An illiterate community in Kashmir has sustained a centuries-old tradition despite debilitating social and cultural changes. There's no money for celebration, but fortunately there's Pankaj.
On the occasion of World Theatre Day, the Sarojini Naidu School of Performing Arts and Fine Arts, in association with Moving Images and Goethe-Zentrum Hyderabad, is organising a 3-day film festival on theater, from 27th to 29th March.
Today, the second day, an Indian film called Pather Chujaeri is being screened at the New Seminar Hall, School of Social Studies, University of Hyderabad. The film is directed by Pankaj Rishi Kumar.
How does art survive in a regime of fear? Pankaj Rishi first encountered this question in 1999, while taking photographs of Kashmir during that mindless war with Pakistan. That summer, he established contact with the National Bhand Theatre, Wathora, and the Bhagat Theatre, Akingam, two groups that were still performing in the traditional pather form of satire. He returned twice in 2001, now armed with a camera.
He was encouraged by what he found: an illiterate community has sustained a centuries-old tradition in the face of debilitating social and cultural changes. Although perenially intimidated by the corruption, violence and intolerance that prevail in Kashmir, the bhands are still affirming a commitment to their theater, to the critical potential of its form and the liberating joys of performance. Faith in Sufism has tempered their enthusiasm for satire, and they identify with the collective voices of Kashmir's freedom.
The Play Is On... follows the two groups as they prepare for public performances, a rare phenomenon today. For the bhands, who daily witness the erosion of their way of life, each performance represents both a change as well as a repetition of the same brutal fact: that they are not free to share their revolutionary spirit.
The film starts at 2:30pm, and the entry is free for all. For further details, please contact Goethe-Zentrum at 6652-6443/2324-1791.