27th March is World Theatre Day. This year’s Theatre day message is delivered by Shahid Nadeem, the famous dramatist from Pakistan. Last year the message was from Carlos Celidran the drama theorist from Cuba. Both reminds us that theatre stands for nothing other than humanity states Pramod Payyanur (Drama & Film Director) who contributed innovations to professional theatre and experimental theatre.
A big salute is offered by another theatre day, which pays homage to those artists who worked hard day and night to enrich theatre, all over the world. World theatre day celebrations were started by International Theatre Institute (ITI) in 1961. It is observed across the world to create awareness about the importance of theatre arts, how they played an important role in the field of entertainment and the changes that theatre brings in life. In addition to improve stagecraft and collective effort for the welfare of drama, the institute offers a message for World Theatre year by year. The message is announced by the special creative personality invited by ITI, for all theatre lovers. The ninth meeting of International Theatre Institute held in 1961 at Vienna put forward the idea of a message on World Theatre Day.
Nowadays importance of theatre is declining, so this day is a wakeup call for governments, politicians, institutions and people to recognise the value of theatre to the individual, people for economic growth as well. The first World Theatre Day message was delivered in 1962 by Jean Cocteau. It was translated into more than 50 languages and printed in hundreds of magazines and newspapers. This year the prominent dramatist of Pakistan and Chief architect of Ajoka Theatre, Shahid Nadeem, declares the message.
Life Sketch of Shahid Nadeem
Nadeem was born in 1947 at Sopar, Kashmir in a refugee family. In 1948 while the strength of partition of India and Pakistan was at its height, Nadeem’s family migrated to Pakistan. Nadeem wrote plays even during his school days. He became a fulltime playwright while he lived as a refugee in London. Ajoka is a drama troupe which enacted flaming plays of resistance in the streets of Pakistan. Nadeem wrote almost five hundred drama related articles for this troupe in Urdu and Punjabi languages. This World Drama Day message deliverance is a great regard for himself and this wife, Madeeha Gauhar, who is the founder of Ajoka. Nadeem had been jailed thrice for his critical endeavours against military regime.
According to Aristotle’s ‘Poetics’, drama is the expression of sacred and mysterious aspects of the human mind. Now when Shahid refers to theatre as a sacred place we see how it relates the depth of humanity. The words delivered by Carlos Celidran on 27th March 2019 in his message, glitters in the present day world scenario.
When man lives in isolated pockets in the post – truth world, Celidran points out that the boundaries and restrictions created by religion and racism causes great sufferings but there are no limitations for creative minds and the world of creativity that blooms on stages. It sheds light on the values of love and tolerance. Shahid’s message also envisages the above said ideas, through yet another perspective.
Hard times are good times for Drama
My country witnessed seven military regimes. We saw fanatic struggles and three wars with India. India and Pakistan, who shares a history of thousands of years are now at the brink of Nuclear War. There is a saying that hard times are good times for drama. Hard times call for efforts to face challenges, to picturise contradictions and to challenge established values. The renowned playwright Bertolt Brecht had said that drama is an area where philosophers change the world and not merely of those who criticise. During the time of military rule in Pakistan, in 1980’s, Ajoka’s voice was raised against autocracy. The theatre group expressed their difference with establishment, highlighting the visions of Bulleh Shah the sufi poet who lived before three hundred years. The fire of dissent spread. The edifices of fanaticism and corruptions were shaken.
The artists who played Bulleh Shah became a Sufi, later on and penned two volumes of poetry. Ajoka, led by Shahid Nadeem, still remains as a symbol of resistance. He writes: We drama artists have the aim of social change and reforms. It is that awareness that lead us on. While nations are at war, infant’s die of hunger. Our earth is facing more and more ecological crises. We have to refrain from our lethargy and hopelessness in this demonic phase. Theatres must come up for humanity and protection of our earth. In South Asia we artists while entering a stage do bow and touch the floor in reverence.
It is a rejuvenative act of awareness of the fact that the stage is a connection point of the past and the future. The theatre which is a social institution has the mission of resistance and new realisations of humanity – says Nadeem.
I came to know about Nadeem who found new vistas of the grammar of the theatre from late Bharath Murali the famous stage – movie actor of Kerala. He suggested that Nadeem’s plays have to be included in the festivals of Sangeetha Nataka Academy. The comprehensive text about drama and acting written by Shahid Nadeem was kept like a treasure by Murali. Just like how Rabindranatha Tagore’s plays had undercurrents of love and humanity, Nadeem’s plays had an inquiry into the nature of human virtues as its subtext. The dream of Tagore who lived in undivided India and the dreams of Nadeem who exiled to Pakistan during partition of India and Pakistan are one and the same – the value of humanity.
In this era of defense against Corona, Nadeem’s messages shines gloriously. Hard times are good times for drama. We artists have to overcome bad times with creative power. For that we ought to have such will power and revelations. Theatre is a vehicle for survival as Nadeem insists heartily.
In history drama had been a source of strength for survival. Hence the message that hard times are good for theatre partially conveys its direction to theatre artists. The statement by Brecht that theatre learns from the public and then teaches it is also add fuel to resistance.
In this era of social media there are possibilities of communication by means of Micro – dramas, Skits, Mimes and communication of ideas through brief and pithy presentations. This is the apt time for keeping in touch with the general public. It requires just three or four actors and a laptop. A video conferencing can practice, connect and stage an epigrammatic social message using such devices through a live – stage and vibe is missing, seeing the requirement of the present predicament it would be worthy to enlighten using healthcare tips till the world wins its battle against the pandemic called Corona.