Debasish on new-age theatre Ravan Reloaded

A candid chat with theatre director Debasish on theatre, challenges, and future
A still from experimental theatre Ravan Reloaded
A still from experimental theatre Ravan Reloaded

From Jatra to proscenium theatre to theatre-on-screens and now experimental theatre; this form of performing art has gone through varied stages since its inception. Multi-award winner theatre director Debasish opens up about experimental theatre, his workshop directorial with Kolkata Centre for Creativity (KCC), the challenges of directing in remote parts of the country, and what the future holds for this performing arts, ahead of the staging of his directorial Ravan Relaoded at KCC. 

How did directing Ravan Reloaded come about?

KCC Arts Laboratory approached me for the project. The theme of the theatre, a mix of contemporary and traditional performances keeping Ravan as the essence, was decided by them. We selected ten actors through a pan – India screening and did a week's workshop with them. This project was conceived within the workshop and included exploring the concept, creating the dialogues using mixed languages, and honing the performances. It will be staged in the KCC amphitheatre on June 18. We created the look of the performance by carpeting the amphitheatre, polishing the sound, setting up lights, and more.

How would you differentiate between experimental theatre and traditional theatre?

Traditional theatre conceives the script beforehand and is followed by readings, stage rehearsals and culminates in the actual performance, mostly in a proscenium theatre. But in an experimental theatre like this, we had to carve a performance stage from within an exhibition hall. It took us almost two-and-a-half days to just design the space which is pivotal to the entire performance. This is like an impromptu yet attractive theatre.

What message are you trying to convey through Ravan Reloaded?

I believe that arts need not always have a message but it definitely has an essence. Ravan Reloaded is a story of a performer who takes to the underworld. It’s a journey of struggles between fake art and real art. The story is a take on what is art and what isn’t. 


Do you think taking theatre to contemporary art spaces has given it a new lease of life?

I think the institutional structure of a proscenium theatre, which we refer to as conventional, is incorrect. This is mostly a Greek or European concept. Thus, when a performance is moved out of the proscenium it becomes adventurous. In the next few years, proscenium as a concept will not exist. In terms of design aesthetics, it’s not that a new wave is hitting us now, but it will take at least a decade or two for it to become the ultimate.

How do you envisage the future of theatre?

Theatre is a marginal art. The hard work, finance, and energy required to go outside and watch a theatre performance are way more than the requirements of subscribing to streaming channels that run on are viewed as per convenience. So, theatre is not for the mass. The theatre will, in the days to come become intimate and revolutionary like an underground movement.

How is theatre received in places outside Bengal?

I am a regular in Dharmanagar, Tripura along with places like Malda and Cooch Behar. Malda and Cooch Behar have a dedicated base. There are several directors, theatre groups, and good performances in the city. But media is not as active so these places do not get the deserved exposure. In Tripura Dharmanagar, it is a different satisfaction when you put up performances overcoming challenges like the absence of good halls, broken walls and floors, poor light system, or manpower unaccountability.

What are your upcoming projects? 

Prothom Rajnaitik Hatya is staged at Minerva Theatre on June 24 from 6:30 pm. Nur Jahan at Tapan Theatre on June 25 from 3 pm. Urunto Tarader Chaya at the Academy of Fine Arts is on June 29, 6 pm. In days to come, plays like Ferrari FaujHorof, and Aaranyak will be performed under my direction. 

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