Sunday, November 29, 2009

"CLAY CART" BY JANAKARALIYA

Yet another Novel Experiment by Janakaraliya
Theatre Of the People
A fresh theatrical experience
Meti Karaththa
(Clay Cart)

Sinhala Language production of Shudraka's "Mrichchakatika"
Sanskrit play written in 400 AD
Translated by Piyadasa Nissanka
A Janakaraliya Production
A Parakrama Niriella Direction
Premier at Lionel Wendt Theatre, Colombo
on 18th December Friday at 6.30pm

Tamil Language version of
Meti Karaththaya
Kaliman Vandi
(Clay Cart)
Translated by the members of Janakaraliya theatre group
A Janakaraliya and Thesiya Kalai Ilakkiya Peravai Co-production
A Parakrama Niriella & S.Thevaraja Direction
Date of the Premier will be announced soon!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Nowazesh Ahmed: Photographer-agricultural scientist extraordinaire



In Memoriam

Nowazesh Ahmed: Photographer-agricultural scientist extraordinaire

Takir Hossain

Photograph by Nowazesh Ahmed Celebrated agricultural scientist and photographer Dr. Nowazesh Ahmed passed away on November 24.Dr. Ahmed (born 1935), was a guest speaker at the finale of 'Celebrating Life', a programme organised by The Daily Star and Standard Chartered Bank, held at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre last Tuesday night. While leaving the venue, he collapsed and was immediately rushed to National Institute of Cardio Vascular Diseases where attending doctors pronounced him dead. According to the doctors, the veteran photographer suffered from a massive cardiac arrest.
In his last speech at the 'Celebrating Life' programme, Dr. Ahmed said that photography deserves undivided dedication. "Nowadays people tend to think anyone carrying a camera is a photographer. One needs much dedication to be a photographer," he said.
He headed the jury panel of Celebrating Life 2009 Photography contest.Dr. Ahmed is considered a pioneering Bangladeshi photographer. He was born in Manikganj district. His father Khan Bahadur Nazibuddin Ahmed was a distinguished personality of the region.
“Photography has been my passion since childhood. My elder brother Naibuddin Ahmed used to be an amateur photographer and I was inspired by him. I had the chance to use his camera,” said Dr. Ahmed. His camera focused on typical elements of Bangladesh -- boats, riverbanks, farmers, rural lifestyle, mustard-fields and cornfields. He mainly liked to work in the black and white medium.
In 1952, a joint photography exhibition was held at Agriculture College, Tejgaon. The participants were Naib Uddin Ahmed, Nowazesh Ahmed and Amanul Haque. Sixty photographs were displayed at the exhibition. The exhibition received high acclaim for its varied themes and rich photographic quality.
In 1954, Ahmed received a Fulbright Scholarship from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He studied Plant Genetics and Plant Breeding. While studying at the University of Wisconsin (in 1957), Ahmed's photos were selected to participate in an exhibition by The Museum of Modern Art and Life Time Magazine. According to the photographer, it was a rare moment in his life.
In Bangladesh Dr. Ahmed also attained recognition as a genetic scientist. He developed two types of tea.
In 1960, he returned to Dhaka and joined as scientific advisor at Duncan Brothers. Later, he joined the Tea Research Institute as senior scientific officer. Eventually, Ahmed became the director of the then Pakistan Tea Board.
Ahmed moved to London in 1971 and joined Action Bangladesh. British Radical Group and Action Bangladesh jointly organised several cultural activities in favour of the Liberation War. In London, Ahmed played a significant role in generating awareness on what was happening in the then East Pakistan.
In 1972, Ahmed returned to Bangladesh and concentrated on publishing his books “Photography-Bangladesh” and “Development Agriculture of Bangladesh”. As an agricultural advisor, he worked at CIDA.
“In 1980, I joined Asian Development Bank as agricultural advisor. During my tenure in Asian Development Bank from 1980 to 1990, I frequently had to visit Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand for agricultural development among the countries. During the tenure, I concentrated on the life of Buddha community. I started to record the activities of Buddha Bikho through my lens.
"In recent times, Dr. Ahmed published two books on poetry of Rabindranath Tagore and Jibanananda Das. Besides publishing the books, he made two slide documentaries on these two great poets.
A photo-artiste of his stature will be missed greatly in the cultural arena of Bangladesh.
One of several CNG filling stations between Kanchpur Bridge and Jatrabari of the capital which BNP big shots built on the Kutubkhali canal, drastically reducing Dhaka's drainage capability. PHOTO: STAR
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New play production of "The Dictator"

New play production of
Eka - Adhipathi
(The Dictator)
Directed by Dharmasiri Bandaranayake

3rd and 4th December 2009

7. p.m at Lionel Wendt - Colombo





Saturday, November 21, 2009

Degree of risk in Afghanistan





Degree of risk in Afghanistan by Fatima Chowdhury

Demands by the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan for ‘Freedom, Democracy and Social Justice’ remain as critical – and contentious – today as they were three decades ago.

In 1977, in the heady days before the Russia-backed coup, a group of Afghan women intellectuals set up the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA). The new organisation was an attempt to address women’s rights and social justice by engaging Afghan women in peaceful socio-political activities to promote secular, democratic values in the country. Despite its important social work, during its subsequent three decades RAWA’s activism has been far from welcomed by the country’s succeeding governments and conservative social leadership, due to its specific attempts to challenge the status quo.

The initial years saw RAWA’s activities largely confined to demonstrations for women’s rights and democracy. But after the Moscow-directed coup d’etat of April 1978 and the eventual occupation in December 1979, RAWA joined the war of resistance, advocating democracy and secularism. It was during the Soviet years that the organisation began to spread its influence, sending activists to work among refugee women and children in Pakistan, establishing schools and helping to provide much-needed healthcare facilities. It confronted the Soviet occupation both politically and physically – demonstrating in public, while at the same time working to uncover crimes being committed. RAWA reports that during this time, many of its activists were arrested, tortured, and kept in some of Afghanistan’s most notorious prisons for up to eight years at a time.

In 1992, the Soviet-installed puppet regime collapsed to herald a new and more brutal era under the Taliban. Due to rigid policies and growing atrocities, RAWA faced increasing social, economic and political challenges. In October 2001, the US ‘war on terrorism’ led to the fall of the Taliban but the struggle against religious fundamentalism remained. The government of Hamid Karzai aligned itself with the Northern Alliance – seen by many as equally brutal as the Taliban – and former warlords began taking positions on the political dais. For a group that believes that one Afghan fundamentalist regime has replaced another, RAWA’s calls remain poignant and pertinent: “Freedom and democracy cannot be donated; it is the duty of the people of a country to fight and achieve these values.”

Family network

Mariam Rawi (not her real name) remembers being enthralled by RAWA as a young girl, impressed with its independence and thrilling emphasis on women’s rights. Unlike many of the group’s other members, Mariam’s parents respected her decision to get involved. At the age of 15, her father chose to send her to a RAWA school instead of more-traditional institutions. Now 31, Mariam says that her father wanted her not just to receive an education, but to develop a conscience – to “choose the right path and have a purpose in life by fighting for the rights of the voiceless people, especially women.” Now, Mariam is a member of the group’s foreign affairs committee, travelling around the world to raise awareness about the plight of Afghan women. Despite her high-profile success within the organisation, however, to this day security remains a major issue for RAWA and its workers: Mariam declined either to be photographed or to use her real name for this article.

Partially due to such concerns, RAWA members behave like a family, sharing their problems and aspirations. Many who are involved in work on the same project live collectively in a single house. Although for safety’s sake those who have families are not allowed to invite their relatives, the collective house nonetheless provides a supportive environment. “There are many RAWA members who, on their very personal issues, such as marriage, choose to first consult with RAWA and then with their own family members,” explains Mariam, who has lived with the organisation since she first became involved. In this way, RAWA is able to offer an element of stability, particularly for women, in what can at times be a chaotic environment.

Having started work with the group when she was 18 (able to distinguish, she says, between her country’s friends and enemies), Mariam notes that she was well aware of the difficulties that her decision would entail. RAWA’s legendary founder and eventual martyr, Meena Keshwar Kamal (commonly known by just her first name), provided a critical early inspiration, as have the stories and experiences that Mariam has subsequently encountered from women around the world. Some of her greatest motivation, however, is the ongoing preaching in her own country that “women are half of men and are weak creatures”. While these fundamentalist traditions may be particular rigid, the organisation has operated on the assumption that, with courage, its members can break a crucial path – “We must be the vanguards,” she emphasises.

Confronted with such issues, Mariam feels that her time with RAWA has offered more than simply stability, but has also helped her to formulate her identity. She says she has become aware not just of her political, social and legal rights, but has also been allowed the opportunity to help others who have been deprived of those same rights. In Afghanistan – as in many other places in Southasia, but perhaps more so – speaking up for personal rights, confidently interacting with others, and even staying away from one’s family can be considered revolutionary steps, challenging as they are to traditional teachings and beliefs. Perhaps most importantly, Mariam explains that the person she has become is a woman who can enjoy the same rights as that of her brother and other Afghan males.

