Amal Allana’s ‘The Exception And The Rule’ (1979): Brochure and Photograph as Research Tools
“Let nothing be called natural
In an age of bloody confusion,
Ordered disorder, planned caprice,
And dehumanized humanity, lest all things
Be held unalterable!”
“The Exception and the Rule,” was a popular Lehrstüke (Teaching Play) written in 1931 by German playwright Bertrolt Brecht. These Teaching Plays explore the possibilities of learning through acting, playing roles, adopting postures and attitudes, and hence no longer maintaining the divide between actors and the audience.
In 1979, “The Exception and the Rule” was produced for the Indian stage by Amal Allana at Shriram Center Basement , New Delhi. The cast included Anupam Kher as the Saudagar, Satish Kaushik as the Coolie.
The play tells the tale of a profit-seeking merchant who desires to cross the fictional Yahi Desert. ” I was interested in bringing to the forefront pressing questions about the relationship between economic inequality and the larger political and social system. The play sought to play out the harsh realities of the capitalist system – its contradictions, cruelty and the loss of common humanity. My attempt through a number of performative means was to bring the viewer into a critical state of mind.” notes the director.
The play resonated with the 1970s landscape of India, where the railway union announced a nation wide 20-day strike demanding a need-based minimum wage, social security, the formalisation of jobs, an eight-hour daily work limit, a safety net against rising prices and the right of railway workers to negotiate.
The emergency years soon to follow would challenge access to resources and saw large scale working class protests.
Photo credit: Pablo Bartholomew
Courtesy: Alkazi Theatre Archives