Antah Kranti, the Process of Inner Eco Transformation: A Praxis for Eco Theatre

by Dr. Pamposh Kumar - Aug 25,2019

Theatre has powerful engaging capacity, especially when it comes to sociocultural issues. The reflections on conflicts and trauma, strife and grief, celebration of cultural identities and heroic deeds, all that calls for total therapeutic absorbance of human energies, are manifested by this channel of communication. There have been experiments, leading to development of a variety of experimental and radical theatre forms, withinand beyond the folk theatre domains, as theatres of social engagement. The British Alternative & Community Theatre Movement, Theatrein-Education movement, followed by community based Stut Theatre started by Jos Bours and MarliesHautvast, The Little Theatre Movement in the United States credited to Laura Dainty Pelham, Theatre of the Oppressed by Augusto Boal, and a must mention The Little Theatre movement of the United States and Canada, and Socio –Drama, by Jacob L. Moreno, etc. have all witnessed historic acceptance and growth with proven potential to heal and uplift.

Socio–Drama has been successfully put to test in tackling intractable human conditions and social conflicts. In India, the science communication practice has especially gained from experiments in socio drama by Girijan Swaichhik Sansthan, supported by NCSTC, to foster water literacy, Lok Vigyan Manthan (Peoples Science Cogitation) & promote water centric eco dialogues. Going by contrast with mainstream media, the intervention through this unconventional media found exceptional reception in form of sharp comprehension and actionable learning by colourful rural populace of Rajasthan, in Bundi district to be specific.

The lessons from Bundi Experiment in socio drama have been revisited to enrich other related forms of experimental eco theatre and media, which endorse and reinforce the power of community based and community bred eco media.

Raising the bars of reflection and design for social change, and to address malaise of eco illiteracy deep inside rooted in society, a synthesis of eco philosophy of inner transformation accompanied with deep cultural engagements has been explored. Its praxis has evolved with a novel experiment designed with a group of small town young theatre enthusiasts from Bundi.

The ecosophy essentially has been synthesised with scientific humanism, yet non metaphysical moorings. Not dwelling upon duality of Atma&Parmatma, it is simply conceived that A process of inner transformation should start with awakening of inner cosmic voice in all of us. The inner cosmic voice, better say eco-voice must be lurking in all of us, emanating from the intelligent ecological design- an inheritance from the molecular soup which started life on the Earth.

The genetic intelligence of us should also carry imprints of cosmic or ecological intelligence in varying degrees. Such an intelligentinner voice needs to be activated and deepened by listening to it in its pure form and appreciating unequivocally its connection to nature. The intervention in self-reflection, by virtue of being introduced by design, at the upmost point of stream, is likely to negotiate better the connect/disconnect with nature.

The disconnect mostly grows as life advances. Evolving in stages, the process of inner transformation would create increasing role of inner cosmic (eco) voice in responding to questions arising inside us, reflecting on the conflicts, resolving them to restore harmony with nature, developing creative power to find solutions to disruption of natural systems, restoring faith in nature, and helping develop engagement as source of more robust eco cultures. This internal source of harmony with nature can be tapped by allowing it to manifest itself in several cultural ways, including eco theatre.” (Pamposh Kumar).

The praxis for a specific application, was worked out with the young theatre enthusiasts from Bundi, who already had an orientation with eco literacy based plays, like MendhakkiAbhilasha (written by Dr Pamposh Kumar, directed by Dr Sunita Jhala), and Paanike Rang (written & directed by Dr Sunita Jhala), and successfully staged them during Bundi Eco Films and Culture Fest. These plays had some degree of emphasis on internally driven ecological stirrings & musings and also psychological strands of inner explorations to solve outside conflicts in society which are rooted in ecological crises. The Theatre Director, Dr. Sunita Jhala, a staunch proponent of socio drama, joined to help translate the ecosophy, christened as “Antah Kranti” the inner revolution, in to a theatre process design aimed at socio- cultural transformation.

The process, is a unique eco-cultural experiment which was founded upon the values of inner transformation as embodied in the ecosophy. It supports nurturing of the inner eco voice of theatre actors & activists. It is designed for inspiring eco-creative expressions which start with a total absorption of t e a m m e m b e r s i n t h e i n n e r transformation process.

The process grows with participatory script development, sutra dharan, rehearsals, staging the play and adaptation even as the play is staged with audience community joining with their own inner reflections. The Master Plot for the experimental play by Pamposh Kumar was situated in hinterland of Rajasthan and pivoted on common place tale of a newly wed rustic female protagonist, often acclaimed for her overly charming attributes in folk songs of the region. It was titled “Raag Virag”, i.e. AttahmentDetachment.

The internal conflicts and outside disintegration of components of natural systems were explored under key segments as follows:

1. Exposition: 'Katari' is newly wed wife; Husband 'Soya Ram'; Mom in law 'Nimoli'; Sister in law 'Hansi' Raag: Katari is all the time busy with self-adornment, cosmetics, other self-absorptionsVirag: Katari is ever neglecting flora and fauna, duties; holds poor world view of nature; uncaring of others, almost heartless!

2. Conflict: Katari not realising symptoms of illness, then natural di sas ter s trikes and mi sery i s compounded by ill designed physical e n v i r o n m e n t , r e s u l t i n g i n catastrophe!

3. Rising Action: Protagonist is grossly puzzled; Not accepting the root causes of disaster; Cursing nature! But grappling with future & possibilities of greater distress.

4. Climax: Heroic but unwilling sacrifice by Katari; all in the family saved. leaves her Wondering, what she has done, against her own nature

5. Falling Action: Katari coming to t e r m s w i t h g o o d n e s s o f h e r unexpected deeds

6. Resolution: 'Katari' identifying her as 'Kartari', the benevolent one. Virag: Process of rediscovering herself and her faith in nature, Raag: Helping others to rediscover them, loving nature

7. Message: There is inversion of original manifestation, when inner voice was dormant in Katari, by virtue of compelling introspection triggered by catastrophe. She recognizes the causative internal factors through her inner eco voice, which drove her to taking pains in the face of crisis and filled her with faith in nature.

The theme and the plot provide critical thought for eco feminists and eco critics, which would inform the media studies also. The Antahkranti Theatre is thus a unique experiment ingrained in AntahkrantiEcosophy& Praxis which helps clarify and resolve the conflicts internalised by us. The creative expressions manifest the disintegration of natural systems which remain as hidden imprints inside us.

The search for internal mirror images for the causative conflicts is deepened by reflections and creative expressions. The counter action is generated by recognizing and realizing the strength of our relations with nature, faith in nature, and creative forms of harmony with nature. Antahkranti Eco Praxis shows that increasing role is ensured for our inner eco voice in resolving the conflicts with nature. As a case of eco cultural experiment, the path ahead is co-created with the eco creatives of the theatre process and the afflicted community.