Incurring wrath

To believe that positive change is possible takes a certain amount of tenacious idealism grounded in a strong faith in the cause. RAWA sees one of its largest achievements as the fostering of a wider consciousness among Afghan men in support of women’s rights and equality. On a more material level, over the years RAWA has provided women and children with education and health facilities in both Afghanistan and in Afghan-refugee areas in Pakistan, where a large part of its operations are concentrated. They have built a health centre in Quetta, as well as a number of schools in Quetta and Peshawar, aimed at Afghan refugees.

RAWA has provided shelter to women who have been raped, along with their female relations, fathers who have sold their daughters out of hunger, widows forced to beggary and prostitution in order to feed their children, and orphans with nowhere to go. To run its schools, literacy courses, hospitals, mobile health teams and income-generating projects, RAWA has increasingly relied on funding from international sources. Seeking financial support within Afghanistan has been difficult, partly due to the desperate economy and partly due to the organisation’s contentious radicalism. RAWA has also, however, been donated free land for many of its projects, and many of its teachers work without salary.

The worldwide network of supporters that has arisen is also noteworthy, with a large number of individuals and small-scale organisations having taken it upon themselves, particularly in recent years, to keep RAWA solvent. The organisation does not receive monetary aid from governments, international aid agencies or large NGOs, and it faces regular challenges due to its adamantly anti-fundamentalist stands. A few years back, some embassies promised the group some money, on the condition that RAWA remove the word ‘revolutionary’ from its name. The members refused.

Despite having incurred the wrath of the governments in both Kabul and Islamabad, RAWA continues to point out that it is not Western governments but ordinary people that have contributed to its global support. Even as RAWA has become something of a darling of certain progressive Western groups, critics worry that it is overly radical: unnecessarily and harmfully critical of other Afghan women’s organisations working for many of the same causes while maintaining cordial relations with the fundamentalist forces. Although RAWA vehemently denies such accusations, emphasising the “great harmony” between the group and other women’s rights and anti-fundamentalist organisations, it categorically states that it does not acknowledge the women who have been appointed into the present government, due to their perceived weak positions against fundamentalism. Perhaps part of the problem lies in the fact that, having heralded the struggle for women’s rights within Afghanistan for so many years, RAWA may now find it difficult to cooperate with some groups that it sees as being diplomatic in criticising the current state of affairs.

The reaction by the Afghan people themselves to RAWA’s activities has ranged from admiration to condemnation, and at many times both simultaneously. Although the group’s projects are generally supported in particular by local women, any community approval is equally confronted with contempt. Members are often labelled as prostitutes, infidels or Maoists. This last reference is one that has long dogged the group. It is a debate that probably stemmed from the fact that Meena’s husband, Faiz Ahmad, was the leader of an Afghan Maoist group (the Afghanistan Liberation Organisation) and that the year RAWA was established was an era when Maoist groups were on the rise. RAWA supporters dismiss such tags as fear-mongering, and suggest that many people simply find it difficult to accept that a woman can be independent – including mentally – from her husband. RAWA itself counters, “If an irreconcilable fight against the Taliban and their Jihadi brethren reflects a ‘Maoist’ stand, then yes, RAWA is more Maoist than the Maoists!”

Nonetheless, members admit that such reactions do tend to have a large influence, with many otherwise sympathetic people subsequently choosing not to support RAWA and its cause. A RAWA-published magazine called Payam-e-Zan (Woman’s Message) is generally unable to be sold in the bookshops. “In a number of places,” Mariam recalls, “booksellers have been abused and warned by gunmen not to sell RAWA publications.” On several occasions, the magazines have instead been collected from shops and burned, while the shopkeepers have been pressured to identify the RAWA members who transported the publications.

As has been the situation throughout the organisation’s three-decade existence, RAWA members in both Afghanistan and Pakistan live in constant fear of violence, including death threats. Members keep information about their homes and contacts secret, and have no offices – although the official RAWA website does provide addresses in Quetta and California for donations, as well as other forms of indirect communication. Their demonstrations have been attacked several times in Islamabad, while even today most of their activities remain underground in Afghanistan, as they were during the Taliban regime. “Even now RAWA is regarded as an illegal group according to Afghanistan’s law,” says Mariam. “This creates limitations to the extent of outreach RAWA can accomplish.”

Onward


Meena, the founder of RAWA RAWA has always been its founder’s organisation, even in death. Meena was born in Kabul in 1956, where, as a young schoolgirl, she became deeply involved in social activism. Influenced by the mass movements of the time, she left university early to devote herself to the education and social upliftment of Afghan women, of which the 1977 founding of RAWA was seen as a necessary step. Her organising work during the Soviet occupation gained much recognition. In addition to her regional work, Meena traveled to several European countries to spread awareness of the plight of the Afghan people. In 1981, she was officially invited to represent the Afghan resistance movement at the French Socialist Party Congress, where the Soviet delegation walked out due to a cheering crowd hoisting a victory sign.

But Meena also garnered displeasure for her views and activities, from Russian and fundamentalist forces alike. On 4 February 1987, Meena was assassinated in Quetta along with two family members. While the loss of its leader was initially difficult, RAWA has remained strong since Meena’s death. The end of the Soviet regime brought with it internal strife, more bloodshed, and the rise of the Taliban, which in turn brought a cruel brand of rigidity. The US-led war in Afghanistan in October 2001, bringing an end to the Taliban regime, was initially welcomed with significant hopes for a new beginning. But from the outset RAWA was highly critical of the intervention, emphasising the mounting civilian casualties and warning that the US-installed government was no less fundamentalist than the last.

Throughout these changes, RAWA’s social work among refugee Afghan women in both Pakistan and Afghanistan has continued to provide healthcare, education and financial assistance, as well as much-needed support to victims of war and assorted atrocities. Today, their central mandate remains unchanged, as Afghanistan struggles to transition to a peaceful and stable nation state. RAWA continues to remind the world that outside of the capital, the situation for Afghan women remains grim.

Even in the face of such solemn issues, however, RAWA members like Mariam Rawi maintain a spirit of optimism: that change is not a possibility to be desired, but a reality to be shaped through deeds. “If we want to see change in our life and conditions, only having a desire for a better future can’t change things,” explains Mariam. “We must put our desire into action and take practical steps for the realisation of our dreams. And in societies like Afghanistan, women have to accept some degree of risk in the fight against tyranny and injustice.”

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Broken Pottu ~ Poem by Mahesh Munasinghe

Broken Pottu ~ Poem by Mahesh Munasinghe
Inspired by the plight of children held inside Sri Lanka camps for the displaced:

Bright red pottu
Every morning
Never missed.
The point of your finger
Right here between our eyebrows
For both of us.

Amma puts hers first
Then she puts mine.
Remember me insisting
Me first, me first!

That day Dad give me a biggest hug, squeezed so tight,
Lifted me so high, laughing so loud.
At midnight he went out of the bunker.
Amma must have known he wasnt coming back
But still she smiled at me.

The day she went out of the bunker
Her pottu was still shining between her eyebrows.
Then her pottu went right into her head
And red blood came all down her calm, loving face.

Before then I only knew how to cry.
Then I knew how to shriek, to scream
Holding on to your body, Amma,

Scream!
Scream!
Scream!

Here too our school is under the trees
But they dont take the register.
I dont mind, Im used to it.
The only thing different is
There are no bunkers here.
Sometimes my heart beats so hard
Its louder than the gunshots
And tears just shoot out when I think about you.

Please dont ask me about pottu
If Amma cant put it on me I dont want it.
And please dont teach us about parents,
I dont want to hear about them.

Its not only me; none of us want to hear it.

Poem by Mahesh Munasinghe

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Moinul Ahsan Saber’s great subject!


