To educate and entertain

Ambika Shaligram
Friday, 30 August 2019

In conversation with Dr Praveen Bhole, who will be felicitated with P L Deshpande award by Upasana, a social-cultural platform. The head of Lalit Kala Kendra (Gurukul), SPPU shares his thoughts on theatre, folk arts and the conservation approach that we must adopt

In a classroom, a bunch of students are rehearsing for a play. And, then a voice pipes up, asking the students to pause, to enunciate certain words clearly with the process starting all over till they take a five minute break. The students troop out of the class, followed by Dr Praveen Bhole, who is coaching them for Srutir Aashore festival. The festival which is dedicated to Vachik Arts (includes audio drama, recitation, script reading, voice dubbing, commentary, anchoring, compering etc) has been organised by Upasana, a social-cultural platform. 

Interestingly, Dr Bhole will also be felicitated with P L Deshpande award at the festival, on September 1. This award is given to life time achievers in the art form. 

Dr Bhole, who is the Head of the Lalit Kala Kendra (Gurukul), Savitribai Phule Pune University, talks about the bond that the department shares with Upasana, amongst other things. 

The connect 

Upasana has been conceptualised by Sharmila and Amit Mazumdar, to highlight the work done by Rabindranath Tagore. “Sharmila didi was one of the earliest students of Lalit Kala Kendra. And after forming Upasana they had approached the department if they could use the space for one of their activities. One of their important activities was celebrating Rabindranath Tagore’s birth anniversary and since Lalit Kala is also devoted to arts — music, dance and drama — we expressed our wish to participate in some form or the other. Our students were encouraged to take part in singing, drama competitions and so on. Upasana also felicitates meritorious students with Rabindra Puraskar. The relation has grown from strength to strength,” explains Dr Bhole.

Speaking about the P L Deshpande award that will be bestowed on him, Dr Bhole says, “I will be accepting the award on behalf of the Lalit Kala Kendra. We all are a part of one big family.” 

Going on to talk about the drama students participation in Srutir Aashore festival, the theatre director-academician says, “Our students will be performing a Greek tragedy Iphigenia. It’s a mythological tale. We are looking at it as an educational project which will help the students hone their skills. Since it’s dedicated to Vachik Arts, the thrust is to convey the Greek tragedy through voice and sound choreography. We are working on voice and speech modulation, pronunciation and clarity, adhering to rules of Marathi grammar.” 

Dynamism in folk arts  

Dr Bhole is also working on a project with Satish Alekar, Waman Kendre, Tara Bhawalkar and others to preserve the heritage of folk arts. “I am concerned about how we approach the work of conservation of folk arts. We need to go beyond organising and convening of folk arts festivals, like Lavani Mahotsav, for instance. In a country like ours with a rich history of folk arts, it’s a pity that we don’t know what a Bharud is. We don’t have an encyclopedia covering the folk arts that are endemic to our state — the meaning, the origin and subsequent history. We need to have a research-based approach to conservation of folk arts. We need to be passionate about it,” insists Bhole. 

The team is currently working on researching and curating material on folk arts for Marathi Wikipedia. This move is in conjunction with State Government’s Art Directorate. 

“We have put together a team of scholars, experts to compile and curate 100 titles, as of now, to upload on Marathi wikipedia page. We are also looking at ways to encourage dynamism between folk artists and commercial artists. It’s an important government policy to ensure pension and other perks for the artists, but how do we ensure that the art doesn’t die out? Can there be an exchange of ideas and traditions between the two streams of artists, without encroaching on each other’s livelihood? Artists like Kedar Shinde, Bharat Jadhav and Santosh Pawar blended folk art with commercial theatre through plays like Sahi re Sahi and Yada Kadachit. We need to have more such examples. Why should a separate audience exist for Lavani and Tamasha performances and commercial theatre? A think tank committee of scholars, academicians and experts is looking into the pros and cons of this aspect,” he elaborates. 

Education in theatre 

Moving on to talk about entertainment industry vis a vis Lalit Kala Kendra, Bhole says, “Earlier, artists, who were trained in theatre or educated in the medium, found it difficult to find a toehold in the theatre and entertainment industry as opposed to those who made a mark in theatre competitions. Even today, students who shine in Purushottam Karandak and other inter-collegiate drama competitions are absorbed easily in the entertainment industry. At Lalit Kala, we don’t get actors who figure in primary talent pool. Most of our students come from the length and breadth of the state, bringing with them different styles and folk traditions. They are a little raw, and in our three year course, they are encouraged to be self-supportive, to apply and adapt what they have learnt. You will find our students working at all levels in the television and film industry — as actors, technical crew, in research department, casting director and so on. A few of them are using theatre as a tool in children’s education. After spending a few years in the industry or in-between jobs and assignments, they do theatre, to reinvigorate themselves.”

ST Reader Service 

The Srutir Aashore festival will be held on September 1, between 3.30-8.30 pm, at Pt Jawaharlal Nehru Sanskrutik Kendra, Ghole Road

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