Tradition is like a waterfall, a stream that has flowed through time for over hundreds of years, affected by socio-economical, historical, cultural factors, and hitting various rocks in its way and thus reaching a form. It has grown in this process. In villages, the culture and tradition is still preserved. If we have to enhance the traditional theatre forms, then that culture and their literature needs to be studied extensively and then with knowledge, the art form needs to be polished and worked upon.
The pioneer in focusing theatre to the roots and bringing the importance of traditionalism in the art form, eminent playwright and Chairperson of National School of Drama, Padma Shri Ratan Thiyam summed up his thoughts on enhancing and polishing traditional theatre forms in these words.
During his visit on the concluding day of 20th People’s Theatre Festival at Natya Gram, Khordha, the playwright said that the festival has been organized at the right time, the onset of Basant, the season of spring. He added, “I had given my word to Subodh (Patnaik) once to come here. I thought people from different Ministries would come but they didn’t, so I came all alone.”At the theatre festival he interacted with the tribal artists trained in a workshop by National School of Drama in collaboration with Natya Chetana and with camp participants including team from Sangeet Natak Academy from Tripura.The production ‘Lathi’ from the workshop was staged on the fifth day by 17 tribal artists trained in three weeks and directed by theatre trainer Shukracharya Rabha, famous for his Under the Sal Tree project.
The 69-year-old playwright believes that one should be ‘hungry’ to learn. On being asked about bringing folk artists in the mainstream theatre to enhance their economic position, he expressed that though there have been innumerable researches and studies to solve this issue and promote folk culture and artists, there are not many programmes to help them economically.
He said that it is the choice of the artiste whether he wants to be a professional or stay an amateur. “The future as a artiste is full of uncertainties, with struggle and poor income. It is on the artiste if he wants to practice his art as a sideline to some other profession, earning enough to feed his family or dedicate to the struggle of art,” said Ratan Thiyam. He added very humbly that if someone asks him what theatre is, he would always say that he doesn’t know theatre!