Delighting on facts in making fictions
Young Bengali poet Anisur Rahman, recently got guest writer scholarship in a Swedish city Uppsala, goes through Moinul Ahsan Saber’s collection of short stories ‘Koekti Onuman-Nirbhor Golpo’ and presents his findings over that
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Moinul Ahsan Saber’s great subject, like very few writers of his period, is Bangladesh itself in his collection of Bengali short stories Koekti Onuman-Nirbhor Golpo (Some Hypothetical Fictions).
Saber is too acute an observer of his fellow Bengali men and women, disappointingly are sketchy and marginal sometimes to complete this self-appointed task. He is too gifted at portraying his characters into outstanding, profoundly memorable grotesques. Centred on life in Bangladesh connecting politics and unexpected happenings that not to be spirited in line with Liberation War in 1971, the collection finds several of Saber’s key stylistic traits already in place.
Standing on strong tradition of post Tagore contemporary state of Bengali short stories, he epitomised and became close to these stories in this book are rich in styles and approaches to the times passed by Saber. Most stories in this collection are psychologically complex – end with the words having that spirit that matches with psyche of modern Bengali life.
Such touches make one’s reading of Saber a very immediate, stimulating experience. His evocations of scenes, facts and place become so relevant as such we are involved. This is an observation that can be made for promoting as some of the finest examples of descriptive writing.
The distancing of his narratives, through which a sense is imparted that the teller of the story and its author are not the same, is artful, and grows only more sophisticated throughout Saber’s progress as a fiction writer.
The story, set alongside Nokor (employment), represents the high point of Saber’s career as a writer of short fiction. This triumphant, which all contains pointed condemnations of the dehumanising effects of politics and bureaucracy take place in Bangladesh during recent decades.
As for the link between Saber and Kafka, is expressed precisely and with great connection over absurdity in modern Bengali life at home and abroad. Can we differentiate that from the finding that Kafka observed and thus presented in his writings?
In Saber and Kafka the absurd central character belongs to the absurd world around him but, pathetically and tragically, attempts to struggle out of it into the world of humans – and disappears in despair. And exactly such things happen in case of Abu Taleb in the story entitled as ‘Abu Taleb’s Sorol Proshno’ (The ordinary question in Abu Taleb) as in fine we can see he has agreed to have the recognition of a freedom fighter from the elements in the campaign of the anti-Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971 and they dominate country’s politics and governance in its insights and outsights.
In the story called, ‘Sir,’ the reality and metamorphoses of statue of much expected Ratan Sir in the eyes of his expatriate student Manik and his wife Ruma in the discovery of terrorist gang leader Manik, who is ironically addressed as Manik Sir among his fellow elements and other people in his locality. This is the irony of fate of our present day Bengali life in Dhaka and other cities. Our mastan Maniks are so prominent as we cannot even find out the symbol of ideals in our society--- to be mentioned Manik sir, a school teacher. How mockery we see in our life that Saber has honestly portrayed in this story.
In the story called Amar Premika Surma, Eta Ki Taar Golpo? (My beloved Surma, is it her story?), Saber has simply presented the poverty scenes of population in villages have their troubles in hunger and deprivation due to politics cooked by Ershad-Khaleda-Hasina leadership, river erosion and bitter winter. At the same time we find discriminations in life style between the rich and the poor alongside having coloured imaginations and dreams in the eyes of the narrator, a university boy, in the story over his love-making with a rich village girl named Surma.
Two stories, ‘Eke Amra Kaktalio Bolte Pari (We can call it a miracle) and Abdul Hakimer Khosra Khata (Abdul Hakim’s Rough Notebook) are simply a bonsai presentation of the conflicts of village politics in Bangladesh.
The 92-page tiny book featuring six short fictions is to be noted as a masterpiece in respect to portray the mockeries and ironies taking place in post 1971 Bangladesh till the date, isn’t? It is a strong example in the art of short story in delighting on facts in making fiction. It is moreover a new development too in the tradition of post Tagore Bengali fiction in line with the spirit of absurdity made by Franz Kafka and others in world literature as well.
Koekti Onuman-Nirbhor Golpo (Collection of Bengali short fictions), by Moinul Ahsan Saber, Cover design by Dhruba Esh, Published by Dibyaprokash, Dhaka, Published in February 2008, Price: 100 Bangladesh Taka (pages 92)
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E-mail: anisbangla@yahoo.com

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Gunasena Galappatty, was one of the greatest dramatists of Sri Lanka and his name is a legend among generations of Sinhala theatre goers. The work of a great life time has placed him among the immortals and has created for him a shrine in the world of Sri Lankan theatre. Galappatty was the pioneer of suspense drama in Sri Lanka. After an academic and dramatic stint at University of Yale and Broadway in New York, Galappatty emerged in to the forefront, creating a tremendous impact by his dramatic technique of the harmonization of stylization with naturalism. His legendary production "Muduputtu" was a land mark of Sri Lankan drama and was created such a sensation that it became a controversial issue in the Sri Lankan theatre. Galappatty proved that traditional theatre style could be blended very effectively with western technique. "When he directed a play, he was almost in a trance. The atmosphere was like that within a temple. No one would dare to disturb, while a rehearsal was in progress", one ardent follower of Galappatty stated. We invite you to browse this web site dedicated to his work and Sri Lankan Theatre.

MANAME OF
PROF. EDIRIWEERA SARACHCHANDRA

REGI!
REGI SIRIWARDENE!

GREAT SCHOLAR OF SRI LANKA!!

THE MUCH NEEDED TRIBE OF THE TIME!!!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009







Kooththu, the Traditional Theatre of the Tamils of Tamilnadu, India is an interesting art form particularly who are interested in Community Theatre Activities.
Comparatively it’s not much performer centric as the Kooththu of Thamils of Sri Lanka. It is very interactive in nature which in most instances the modern theatre of Tamils artificially applies it and invites uneasiness or irritation among the audience.
Understanding of Kooththu of Tamils of Tamilnadu, India is an essential educational practice for theatre practitioners, educationists and social activists.

Kooththu of Tamilnadu is performed mostly by professional groups and it also performed by community too as among the Kooththu communities of the Tamils of Sri Lanka.

The professional groups in the Northern Districts of Tamilnadu mostly perform Epic Mahabharatham in the Bharatham Festivals of Thuropathi Amman Temples. Bhatatham of Kooththu perfprmers versions are different from Valmiki’s, Vilipuththurar’s and Nallapillai too. It disrobes all the heros and villains of Bharatham including the lord Krishna. Govinda! Govinda!!

Playing the role of Kaddiyankaran in Kooththu (Traditional Theatre of Tamilnadu, India) is a challenging art. It demands extraordinary amount of energy, knowledge, skill, intellect, wit, creativity, and critical perspective and management qualities on and off the stage simultaneously.

Invitation

Dear Friends of Koothu-p-Pattari!

KOOTHU-P-PATTARAI takes pleasure in inviting you to the theatre presentation of the play ‘Veriattam’ produced by ‘Arangasree’ in combination with Guru Sishya Parambra of South Zone Cultural Centre.

On

Sunday the 19th July 2009 at 6.00 PM

At

Koothu-p-Pattarai’s theatre space

No.1, Vaikasi Street,
Chinmaya Nagar, Stage-2,
Virugambakkam,
Chennai – 600 092
Ph: 044 – 65373633

The play is directed by Professor S. Ramanujam, a product of National School of Drama, Delhi, who has made commendable contributions both in Children’s and Adult Theatre in Tamil, Malayalam and Telugu.

All are welcome…… Entry free…
Thanking you,


N. Muthuswamy
Artistic Director
prison nation

(Perhaps this war will pass like others which divided us
leaving us dead, killing us along with killers
but shame of this time puts its
burning fingers to our face
who will erase the ruthlessness
hidden in innocent blood? )
Pablo Neruda – selected poems

Blood smudges specter of present days
clash and try to strangle each others,
The gallows fruits continually in barren ground
to hang innocent with flattered in charnel house.

The hunters open smelling mouth and paws
to skinned and mutilate you and me,
Nocturnal delimit the borders among us
to divided canopies and roots of womb.

Agent evils offer chauvinism to next
and flame scatters as pillars of decline
it leads people to dig grave itself
War profits for devils turn men into beasts.

Who will awake the conscience of bones?
to fulfill pure life and pure memories,
Who will erase the pains of warm blood?
to grew the seeds of humane and love.

© Sunil Ranasinghe
Agent Orange

You are invited with smiles
To taste paradise malls
With warm hugs and open lips
To share consumerised world
Spring blooms and rise
On neo liberal temple sites
Cost of living going up flights
Dried up belies and minds.
Agent Orange and GM foods
Smell around global wide
Children searching peace of slices
for surviving days and nights.
Corporate leading wealth of commons
Talkative politics gathering heights
Hapless peasantry committed suicide
Social rights warming fights.
South end seeking debts and peace
North end mounting nuclear rights
World in combat act of gods
Warlords making global tombs.

(c) Sunil Ranasinghe

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Habib Tanvir: The Making of a Legend







Tanvir's Naya Theatre works almost exclusively with folk actors. However, even his occasional productions with urban actors and for groups other than Naya Theatre -- such as, Dushman (Gorky's Enemies) for the NSD Repertory or Jisne Lahore Nai Dekhya Wo Jamyai Nai (Asghar Wajahat) for the Sri Ram Centre Repertory -- are marked by the style that he has developed through his work with the folk artists. Nonetheless, the theatre that Tanvir had developed was not a "folk theatre" in the strictest sense of the term. He is a conscious and highly sophisticated urban artist with a modern outlook, sensibility and a strong sense of history and politics. His interest in folk culture and his decision to work with and in terms of traditional styles of performance was itself an ideological choice as much as an aesthetic one, whether Tanvir himself was fully conscious of it as such or not. There is a close connection between his predilection for popular traditions and his left-wing disposition. His involvement with the left-wing cultural movement, an association which he maintains (no matter how loosely) to this day, already meant a commitment to the common people and their causes. His work in the theatre, in style as well as in content, reflects this commitment and can be seen as part of a larger (socialist) project of empowerment of the people.

