Good playwrights in Orissa are shifting to movies: Dhira Mallick



Dhira Mallick is a well known name in Orissa's theatre circles. Propelling the state's theatre movement, the veteran has imparted a new edge to modern Oriya theatre. His group Shatabdira Kalakar has been instrumental in the rise of Oriya theatre during the last three decades. A man of many parts, Mallick spoke to

Q: When did you fall in love with acting and eventually with theatre?

DM: It's because of my family background. My elder brother used to stage dramas and I used to watch the rehearsals. That generated interest in acting. I started acting during my

schooldays and continued till college. I bagged the best actor award in the first year of my college career and later I began directing plays. Then I became dramatic secretary in my college and have been obsessed with theatre since then. I came to Bhubaneswar in 1973 and studied drama.

Q: How was Shatabdira Kalakar formed?

DM: When I came to Bhubaneswar there were a few theatre groups. The drama department in Utkal Sangeet Mahavidyalay came into being in 1975 and then we, the first batch students felt the need for a platform to express our creative talents. So we formed the organisation to take the theatre movement of the state to a constructive phase and offer a nice palette to the theatre lovers.

Q: Tell us something about the evolution of the organisation.

DM: First we did the value addition to the existing traditional theatre by infusing Orissan folk art, dance and music. We first started the state level drama festival in the true sense. Before that there were competitions. In the mid 80s we started children's theatre festival. But we saw that our activities were still confined to Orissa only. So to ensure a broader cultural interaction we started a national multilingual dram festival, which has been running successfully for the last ten years.

Q: How is Shatabdira Kalakar different from others?

DM: We infused some exclusive Oriya folk elements in our plays so as to create a unique identity. We introduced some new concepts in stagecraft like humane set with physical composition and geometrical composition. We became the trend setter for others. We were thus able to produce quality productions like Avatar, Jibanyasa and Ruddhadwar. We were different as we had created a trained group.

Q: What was the purpose of starting an acting school?

DM: In our time to get admission in drama (in music college) the age limit was between 18 and 35. But now the upper age limit is 21.We saw that there are a lot of aspirants who want to complete their graduation and still make a career in acting were not getting a chance. Hence we started the acting school. Two batches have already passed out and the students are acting in serials and films.

Q: Do you think the younger generation today is attracted to the theatre the same way as you were in your younger days?

DM: No. In those days fewer films were being produced and theatre was a prime source of entertainment. I remember in early 80s one of our plays ‘Dekha Brasha Asuchhi' was staged for the second time on public demand. Such was the craze in those times. Plays ran to full houses. But now the entertainment canvass has become bigger. Now we do not have mass audience. It is selective audience.

Q: What ails modern theatre?

DM: Good playwrights, actors and directors are shifting to the filmdom. Some have even fallen victim to the jatra culture, which is destroying the moral fabric of the society. Some of the theatre groups are also encouraging jatra natak in the name of mancha natak. So we are losing audience. Even in newspapers and journals jatra gets more coverage than theatre. And then there is indifference of the government to the theatre.

Q: Talking of government's attitude towards theatre, how does Orissa compare with other states?

DM: Unlike Orissa, other states are getting government patronage. In Maharashtra 2 percent of income from the entertainment tax is spent on theatre. In Manipur 75 percent of the production cost is borne by the government. In states like Assam , Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Karnataka the production cost of the theatre is subsidised by the government. But while our government supports dance, music and movies, it has done precious little for theatre. Auditoriums like Rabindra Mandap should be made available only to theatre groups on subsidised rent. Government should construct rehearsal halls for practice. District cultural officers should identify theatre groups and provide infrastructure. Workshops and festivals should be organised at government level.

Q: Which of your plays has been the most satisfying experience?

DM: There are many. In fact I derive satisfaction from all of my plays. But Rudhadwara was special because of the ovation it got both inside and outside Orissa.

Q: What are the things you still dream of?

DM: To construct a mini auditorium in the city for which the land has been allotted and to bring out a journal exclusively on theatre.

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