STAGING TRANSITIONS – THEATRE OF THE 90s IN INDIA
THEATRE: POLICY TOOL FOR FEDERAL-UNION RELATIONS?
In response to the 73rd and the 74th amendments and the institutionalising of the decentralisation paradigm of the 90s, this decade is marked by the emergence of divergent approaches as decentralisation and national identity became a guiding force for the cultural operations of the states. With a shift in governance approach and the move towards ‘equalisation’ of power between union and states, the latter began to attempt not only an assertion of their regional identities but to also initiate autonomous events with increased inter-state collaborations.
The initiation of an ‘All India Drama Festival’ by the ‘Sahitya Kala Parishad’ (the state cultural body of the Delhi government) from 21-25 December, 1992 exemplifies the peculiarity of decentralisation in the 1990s. The aim of the festival as stated in the foreword of its brochure reads: “देश के विस्तृत आँचल में बिखरी विभिन्न भाषाओं के समृद्ध रंगमंच की छवि राजधानी के नाटक प्रेमियों के सम्मुख प्रस्तुत करना।”
(English Translation – To present the theatre lovers of the capital an image of rich theatre in diverse languages spread across the country.)
The schedule of the festival as published in the brochure makes it evident that the geographical spread of the groups is limited to Northern India, primarily to Hindi-Punjabi belt, with an exception of a Manipuri play by Ratan Thiyyam (associated with NSD, Delhi) and a Dogri play from Jammu. This selection could be seen as articulating the contradictions between rhetoric and operations of policy in the 90s. Though at the planning level, the construction of the nation was being transformed from a centralised creation to a regional hybrid, at the level of functioning, it had strong Hindi regional cohesion.
Taking place during the politically volatile and transformative years of the 1990s, can this theatre festival be seen as a symbolic representation of the identity assertion of Delhi as a state, separate from the union government and its operations? If so, were such theatre festivals used as political symbols by the states for navigating regional and intrastate relations? Within the domain of culture, did decentralisation imbue a sense of independent cultural organisation in states? If so, despite these attempts by states to assert themselves as units capable of representing the entire nation by inter-state collaboration free from union directive, did the overarching narrative remain union directed and exclusionary of regions of different language and ethnic groups?Post-1
Brochure of 1st all India Drama Festival at Sri Ram Centre Auditorium. Conducted by Sahitya Kala Parsihad, 21-25 December, 1992.
Image Courtesy: Anand Gupt Collection/ Alkazi Theatre Archives