Tanvir's fascination with the "folk" is not motivated by a revivalist or an antiquarian impulse. It is based, instead, on an awareness of the tremendous creative possibilities and artistic energies inherent in these traditions. He does not hesitate to borrow themes, techniques, and music from them, but he also desists from the impossible task of trying to resurrect old traditions in their original form and also from presenting them as stuffed museum pieces. Notwithstanding a popular misconception, his theatre does not belong within any one form or tradition in its entirety or purity. In fact, as he is quick to point out, he has not been "running after" folk forms as such at all but only after folk performers who brought their own forms and styles with them. The performance style of his actors is, no doubt, rooted in their traditional
nacha background, but his plays are not authentic nacha productions. For one thing, while the number of actual actors in a nacha play is usually restricted to two or three, the rest being stop-gap singers and dancers, Tanvir's production involve a full cast of actors, some of whom also sing and dance. More significantly, his plays have a structural coherence and complexity which one does not usually associate with the "simple" form of the nacha. Another important difference is that while in the nacha songs and dances are used largely as autonomous musical interludes, in Tanvir's plays they are neither purely ornamental in function nor are they formally autonomous units inserted into a loose collection of separate skits. On the contrary, they are closely woven into the fabric of the action and function as an important part of the total thematic and artistic structure of the play.

In other words, Tanvir does not romanticise the 'folk' uncritically and ahistorically. He is aware of their historical and cognitive limitations and does not hesitate to intervene in them and allow his own modern consciousness and political understanding to interact with the traditional energies and skills of his performers. His project, from the beginning of his career, has been to harness elements of folk traditions as a vehicle and make them yield new, contemporary meanings, and to produce a theatre which has a touch of the soil about it.

This rich interaction between Tanvir's urban, modern consciousness and the folk styles and forms is perhaps best exemplified by the songs in his plays. Tanvir's excellent adaptations of A Midsummer's Night Dream (Kamdeo Ka Apna, Basant Ritu Ka Sapna) and The Good Woman of Szechwan (Shaajapur ki Shantibai) could not be possible without this interaction. In these plays, he has worked close to the original text and written songs which reproduce the rich imagery and humour of Shakespeare's poetry and the complex ideas of Brecht. Despite this fidelity to the original texts, not only has Tanvir given his poetic compositions the authenticity and freshness of the original but has also fitted his words to native folk tunes with remarkable ease and skill.

One of the most outstanding examples of this kind of interaction is Tanvir's Dekh Rahe Hain Nain, based on a story by Stephen Zweig, in which he has successfully represented a complex theme without compromising the vitality and creativity of his folk actors. It was the moral dilemma embodied in the protagonist, a courageous warrior, who is tormented by the guilt of having to kill his own brother, which had attracted Tanvir to Zweig's story. However, in writing the play, he went beyond the story and invented new events, situations, characters and added dimensions and nuances which significantly enriched the story and made it more poignantly relevant for us today. The result is a play that traverses a complex gamut of motifs from the abstract, almost metaphysical, quest for inner peace to the concrete, material problems of the ordinary people in wake of a war, economic inflation and political corruption; from an idealist impulse towards renunciation of political power and towards an absolute solitude to an urgent sense of the necessity to get involved with others for a shared endeavour to change the world.

Tanvir is quite careful not to create a hierarchy by privileging, in any absolute and extrinsic way, his own educated consciousness as poet-cum-playwright-cum-director over the unschooled creativity of his actors. In his work, the two usually meet and interpenetrate, as it were, as equal partners in a collective, collaborative endeavour in which each gives and takes from, and thus enriches, the other. An excellent example of this non-exploitative approach is the way Tanvir fits and blends his poetry with the traditional folk and tribal music, allowing the former to retain its own imaginative and rhetorical power and socio-political import, but without in any way devaluing or destroying the latter. Yet another example can be seen in the way he allows his actors and their skills to be foregrounded by eschewing all temptations to use elaborate stage design and complicated lighting.

Thus in contrast to the fashionable, folksy kind of drama on the one hand and the revivalist and archaic kind of 'traditional' theatre on the other, Tanvir's theatre offers an incisive blend of tradition and modernity, folk creativity and skills on the one hand and modern critical consciousness on the other. It is this rich as well as enriching blend which makes his work so unique and memorable.




Part of an article written
By Javed Malick

This piece originally appeared in Samar 14: Fall/Winter, 2001




Javed Malick teaches English at Delhi University, and is a theater critic.

HABIB TANVIR


Tanvir's Naya Theatre works almost exclusively with folk actors. However, even his occasional productions with urban actors and for groups other than Naya Theatre -- such as, Dushman (Gorky's Enemies) for the NSD Repertory or Jisne Lahore Nai Dekhya Wo Jamyai Nai (Asghar Wajahat) for the Sri Ram Centre Repertory -- are marked by the style that he has developed through his work with the folk artists. Nonetheless, the theatre that Tanvir had developed was not a "folk theatre" in the strictest sense of the term. He is a conscious and highly sophisticated urban artist with a modern outlook, sensibility and a strong sense of history and politics. His interest in folk culture and his decision to work with and in terms of traditional styles of performance was itself an ideological choice as much as an aesthetic one, whether Tanvir himself was fully conscious of it as such or not. There is a close connection between his predilection for popular traditions and his left-wing disposition. His involvement with the left-wing cultural movement, an association which he maintains (no matter how loosely) to this day, already meant a commitment to the common people and their causes. His work in the theatre, in style as well as in content, reflects this commitment and can be seen as part of a larger (socialist) project of empowerment of the people.

Tanvir's fascination with the "folk" is not motivated by a revivalist or an antiquarian impulse. It is based, instead, on an awareness of the tremendous creative possibilities and artistic energies inherent in these traditions. He does not hesitate to borrow themes, techniques, and music from them, but he also desists from the impossible task of trying to resurrect old traditions in their original form and also from presenting them as stuffed museum pieces. Notwithstanding a popular misconception, his theatre does not belong within any one form or tradition in its entirety or purity. In fact, as he is quick to point out, he has not been "running after" folk forms as such at all but only after folk performers who brought their own forms and styles with them. The performance style of his actors is, no doubt, rooted in their traditional
nacha background, but his plays are not authentic nacha productions. For one thing, while the number of actual actors in a nacha play is usually restricted to two or three, the rest being stop-gap singers and dancers, Tanvir's production involve a full cast of actors, some of whom also sing and dance. More significantly, his plays have a structural coherence and complexity which one does not usually associate with the "simple" form of the nacha. Another important difference is that while in the nacha songs and dances are used largely as autonomous musical interludes, in Tanvir's plays they are neither purely ornamental in function nor are they formally autonomous units inserted into a loose collection of separate skits. On the contrary, they are closely woven into the fabric of the action and function as an important part of the total thematic and artistic structure of the play.

In other words, Tanvir does not romanticise the 'folk' uncritically and ahistorically. He is aware of their historical and cognitive limitations and does not hesitate to intervene in them and allow his own modern consciousness and political understanding to interact with the traditional energies and skills of his performers. His project, from the beginning of his career, has been to harness elements of folk traditions as a vehicle and make them yield new, contemporary meanings, and to produce a theatre which has a touch of the soil about it.

This rich interaction between Tanvir's urban, modern consciousness and the folk styles and forms is perhaps best exemplified by the songs in his plays. Tanvir's excellent adaptations of A Midsummer's Night Dream (Kamdeo Ka Apna, Basant Ritu Ka Sapna) and The Good Woman of Szechwan (Shaajapur ki Shantibai) could not be possible without this interaction. In these plays, he has worked close to the original text and written songs which reproduce the rich imagery and humour of Shakespeare's poetry and the complex ideas of Brecht. Despite this fidelity to the original texts, not only has Tanvir given his poetic compositions the authenticity and freshness of the original but has also fitted his words to native folk tunes with remarkable ease and skill.

One of the most outstanding examples of this kind of interaction is Tanvir's Dekh Rahe Hain Nain, based on a story by Stephen Zweig, in which he has successfully represented a complex theme without compromising the vitality and creativity of his folk actors. It was the moral dilemma embodied in the protagonist, a courageous warrior, who is tormented by the guilt of having to kill his own brother, which had attracted Tanvir to Zweig's story. However, in writing the play, he went beyond the story and invented new events, situations, characters and added dimensions and nuances which significantly enriched the story and made it more poignantly relevant for us today. The result is a play that traverses a complex gamut of motifs from the abstract, almost metaphysical, quest for inner peace to the concrete, material problems of the ordinary people in wake of a war, economic inflation and political corruption; from an idealist impulse towards renunciation of political power and towards an absolute solitude to an urgent sense of the necessity to get involved with others for a shared endeavour to change the world.
Tanvir is quite careful not to create a hierarchy by privileging, in any absolute and extrinsic way, his own educated consciousness as poet-cum-playwright-cum-director over the unschooled creativity of his actors. In his work, the two usually meet and interpenetrate, as it were, as equal partners in a collective, collaborative endeavour in which each gives and takes from, and thus enriches, the other. An excellent example of this non-exploitative approach is the way Tanvir fits and blends his poetry with the traditional folk and tribal music, allowing the former to retain its own imaginative and rhetorical power and socio-political import, but without in any way devaluing or destroying the latter. Yet another example can be seen in the way he allows his actors and their skills to be foregrounded by eschewing all temptations to use elaborate stage design and complicated lighting.

