'If you create one play, it is equivalent to a thousand speeches'

Sep 08 2013, 12:02 IST
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Waman Kendre Waman Kendre
SummaryTheatre artiste Waman Kendre, known for his plays on the marginalised, is the new director of the National School of Drama (NSD). One of the pioneers of the Dalit theatre movement in Maharashtra in the late ’70s, Kendre’s well-known plays include Mohandas, Ranangan, Zulva, Janeman, Madhyam Vyayog, Tempt Me Not and Dusara Samana. In this interview, he talks about returning to his roots, being the voice of the unheard and his task ahead

his life, have long hair, and cultivate feminine behaviour. Those like him are protectors of the tradition, but they exploit the girls and they are also exploited by society on many levels, including physically. So, several people started calling this character a hijra (eunuch) and I would say that he is not a hijra. Then, I’d be asked, ‘Who is a hijra?’ I had to find the answer for myself, I had to be clear about the eunuch community and that took 15 years of my life —reading about them, meeting them, fieldwork. It was written over and over again at least 10 times. Finally, it became a play that would not only educate the audience, but offer serious entertainment.

Did you believe a play on eunuchs would manage to draw such a huge audience?

I deliberately titled it Janeman, so that people would come to see a ‘play’. After that, it would be the job of the content and the performers to hold the audience. Fortunately, that happened.

Since when have you been into music, because it is almost always a character in your plays?

Many of my plays do not have music, but the popular ones do. I belong to a farming community and was surrounded by folk music since my childhood. All our folk culture is agriculture-related and connected with the agricultural cycles. Folk artistes depend on farmers for their livelihood. Early in the morning, they would come to farmers’ houses for dakshina or alms. My father was also a folk artiste, though not a professional one. He and his friends would meet, sing a few bhajans and leave and then, perhaps, meet again after a month.

Another thing was that, when I came to NSD, Karanthji made me realise how rich I am because I had access to this tradition and could sing hundreds of songs. If you want a complete theatre experience, you cannot eliminate music.

Though these are early days, what’s your vision for the school?

I am talking to my faculty members and the theatre community. I would like to brainstorm first. My first agenda, which I told the minister for culture, Chandresh Kumari Katoch, at the 50 year celebration of the NSD Repertory, is that this should be recognised as an Institute of National Importance. Then, I’d like to set up branches across India. And it cannot just be me alone. Theatre always has to be a “we”. An

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