NAMASKAAR, SASRIAKAAL , ADAB
Theatre has always prided itself in being a medium that makes a difference, that is unafraid to speak the truth. And Delhi’s Sri Venkateswara College’s theatre group Anubhuti is no stranger to this concept. Focusing largely on street play, Anubhuti has achieved success in both providing entertainment through theatre, and making a social impact. We spoke with the President of Anubhuti, Anish Bhat, who told us more about the art of street play, the challenges that his group has faced during the year, and their well-acclaimed play, ‘A,’ that has bagged many accolades and fame since the year began.
SVC’s Anubhuti has made quite a name for itself this year and last, seamlessly winning 80% of the competitions in which they have participated, and placing in the remaining 20%. Anish Bhat, now in his third year at SVC, proudly told us that Anubhuti was revived in college when he was in his first year. This means that within a mere span of two years, the dramatics society has reached the level of veteran theatre societies, garnering recognition and respect for themselves everywhere they went.
‘A’, Anubhati’s well-acclaimed street play that has received lots of appreciation and prizes in 2017, is one that makes people question the rigorous categorisation of sexuality and gender. Anubhuti displays the socialisation of a human being right from birth, by their family, school, society etc, all of which pressurise the once innocent child to become, in Bhat’s words, a “kattarwadi insaan”. They are later challenged by a narrator, who also provokes the audience to break free from the shackles of heteronormativity.
Bhat told us that the ideation of ‘A’ was no easy process Their brainstorming session began in July 2016, during which each of the 25 member society had to bring their own ideas to the discussion. Each idea was discussed in detail, before narrowing it down to Sex Ed, and then finally broadening the topic to Sexuality. The brainstorming, researching and writing period lasted for two months — and Anubhuti was ready with the play by mid-September. Ultimately, it was strong communication and coordination within their society that induced teamwork, guaranteeing all-round success.
When asked what it was about the form of the street play that inspired them to speak up about sexuality, Bhat said it is one of the most direct artforms that reaches people. The taboos around sexuality interact with and obstruct people’s daily lives, and ‘A’ mirrors this reality by bringing drama onto the streets. The street play is a useful medium to speak up, be heard, and acknowledged. Bhat stressed that contrary to the stage play, in a street play, the performers go to the people. Anubhuti has performed at colleges, on the streets, at NGOs, in urban as well as rural areas. People of all classes, sexes, ages, and races are therefore audience to this play
Street plays reach a wider range of people, people who do not necessarily have the means to attend a stage play. Information about the violence committed by tabooing and restricting sexuality reaches all people, and enables them to think and question.
However, Anubhuti has interacted with the curse of censorship, which Bhat claims to be a challenge to the form and content of street plays. While street plays are meant to be explicit, and blatantly honest they are often obstructed by various organisations, political groups, and even college authorities. Anubhuti has also been stopped in the middle of performing ‘A’, simply because certain groups objected to the content. Yet, they remain unfazed. Bhat holds that it is most important to speak the truth, to continue conveying the message they intend to.
Anubhuti did not fear of censorship, and so far, have won most of the competitions in which they participated.
While winning competitions is important, Bhat says that it is more gratifying when the social message they are conveying is heard, and responded to positively. ‘A’ portrays homosexuals, transgenders, and others who have been victim to the taboos that govern society. Bhat told us that Anubhuti received personal messages from transgenders and homosexuals who watched the play and connected with some of the scenes.
“They were just happy that someone was talking about this” says Bhat. For Anubhuti, this is what motivates them to fight obstruction and continue doing what they do. For the rest of the year, Anubhuti is ready to explore more territories in theatre through two productions — one stage play, and one street. Bhat says they are excited to continue doing what they do: spread positive social messages through entertainment. It is satisfying to know that youth theatre today remains professional, well-intentional, and unafraid to speak up.