Thus in contrast to the fashionable, folksy kind of drama on the one hand and the revivalist and archaic kind of 'traditional' theatre on the other, Tanvir's theatre offers an incisive blend of tradition and modernity, folk creativity and skills on the one hand and modern critical consciousness on the other. It is this rich as well as enriching blend which makes his work so unique and memorable.

Javed Malick teaches English at Delhi University, and is a theater critic.

Bengali theatre mourns Habib Tanvir's death

















A pall of gloom descended on this theatre-loving state today as the news of death of Padma Bhushan awardee Habib Tanvir, renowned playwright and litterateur spread.



Veteran theatre personality Habib Tanvir died in Bhopal early on Monday after prolonged illness, family sources said. He was 85.
Tanvir died at about 0630 hrs IST at the National Hospital, where he had been admitted about 20 days ago after developing respiratory problems.
Hospital sources said Tanvir later suffered kidney failure and his condition worsened.
The playwright's funeral will be held in Bhopal on Tuesday, family sources said.
Tanvir was a popular Hindi playwright, theatre director, poet and actor. He had written plays like Agra Bazar (1954) and Charandas Chor (1975). In 1959, he founded a theatre company called the Naya Theatre here.
He was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1969, Padma Shri in 1983, Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship in 1996, and the Padma Bhushan in 2002.
Tanvir was also nominated as a member of the Rajya Sabha (1972-1978). His play Charandas Chor got him the Fringe Firsts Award at the Edinburgh International Drama Festival in 1982.

TWO POEMS OF MUHAMMAD SAMAD(BANGLADESH)


An elegy for Pluto

In childhood I used to see the stars and fireflies streak across the sky
and was delighted to imagine anyone of them as Pluto, Neptune or Mars.
Like siblings born at short stretches we grew up in warm camaraderie.
Pluto played much fun with us in those evenings!
Currently some astronomers have for no reason
determinedly set themselves against Pluto on the plea
that Pluto is incapable of swallowing up its neighbour;
every twenty years it crosses the orbit of Neptune:
it is supposedly dwarf in size and so is denied the status of a planet!
Since childhood it is our experience that
Pluto does not like to usurp anyone’s right or to tread on anyone’s corn.
It has Charon, Hydra and Nyx for neighbours.
They are tiny objects, comparable to Pluto’s offspring.
Is this relationship of love and compassion too censurable?
Do we not pay a visit to our aunt’s place?
If the simple and innocuous Pluto, for old time’s sake
enters Neptune’s yard, once in twenty years
what’s the harm?
The stars and planets too are elder or younger brothers and sisters;
Pluto is young in age.
I would say — we are wont to work our younger siblings’ shoe-laces
into floral designs, tie up the blazing-red ribbon into a beautiful knot
and send her to school, we take them for an outing to the park or the riverside ...
Does it then become us to deal such cruelty to Pluto
on a lame excuse like Iraq war?
For the few remaining days let us stay together in the earth and the sky...

Translated by Zakeria Shirazi


Crow

I find it difficult to make out the behavior of the crows of Ted Huges
They are anyhow post-modern
The crows of Bengal are eternal like my simple mother
All along they talk about our good and bad
Hold meetings for freeing the world from garbage,
And in the light of their understandings, they fly
and run in sun and rain; and
at the precise moment they place the forecasts of danger
So, I love the crows of Bengal.
All morning-crows are my younger sisters
They awaken my daughters and seat them at reading-tables
They send my father to eastern sky with plough
and call my mother to bow in prayer
And, shout out to the world and say…
Sister, get up and keep well – our throats are about to
burst crowing, right now those will bleed!

Translated by Kajal Bondyopadhyay

In Lieu of an Introduction

In Lieu of an Introduction

This is a collection of English translation of selected poems by Muhammad Samad (of Bangladesh) who has earned considerable fame here over time for both his poetry and various sorts of activism. As we know well, these two have their markedly separate domains, but are generally found to originate from common source-points, of passions, and to proceed interactively. That means these tend to influence each other. As a result, there’s a risk of one’s performance in both these areas suffering. Readers in Bangladesh have been keeping watchful eyes on Samad’s poetry, and now they feel relieved that his poetry has emerged as a rich volume.

As I myself perceived the situation, Samad’s activism, at least in the part of Jatio Kabita Parishad (an anti-autocracy movement and organization of poetry in Bangladesh), etc., rather exposed him to quality poets and their poetry. And, he rather learnt for sure that poetry and organizational activism cannot take each other’s place. Or, they haven’t got much to do with each other. Poetry has to be written in its own age-old ways of deep brooding, intense contemplation and technical perfection, etc., and activism cannot help one out in all these. It may rather create distraction and easy-sailing attitudes. Muhammad Samad pursued his two careers—of a poet and an activist—with equal attention, and thus gained in competence in both. His activism in liberal politics and culture, by honing and strengthening his passions, contributed to his poetry. Reversely, poetry contributed to his activism in some mysterious ways. Finally, ours is no loss in either area; we mark gains in both. Muhammad Samad from Bangladesh constitutes one rare instance of success in striding two boats or horses at one time. Sufficient awareness of the difficulties involved, passionate commitment to the two callings, which may have a unique meeting point in a person, etc., have already led to remarkable achievement for Samad and signal much more.

All these I mention; for, they are unforgettable in Muhammad Samad’s case. And, because one may feel shy of mentioning them for the particular time we are passing through. Now is the time in Bangladesh of turning your eyes in poems away from people or popular causes, of attending only to technicalities of perfection, being more wordy and less meaningful, and being ‘post-modern’ in some such ways. These are issues of later-time theory/ies, and Muhammad Samad, who started writing poems in the nineteen-seventies, appears to have cared little for them. His poetry crosses subtleties of theory-debates, and proves an orientation to what might much afterwards be called romantic revolutionism. And, Samad’s and many others’ kinds of poems prove theories, of any kind, redundant. They prove that creative works can do well by responding firsthand to life and by disregarding ideology or theory as compulsive or circumscribing guidelines. As Samad casually and frequently places so many myths from the Buddhist and Hindu puranas in his poems, to compare, evoke or explain, we get marks of his close acquaintance with popular life here, history of Bengal and the particularities of civilization here, much before we get his secularism or pluralism.

Then I, the son of Shuddhvudhan, will go to the forest,
to the bank of the river, Niranjana,
Shady places under the peapul,
Altar of black stone.
Cooking frumenty of your own hand
with milk, water, fruit,
treading on stormy forests
you will awaken me on the night of full moon of Baishakh
Then I shall become Bodhisattva, you, Budhagaya—Village Urubela;
Every one will come to know, the pretty daughter of the Milkman is another Sujata.
Samad however proves enough knowledge of post-modernism, etc., and in a remarkable poem, “Crow”, hints at how the “theories” are rather imposed for Bangladesh’s poetry at present:

I find it difficult to make out the behavior of the crows of Ted Huges
They are anyhow post-modern
The crows of Bengal are eternal like my simple mother
All along they talk about our good and bad
Hold meetings for freeing the world from garbage,
………………………………………………

All morning-crows are my younger sisters
They awaken my daughters and seat them at reading-tables
They send my father to the eastern sky with plough
and call my mother to bow in prayer
And, shout out to the world and say…
Sister, get up and keep well – our throats are about to
burst crowing, right now those will bleed!

Proper sensitivity of a poet makes Samad not only modern or liberal; he proves the balance of an opposition to fundamentalist violence in Bangladesh and imperialist menace in Iraq also. In a moving poem about Ali Ismail Abbas, an Iraqi child who has lost both his hands, Samad carries all the wind from the sail of the American war in Iraq; let me quote a portion:.

Maa,
this picture of a boy with his two hands chopped off, his body burnt,
his face distorted by pain; this picture is Ali's. What’s his fault
in the eyes of Bush and Blair? Why did they cut off his hands?
Maa, how will Ali now ride his bicycle?
How will he hold the stick on his ice-cream?
How will he enjoy the ride on the merry-go-round at the Children's Park?
How will he embrace others on the day of the Eid?
Or cut the cake on his birthday?
During the Puja or Christmas or the summer fair of Baishakh, Ali will
no more be able to go about holding the hand
of his parents and look for toys...


In translation, Samad’s original line-lengths and stanza-schemes have been kept in tact as far as possible. As his are poems rooted in Bangladesh’s age-old civilization, references and allusions are not few, requiring notes which have been placed in a glossary. And, this has been placed at the starting pages, for readers’ convenience. As a fellow poet from Bangladesh, I feel honoured in writing this prose-item which is never an Introduction proper; this is a friend’s contribution that began with translation of some of the poems.

