Thursday, August 6, 2015

Our Challenge is to save humanity from economic imperialism

On the concluding 12th National Conference and Cultural Festival of Indian Peoples’ Theatre Association (IPTA) at Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh) and hours before he was re-elected as the secretary to the new national committee of the organization. Tanwir Akhtar speaks to Piyusha Chatterjee.

This conference marks two decades of IPTA, since its revival at the 1985 convention in Agra. How do you see the achievements of the organization?Of achevement. I would say there has been quite a few, especially when it comes to theatre in the Hindi belt. The associations’ various branches have done a fair job. Plays like Ramlila by Rakesh of Lucknow and Isoori, by Arun Pandey and one by Javed Akhtar Khan (Door Desh KI Katha), have been selected for performance in national festival Sangeet Natak Academy. There are some good directors like Habib Tanvir and others who are working on the national level and have been acclaimed for their work.

While talking of achievements, would you agree that IPTA has perhaps lost some of its sharpness..its edgy, aggressive nature?No, I don’t think so at all. Instead, I think it has gone through a transformation and attained a maturity of its kind. With changing time and changing needs, the ways of expression have changed. We are doing new experiments in style and the thrust is to voice our views and fulfill our dream through culture.

Then, what is that dream? Has it undergone any change with changing times?Well, there hasn’t been any great shift from what we began with but, yes, we have come to look at newer challenges and are trying to tackle them in our way. The dream we are talking about is that of a better life and a better future. Apart from issues like child labour, exploitation, caste, communal and gender biases, we have a new challenge at hand that of saving humanity from economic imperialism…the ghost of consumerism and globelisation. We are working towards its.

For you, what is raging issue that needs to be addressed?I think this fiddling with ecology for grains of a few is something we must seriously take into account.

What does this word-humanity-signify? Is it the ‘innate goodness’ in people or something more?
By humanity, I mean something, which is in danger from the ethics of a market driven, money oriented economy. Today, a child of 16 years wants to be financially independent. He or she wants to start earning when it is time for them to learn, to play, to look at life from a different angle. What is the hurry, where are we heading…? These are questions that automatically raise their heads. To keep up with this, we are becoming self-centered and selfish. On the one hand, we have issues like Narmada and Tihari, and on the other hand, soft drink companies exploiting our resources for their profit. We are losing our culture; our civilization to this IPTA is trying to create awareness and consciousness among the people about this.

Coming back to the functioning of IPTA and its national committee, why do we need a consorted effort and a cultural organization of a national stature?The IPTA members go and work in the remotest of corners across the country, but there is a need for uniformity and similarity in our efforts to make the movement successful and effective. We must give a form to our protest and a unified approach helps. The national committee meets to decide the thrust and focus of the movement, the challenge that need to be faced and at times, pull up branches on what they are focusing on.

In her inaugural speech on Monday, Shaban Azmi had said that you would discuss a national cultural policy and that she would even take it to the Parliament. What has come of it?I am yet to see the draft of that and matter is to be taken up later today. The committee has not formed any views on that. Personally, I think such a policy is not required by us. IPTA is guided by its own policy and a national committee. The Centre should have an inter\grated cultural policy, but pluralism must be in its main ingredient. Rest, we are there to oppose it, if we find the policy suggested by government is faulty.

But as soon we talk of policy in that sense, don’t we tend to leave out some accommodate some others. Do you think such a policy could be faultless?That is exactly what I was driving at. Last time there was such an effort with the Haksar Committee draft. Opinions were sought and it was widely opposed on many quarters. Finally, it fell flat on its face. It would be very difficult to have a singular policy for a country which has such a diverse culture. Let’s see what the committee decide upon.

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