaur has pinned his hopes on the power of campus theatre. According to him, it is in the campus one sees the fire of yore.Campus theatre highlights political and social issues and is powerful and strong. The young generation is willing to take up issues and address them,” he says.

Another aspect of theatre that really strikes a chord with Gaur is street theatre. His troupe spends considerable time enacting plays in the streets, schools and colleges. “Street theatre has become a strong tradition in the past 15 years. In street plays, the advantages are direct contact with the audience and interactions with them, which is often provocative. It has a direct impact and can help create awareness about a social and political issue,” says Gaur.

There are other perks to street theatre, adds Gaur. “It is cheap, one can have many shows in a day and no technical constraints. It is also a challenge to the actors.”

Gaur had always known theatre was going to be a difficult enterprise. Even when he gave up being a journalist to be a director, he was prepared for the challenges. “The decision was taken after deliberation. I knew there would be challenges and there were challenges in the past 15 to 20 years. But I didn’t want to run away,” says Gaur. In certain ways Gaur is content. “We have lessened the difficulties for the coming generation in theatre,” he says. Theatre, he believes, is on its way to becoming a cultural and political movement.

Gandhi Aur Ambedkar

A social and political play that draws on the dialogues of Gandhi and Ambedkar

Directed by Arvind Gaur

Written by Rajesh Kumar

At Shri Ram Centre

On July 19, 7 p.m

P.ANIMA

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