Muhammad Samad (1958 ---)
Muhammad Samad, a leading poet and social scientist was born in the district of Jamalpur, Bangladesh in 1958. He did his PhD on People’s Participation in Rural Development from the University of Dhaka.
His poetry books include: Ekjan Rajnaitik Netar Manifesto (Manifesto of a Political Leader, 1983); Ami Noi Indrajit Megher Adale (I Am Not Indrajit Behind the Clouds, 1985); Porabe Chanda Kath (Shall You Burn the Sandal Wood, 1989); Cholo Tumul Brishtite Bhiji Let Us Go and Be Soaked in Rains, 1996). English version of his major poems entitled as ‘Selected Poems’ appeared in 2008.
He is currently professor and director at the Institute of Social Welfare and Research in Dhaka University.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

FILM SOUTHASIA




Background on Film South Asia
Film South Asia, organised for the last 12 years by Himal Southasian, is one festival that takes in the sweep of non-fiction audio-visual productions being made across the Southasia. FSA has helped energise the development of the documentary genre, take it to a wider audience, as well as nurture new talent through the mixing of filmmakers divided by nationality, experience, technique and discipline.

FSA is held every two years at a venue in Kathmandu. The festival showcases films on Southasian themes or subjects. Documentaries cover any subject in the rage available to filmmakers: from people, culture, lifestyle and adventure to development, environment, politics education and history.
The only region-wide festival dedicated to the craft of non-fiction film, Film South Asia is a platform for filmmakers seeking to exhibit new works. The relaxed atmosphere, which has become the signature of FSA, brings together filmmakers, journalists, scholars and film enthusiasts into a comfortable interface, helping generate cross-regional friendships and projects.

Entry is free of cost. A selection of about 45 films are screened at the competitive section of the festival and monetary prizes, along with citations, are awarded for overall excellence to the directors of the three best films chosen by three-member Southasian jury.
Film South Asia ’09 is being held from 17-20 September 2009 in Kathmandu. This is the seventh edition of the biennial festival of Southasian non-fiction film. After FSA ’09, select documentaries will tour the world as part of Travelling Film South Asia.
Once again, we are looking forward to bring together the most creative and dedicated non-fiction filmmakers of Southasia to the festival venue in Kathmandu. With every festival we find more diversity in the films submitted. In September 2009, the celebration will continue.
New Filmmakers
There is an exponential expansion in the making of the documentary film—amateur and professional—due to the lower costs of filming and editing technology. In FSA ’09, we hope to seek out new filmmakers so as to add depth and variety to the films entered, selected and shown.
Travelling Film South Asia
A selection of up to 15 outstanding films from FSA ’09 will make up the Travelling Film South Asia, which will tour all over the Subcontinent and the world. Each of the past editions of TFSA has been to above 40 venues, where they have been received enthusiastically by dramatically diverse audiences. Within Southasia, the travelling festival helps build awareness and empathy among audiences across societies. We expect the forthcoming TFSA to go to more venues than ever, making connections and building on the increasing interest in our region. While there is a charge levied on venues overseas, TFSA festival organisers within Southasia are charged no fee for the package, which includes the films and promotional material. The organisers in Southasia are only responsible for dispatching the films to the next venue as directed by the FSA Secretariat.
Clearinghouse of South Asian Non-Fiction Film
The FSA Secretariat hosts the Clearinghouse for South Asian Non-Fiction Film, which markets documentaries from the region for non-commercial and non-broadcast purposes. An increasing number of documentaries are being sold by the Clearinghouse since it was launched at FSA ’01. The Clearinghouse works on the basis of non-exclusive agreements with filmmakers, and thus far has limited itself to films entered for Film South Asia. The Clearinghouse also works continuously to bring filmmakers together with all interested parties and with each other. http://www.filmsouthasia.org/

HIMAL Southasian





About us
Himal Southasian is published by the not-for-profit The Southasia Trust, Lalitpur, Nepal

Himal Southasian is Southasia’s first and only regional news and analysis magazine. Stretching from Afghanistan to Burma, from Tibet to the Maldives, this region of more than 1.4 billion people shares great swathes of interlocking geography, culture and history. Yet today neighbouring countries can barely talk to one another, much less speak in a common voice. For two decades, Himal Southasian has strived to define, nurture, and amplify that voice.

Independent, non-nationalist, pan-regionalist – Himal tells Indians and Nepalis about Pakistanis and Afghans, Sri Lankans and Burmese about Tibetans and Maldivians, and the rest of the world about this often-overlooked region. Critical analysis, commentary, opinion, essays and reviews – covering regional trends in politics and economics with the same perspective as culture and history, Himal stories do not stop at national borders, but are followed wherever they lead.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

'Southasia' as one word

Readers will note, and perhaps wonder why, Himal's editorial stylebook favours 'Southasia' as one word. Well, as a magazine seeking to restore some of the historical unity of our common living space - without wishing any violence on the existing nation states - we believe that the aloof geographical term 'South Asia' needs to be injected with some feeling. 'Southasia' does the trick for us, albeit the word is limited to English-language discourse.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

THE KING WHO LOVED PEOPLE AND PLANTS


HIMAL South Asian Magazine
June 2009


The king who loved people and plants:
'Paari Padukalam'







written and directed
by
Pralayan





By: Sivagnanam Jeyasankar



Paari Padukalam (The Death of Paari)
written and directed by Pralayan, 2008

Against a backdrop of increased marginalisation of minorities the world over under the banner of the US-led ‘war against terror’, a new stage play has come out of Tamil Nadu. Paari Padukalam (The Death of Paari), a 100-minute production, has been performed around Tamil Nadu since September 2008, following a month-long theatre workshop at Pondicherry’s Department of Performing Arts. It was written and directed by Pralayan, the renowned street-theatre maestro from Tamil Nadu.

Paari Padukalam tells the story of Paari, the well-known Tamil king of the Parampu Hills, believed to have been located at the modern town of Piran Malai in the south-central Pudukkottai District of Tamil Nadu. The monarch has long been admired for his willingness to help people in need; but unlike the entrenched legend of King Paari, Paari Padukalam explores long-ignored aspects of the king’s character. The Sangam, or body of classical Tamil literature that flourished between 300 BC and 200 AD, was largely a movement typically laden with romanticised imagery; Paari, who is mentioned in more than 50 Sangam poems, is similarly portrayed. For instance, in the Sangam literature dealing with the situation after Paari’s death, his daughters are said to have become homeless, landless, even nation-less wanderers seeking refuge. Such imagery is popular among the Tamil masses, and was successfully dramatised by the modern-day Tamil poet Inqulab and dramatist Pathma Mangai in “Kurunchi Paattu” (Song of Kurunchi).

While very few attempts have been made to take a non-romantic view of Sangam literature, Pralayan tries to explore the social history, hierarchies and power relations of the era. Paari Padukalam subsequently rejects several popular notions. One example of this is Paari’s legendary love for plants, as often evidenced by his offering his chariot to the Mullai (a type of jasmine) creeper on which to climb up. The play sarcastically dismisses this reference as the mere hyperbole of an overenthusiastic poet, as chariots were not used in hilly areas.

Pralayan’s production does place additional focus on other parts of the Paari fable, however. The king’s kindness to plants is also said to have extended to his subjects, allowing his people to live autonomous lives, unlike the strictures of other rulers of the time. Soon, bards across the southern part of the Subcontinent began to compose songs and poems in praise of Paari, whose popularity soon came to be seen as a threat by the kings of Chera, Chola and Pandiya – the three most powerful southern kingdoms at the time. The three agreed to unite to eradicate this ‘evil’ in their kingdoms – the only point in the historical or literary record of the three rulers fighting collaboratively.

The strength of Pralayan’s production lies in its exploration of how the tale of Paari, itself an old one, is of particular relevance to contemporary audiences. Indeed, the questions raised by the dying Paari are pertinent to the current global political climate, in which the thirst for ‘democracy’ is, ironically, often fulfilled through bloodshed. At the end of the play, as Paari is dying, he asks the bard Kapilar:

Oh Kapilar, what wrong did I do? Our land has no fences. Our land has no bunds.
Only the rivers and justice flow
I maintained ‘In birth all the species are equal’ – was it wrong?
I maintained ‘All are equal in the face of justice’ – is it wrong?
We the tribe of Velir lived harmoniously with mother earth, is it wrong?
Was it wrong, Kapilar?! Is it wrong?!
Was it wrong I listened to the learned and to the elders?!

As referred to here by Paari, the story of the Velir, the subjugated tribe to which he belonged, is an important one. Sangam literature often mentions the seven chieftains of the Velir, in addition to the kings of Chera, Chola and Pandiya, and there is significant epigraphical evidence to support the existence of the Velir clan. In the post-Sangam era, however, there is no mention of the Velir – it is as though they suddenly vanished. The belief is that that they were conquered and absorbed into the Chera, Chola and Pandiya kingdoms. In Paari Padukalam, one of Pralayan’s goals is to explore these very silences and pauses in history, thus hoping to inspire minorities today to refuse to allow themselves to be obliterated.

Model state
As responsible citizens, in contemplating our responses to Paari Padukalam we must wrestle with one question in particular: What is the place for minorities in a world that continues to be controlled by elites? In the case of Paari, his downfall appears to be a result of choosing friendship with his people over favourable diplomatic relationships with the surrounding rulers. Yet in today’s postmodern world, where differences are said to be celebrated and individuality respected, are these ideas feasible? Keeping in mind the draconian laws and military might used to impose order in many parts today, there appears to be no difference between ‘peace’ and ‘silence’ in the contemporary world. An exploration of the barriers that must be overcome to achieve a people-friendly world in the 21st century is a crucial need, and one that is specifically highlighted by the story of Paari.

