"LIVEWIRE UNITERRUPTED" - Article on Eminent theatre director Arvind Gaur By Vatsala Shrivastava / The Asian Age
"Director Arvind Gaur, an un-insulated livewire drawing thousands to its magnetic field..."
ON BEING prevented from reading aloud, the stammerer of the class protests, walks out, clashes with the school administration and snatches back his right to equal opportunity. Within three years, he treats himself by continuously hearing and correcting his own speech and attains enough fluency to become a debater.
He loses his college in the first year of engineering after being wrongfully pushed into jail for a political agitation he was never a part of. He fights back and goes to the same college after refinishing his schooling to win his battle of justice and pride. These incidents set the foundation for director Arvind Gaur’s socially and politically relevant theatre. His productions speak out for the rights and dignity of marginal groups and take up polemical issues hidden under cover.
The founder of the Asmita theatre group believes that his work is not just sheer entertainment, but a medium to address concerns which are rooted in every individual’s time and space. “To me, theatre is a tool to sensitise people towards their own existence. I feel responsible for inciting the concerns of my audience, especially youth, towards the needs of our society.’’
Gaur believes that stage training acts like a catalyst to create better human beings. “My face-to-face with theatre questioned my arrogance and feudal temperament; I feel I am a better person after entering the world of theatre. We must work on the most basic unit of society i.e. the individual, for developing sensibility on a broader scale. It’s the medium of change for me.”
His productions, such as Final Solutions and Hidden Fires, have often paved the way for further debate on burning topics. “The role of theatre is to induce the attitude of questioning and delve deep into the subject. For instance, immediately after Godhra, shows of Hidden Fires (solo by Rashi Bunny) were Asmita’s attempt to break the culture of silence. We have been witnessing riots since Independence because we forget our victims; we ignore the root of such heinous act by coining slogans such as Hindu-Muslim-bhai-bhai. Theatre acts as a watchdog for these moments,’’ says Gaur.
Gaur breathes multiple lives with his characters. Be it the angst of Final Solutions’ Javed, the fury of Operation Three Star’s crazy protester as he clashes with the police or the consistence of Ambedkar aur Gandhi’s Ambedkar, Gaur’s revolutionary self reflects as the curtains rise.
Gaur, who has created a new language for solos, displays unusual sensitivity as he carves the suffering and pangs of his female characters such as Madhvi, Gandhari, Gopa (Tat Niranjana), and subjects such as those of 4.48 Psychosis and Woman in Black. The spectrum of his characters highlights his personal life and inner journey. His clash with authoritative systems, loss of his loving sister to atrocities of the pompous Indian society, and his dream of egalitarian society, peek out from his performances.
Gaur says his group is still blacklisted with many government organisations since the screening of the controversial play Mr Jinnah, but his audience always keep him going. He has also survived a time when he was labelled anti-national, and had neither place for rehearsals and performances, nor friends. He credits his father for being the motivational force behind his no-compromise policy.
Gaur believes in maintaining the standard of his work without wasting time and energy in seeking grants and aides. His only expectation from the government is the introduction of a cultural policy which provides symbiotic existence for art and artistes with the contradictions of our system. “In the name of vision for theatre, the government can show off only the National School of Drama which runs on its own whims and fancies. The ambience of the institute has deteriorated since legendary director Ebrahim Alkazi’s exit. Today, it exists as an event organising committee. There is no security for students’ lives. It’s an educational body, and whatever it does, it must stick to its basic role.’’
“Why don’t we have multiple drama schools for all regions on the patterns of the IITs and the IIMs?’’ asks Gaur, following immediately with an answer, “because the so called culture gurus don’t want to lose their nucleus of power in the form of NSD. It has become an adda for the sycophants.’’
His take on migration of drama artistes to “greener pastures of Bollywood and TV” is quite practical. He feels that if artistes move on after contributing four to five years of their talent to the stage, their contributions should be appreciated rather than complained about. Gaur, who trains hundreds of students every year, feels the talent and work of the younger generation must be recognised.
He admits to his process of enrichment after working with actresses such as Mallika Sarabhai, Lushin Dubey, Bubbles Sabharwal, Rashi Bunny, Ruth Sheard, Aishveryaa Nidhi and Jaimini Kumar Srivastava.
He stresses on the need to break away from illusionary jargon comprising meaningless terms such as national theatre and amateur theatre. He establishes that there can be no single representative theatre institute or school of the diversity called “India”, and it is foolish to put the groups performing hundreds of shows annually, under the label of “amateur theatre”.
Opinions and intellectual clashes are signs of developing societies, and debate its tool. The kingdom requires its Davids and its Goliaths. Struggles, contradictions, juxtapositions, arguments, and confrontations cause development as long as they are allowed to exist out there in the open.
With the Indian theatrescape being watched by the likes of director Arvind Gaur, an un-insulated livewire drawing thousands to its magnetic field, we can rest assured that it is yet to see its best days.