One such barrier is fear, the alarm that led the three monarchs to put aside their personal conflicts and unite against Paari. A conversation between the bard Kapilar and the three kings illuminates several related points:

Kapilar: Kings, I did not expect this war.
You could avoid this war with Paari.
Kings: He defied our demands! Disobeyed our orders.
And he declined to offer his daughters as rewards.
Only the war will heal the nauseous of Paari.
Kapilar: Kings, the love to live with dignity is nauseous?
But, oh Kings, there are hundred reasons to avoid this war.
Kings: How? Tell us Kapilar, tell us one reason.
Kapilar: Chera, Chola, Pandiya and Paari from the Velir tribe all are Tamil-speaking.
They could unite as Tamils, can’t they?
Kings: Oh bard, how dare you equate the high tribes of Chera, Chola and Pandiya Kings and Paari of the low tribe?
King: Has Tamil get the power to remove this disparity?
Kapilar: Oh, is this your problem?!
Disaster for the tribe… devastation for the Tamil tribe…
Goodbye Great Kings!

As this excerpt makes clear, a favourite tool of rulers past and present is to generate fear, to create a situation in which the upstart and the independent can be labelled the enemy. After coming up with such inventions, the rulers then panic over their constructed ‘enemies’, and busy themselves creating forts, security zones, bunkers, intelligence units, weapons and torture methods. Few appear to be free of this psyche of fear, which has become the essence of the politics of rule.

Also requiring some discussion in this context is how the callous greed of rulers can act as a roadblock to a just society. Pralayan depicts this particularly well in a scene in which the three kings are discussing their shares and opportunities in the conquered Parampu. Indeed, such bargaining continues today among world powers, reflecting the market ambitions of the so-called democratic superpowers. Similarly, then as now, talk on planning and reconstruction is notably missing.

Interestingly, in the rhetoric of modern Tamil politics, the three monarchs continue to be celebrated for building dams, their forays into the high Himalaya and victories over invading Aryan armies, amid other achievements. Paari, meanwhile, is also admired, but for his philanthropic character rather than for his judicious political rule. Yet if these issues are explored in depth, Paari’s Parampu could easily be seen as a strong model for modern democracies – if what is truly desired is rule of the people, by the people, for the people. Given the examples set forward by Paari, it is confusing why Tamil social scientists have not long been busy designing and producing such a model. That Pralayan has chosen to present such a reassessment of Paari today is thus not only good theatre, but potent inspiration.


Sivagnanam Jeyasankar is a theatre activist and senior lecturer at the Faculty of Arts and Culture at Eastern University, Sri Lanka.
Comments

Monday, May 25, 2009

RAVANESAN IN ART

RAVANESAN IN THE HANDS OF A YOUNG CREATIVE ARTIST OF DHAKA BANGLADESH

DOLLS OF WEST BENGAL




Thursday, May 7, 2009

IN SOLIDARITY



Dear friends, colleagues, fellow militants and activists,

Augusto Boal, one of the most valiant people of his times, has - as a friend of ours said - become one of our ancestors. He has fought until the very last moment to keep his spirit alive, just as he has fought against oppression for so many decades. "I won't be dead unless people forget" says a song. In Augusto's case, this means he will live forever. For the most, he will live in the spirit of those who work with the Theatre of the Oppressed, which he introduced and expanded every time, and usually ahead of his time. We are only beginning to understand what power lies in Theatre of the Oppressed and how it can deeply affect global society. We are only beginning to understand what Augusto Boal has created, but we can only come to understand it by using his creation in practice. By continuing the work he did, we can sincerely commemorate his achievements. We hope this message is resounded across the globe.

Many of you have already reacted to Augusto Boal's death by sending emails to ITO or to other websites. We decided to create a space on http://www.theatreoftheoppressed.org/ where anyone can leave a condolence message to us all or to someone in particular. This condolence registry can be accessed through http://www.theatreoftheoppressed.org/en/index.php?nodeID=233&action=new, the messages can be read through http://www.theatreoftheoppressed.org/en/index.php?nodeID=233.

The ITO website will update you on the latest developments on the planned Memorial Day activities. Please check http://www.theatreoftheoppressed.org/en/index.php?nodeID=13&id=3&id=419 regularly if urgent messages are issued, you will be informed through this mailing list.

Although we are filled with sadness, we believe we should take up whatever strength we have and increase the intensity of the work we are doing. The best way to remember Boal is to remember his fighting spirit. To look for peace, not passivity and to have the courage to be happy.

In solidarity,
ITO

The 20th Century Thespian



Augusto Boal (1931 - 2009)

It is with deep sadness that we acknowledge the death of Braziliantheatre director and founder of the "Theatre of the Oppressed" (TO),Augusto Boal. In the early hours of May 2, 2009, the world experiencedthe passing of a visionary theatre artist, activist and educator.

Boal's passionately theatrical spirit and his uncompromisingcommitment to human rights, combined with an infectious sense of play,spread the ideas and practice of TO around the world.

Boal leaves a rich legacy of innovation in theatre and socialactivism, books, articles, and inspired hearts and minds. As ChrisVine, a friend and colleague from NY wrote upon hearing this sad news,"...we are all grateful for the lives Boal had touched, inspired andlinked together artistically, politically and personally, transcendingtime and distance."

To me, personally, he was an inspiration, a mentor, a colleague and abeloved friend. No more fiery emails back and forth, Augusto? This isso hard to contemplate. You will always be a welcome "Cop in my Head".Thank you for so much.

Messages have been posted on the International Theatre of theOppressed (ITO) website from Adrian Jackson, a TO practitioner andtranslator of Boal's books, http://www.theatreoftheoppressed.org/ andBárbara Santos, on behalf of the Centre of the Theatre of theOppressed (CTO) Rio. Access Bárbara's message by clicking on the imageof Boal in the upper right of the home page. A condolences registry,where you can leave your thoughts, is available by clicking inside the"interventionsw link of Adrian's message.

On behalf of all of us at Headlines, our condolences to the Boalfamily, CTO Rio, the global TO community, and all. Boal touched thelives of so many.

David Diamond Artistic Director, Headlines Theatre, Vancouver BC, Canada Headlines Theatre323 - 350 East 2nd AveVancouver British Columbia V5T 4R8Canada

Sunday, May 3, 2009



EXCERPTS
Oi Andhakar Ase
(The Dark Sounds)
A novel by Anisur Rahman
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BEGINNING …
How can be the thing be recovered? Shala is indeed mad. Whenever he receives a phone call, he tells he is in England. Otherwise he does not receive any call. Sometimes on receiving a call, he says, ‘If you can, file a case with the police against me… ’
While entering into the room, Alauddin finished the words and breathed hard. Changing breath he said, ‘I am in great trouble.’
‘What has happened to you?’ I asked.
‘I am telling you about my landlord. He removed us with a one-day notice. Now he has kept my things. Most of the time he is not receiving phone calls. If once he takes a call, he speaks only to talk ill of something.’
Is none else there at his home?
No. The guy is over sixty; he separated from his wife, has no contact with his children.
Why?
Ah, the bad guy is a drunkard. He used to make chaos for nothing. They reported him to the police. The court has barred him from keeping any contact with his wife and children. If he denies this decree, the police will pick him up.
Is that so?
Yes, Abdul Bhai. This is Sweden. And that is why I cannot do anything against him. If it were Bangladesh, I would have torn him apart.
Have patience. I think, he has drunk so much — he is perhaps in deep stupor. When he recovers, you will see everything is normal in him. Then you need not be worried of your things.
I understand. But, if he does not return the things, what can I do?
I got a little bit irritated at his words and said whatever you think and wish, you do yourself.
Though he received my phone call once yesterday, today that dirty guy is not taking my call. I went to his house several times, pushed the calling bell many times. But, no response. He was either inside his house or not, it could not be guessed. If he were dead inside his house and I would call the police that would be suicidal for me. Police will rather pick me up. Then that will be an unexpected trouble for me. It would be troublesome either way and I would lose every chance.
Be quiet and sleep. Let’s think of it tomorrow.
Here Alauddin’s little introduction is to be noted. He was in Japan for ten years. Then he came to Sweden with the help of a broker. He has arranged his permission showing a paper marriage with a lady for one million Taka. He works for a Japanese restaurant called Sushi Bar in Stockholm. Two days ago he was evicted from his rented apartment, then he took shelter in our room. On that night, returning home, I found him sleeping at our room. Before this, I saw him once or twice in Stockholm and had a little interaction. After staying one month or so, he will move for another destination. I myself have no more information about Alauddin.
A parcel has come in my name from my country, I mean Bangladesh. I have to go to Visätra to collect it. The postal system here is little bit different from that of Bangladesh. A network of the postal department with grocery or confectionery chain shops runs the postal services. In case of parcel or registered letter, a receipt from the nearby grocery or confectionery chain shop concerned will reach the recipient. Showing this receipt along with his own Swedish identity card, he can collect his parcel or registered letter. But my problem is that I have no Swedish identity card. I have just applied for permanent residency here. I have an LMA card issued by the Migration Board for the time being featuring my photo on it. In one sense, it is an identity card. In another sense, it is nothing. It can be called a ledger reference for the Migration Board. Or it can be called a pass for getting Medicare as it has no personal number. In Sweden this number is mandatory for every deal in life.
Once even showing my LMA card I could not collect my own letter. At last , with the help of Kumra, my friend, who is few years junior to me, but his physical growth is so heavy, that we call him "Kumra", a kind of pumpkin. His real name is Abdul Hamid Khan Chowdhury. I along with him went to the shop and showing Kumra’s identity card, I collected my letter. That is why I am taking Alauddin along with me for getting my letter.
My phone rings. I pick up the receiver and can hear from the other side, ‘I am Jomshed speaking.’
Yes, Jomshed bhai?
Where are you now? Let’s go to the library to do some chatting.
I got irritated, though I controlled myself little and said, ‘I am going to the Post Office to collect a letter. Have you ever visited a library? There is no chance to do chatting in libraries. Moreover, I have a computer at my college office in Dhaka, I had computer at my home in Dhaka. I never have done chatting. To chat is not anything bad. It is simply talking online for hours after hours. I am not fond of it and I do not need to do it. Whenever you talk to me, you raise this. It is not justified.’
Why are you so hot today?
--I am not hot. What do you want to tell me, please say it.
What is the news of your journalist?
--I have not been in touch with him recently.
I asked him to publish a report of my brother’s participation in the election.
--When I talk to him, I will remind him.
How many hours did you work this month?
--Eighty to ninety hours
The month is over. Today is the 4th. Have you not yet counted?
--I will do it soon.
Listen to me, I don’t care what you have been doing!
--‘I will submit it on Monday, I will count the working hours before that.’ Though I was angry, I did not expose it.
Jomshed Miah again started, ‘I am telling you something. Listen carefully.’
Please…
Bangladesh’s eminent economist and Rabindra singer M Anisur Rahman used to teach us Economics at the Islamic University. Then the university was shifted from Gazipur to Kushtia. One day, one of our friends took a budding singer to introduce her to Anisur Rahman sir.
Sir addressing the girl said, ‘Like you there are many singers helter skelter in Karwanbazar, Dhaka. You first concentrate on your studies.’
‘You told me this same story once before. You are telling me again. What does it mean? Please listen to me. For my study and writing, I could come to Sweden. Now I am in trouble and applied for residency. If I get it, it is okay. Otherwise what will be, will be.’
Let me give an introduction about Jomshed Miah as he will appear on many occasions in my story. This Jomshed Miah speaks excessively – far more than required. But the man is really a good soul, hospitable and doing good to others. In his absence some call him ‘Thick tailed Mofiz.’
Jomshed Miah is ten years older than I am. His father was a famous moulana. In his early stage he studied at Madrassahs. He has done his Dakhil (Matriculation) and Alim (Higher Secondary) from Madrassahs. He became the superintendent of a madrassah at very young age. Later he got admission in Accounting Department at the Islamic University. He has also done his Kamil graduation from Madrassah board. During his university days, he was involved in student politics. He became vice president of a students’ organisation against the Islamic Chaatra Shibir, a pro Jaamat-e-Islami Bangladesh. His elder brother is a big leader in the Awami League. Jomshed Miah came to Sweden using another’s visa in 1990. He was deported in 1994. After five years he could come to Sweden again through his wife. Prior to this, his wife came to Sweden, this northern land, by becoming a spouse on paper.
Jomshed Miah is now a famous cook in Stockholm. This is his curriculum vitae. His appearance will be covering many aspects in our tale.
‘Are you very busy?’ My wife Urboshi’s SMS.
‘No, I am not busy. It is late night now. Have you not yet slept?’ I responded to her by sending this SMS.
‘My sleep has been disrupted as a mosquito bit me.’
At this, I just went back to Dhaka for a while in my mind. There is a saying in my country, ‘Flies by day, mosquitoes at night, we are living in Dhaka among all these.’
Is it the normal Dhaka or is urban life crowded with flies and mosquitoes? One can add more to these – power disruption, traffic jam, automobile horns — blaring as long as the traffic is alive. Dhaka is a composite of all these.
There are no such things in Stockholm. Everything here is run by design and according to switches. And time is set by the watch. Trains and buses will follow hands of the clock. One can imagine such scenes in Dhaka after fifty years or so. #
ENDING . . .
I have no sleep. I have no hunger. I have no work. I have no relief too. I have restlessness. I have no place to go. I had a shelter with Nabanita. She has gone to Spain. I had a friend Henrik. He has gone to Belarus on a official visit. It is uncertain when he will return. I had a friend Maria. She is now in Egypt. Her return too is uncertain. Azar is in Germany, Firat is in Denmark, Sinikka is in Paris, Clara is in Finland. All have gone abroad for their own purpose – in the winter vacation. It has been clear to me, everything is over. I can recollect a childhood memory at our village home. When a blind beggar used to visit our home for alms, my mother arranged some rice, some red chillies and some coins on a winnowing fan or kula made of bamboo strips for separating the husk from the rice. The blind beggar would be seated on the other side of the main gate of our house. The blind beggar took the kula with a smile and kept it before him. Then he prayed for our health and fortune.
‘The expulsion of evil spirit is in Ali’s hands,
the arrow is in Fatema’s hands.
The evils and troubles go back the same way
you have come.’
My situation is the same. The way I have come, I have to be deported.
I took many sleeping pills and slept. I am dreaming a dream. A new government has taken the power. I have got temporary release from the police. From Dhaka University campus, I along with my writer friend Sheikh Firoz Ahmad, am going to Nirob Hotel on a rickshaw. When our rickshaw has come near the International Mother Language Day Monument, we witness a sudden attack on our rickshaw.
Shouting!
Catch the bad guy.
Beat the bad guy.
I cannot understand anything. I am not saying anything.
They are copping me.
I can hear-
Naraye Taqbir
Allahu Akbar
Beat the bad guy
Catch the bad guy
I can hear
We are all Taliban
The Bengal will be Afghan
I gasped for breath
My sleep disrupted
I begin to tremble
My trembling does not last for long.
Taking sleeping pills, I go to bed. Nights are over one by one in illusion, in bad dreams in bad thinking and in disillusion.
Is there any end to bad dreams? On some one nights, snakes come to me extending their hoods. I am running away from the snakes, but they are mostly close to my feet. Further a python coming towards me is blocking my way.
I see I have come quite far from the snakes.
The snakes target my daughter. My daughter Tuntuni is shouting,
Save me Baba (Papa)
Don’t be afraid, I am coming Mamma.
I am running towards the snake, running and running
I continue running and the way continues to be long.
This is the second week of January 2009. Knowing about my deportation to Bangladesh, Urboshi has written me a letter.
Dear Karim,
I know you are not happy at all at your end. There is no cause too to be well in such a situation. I am not well too.
I am writing this letter for a particular need. I could even tell you over phone. I avoided this willingly as it would be a difficult moment for both you and me. I have decided after deep thinking it is time to choose my own destination considering the future of your daughter Tuntuni and my own.
I do not want to be the Winnie Mandela, wife of Nelson Mandela. Whatever happens in your life, my best wishes will always be with you. If you are alive, we will definitely see each other.
You know the man, Firoz Shahid Khan. For many years he was waiting for me. He has returned from Australia after completing his PhD.
Love for you,
Yours,
Urboshi
I was not prepared for such a letter. I was truly mentally shocked. But I started to feel instantly relieved as if negative and negative was making it positive for me. It is good for Urboshi as she got a good way out, Tuntuni will definitely get a safe shelter. And, I myself perhaps will survive as a dead river in their life.
Tomorrow morning I would be deported. I went out to see Stockholm for the last time. Right now all of Stockholm is covered with snow. Sweden has become white. At snowfall, her trees, soil, stones, roads, homes, buildings, streets, all have got covered with white snow. She is a white Sweden. Her past has got covered by snow, her days and ways to future is also covered by snow. I come back home walking over snow.
I am mentally free today. I will cook hotchpotch and egg-omelette. After my dinner, I went to bed and slept while reading Humayun Azad’s novel Shobkhichu Bhenge Pore (Everything has collapsed).
I dream a dream.
I am at the airport in Dhaka. I am being taken to cantonment in police cordon.
My daughter Tuntuni along with her grandfather was standing on the other side of the grill at the airport. I can hear Tuntuni’s grandfather is telling her, ‘You see that is you father.’
Instantly Tuntuni started to call me and is shouting
Baba!
Baba!
Baba!
I am running, Police are pulling me back.
I run away suddenly and forcefully from the police and attempt to run to Tuntuni. My head gets pushed against the wall, my sleep gets disrupted, I wake up.
What am I lying on? I cannot understand.
Am I lying in a room in Dhaka or Stockholm?