The theatre kind, Bhagat, as soon as an intrinsic a part of Agra’s tradition, is making a comeback


Agra’s people theatre, Bhagat, has discovered a contemporary lease of life after 4 many years in oblivion

Agra’s people theatre, Bhagat, has discovered a contemporary lease of life after 4 many years in oblivion

A barber, a confectioner, a number of youngsters from the slums, and an MBA scholar walked onto a stage. It was an unlikely group maybe, however that night, at a literary occasion in Agra, all had been gamers within the people theatre often known as Bhagat. They had been assembled within the centre of the stage, whereas accompanying musicians sat on the sides, regaling the viewers with songs and dialogues delivered in a high-octane but musical tone.

Bhagat started life by poking the bear. Proper from the time it was first ‘performed’ (
khela jaane laga ) within the seventeenth century, its satirical comedies lampooning feudal landlords had been a success with the frequent individuals. The ruling courses, naturally, had a special perspective, and shortly contrived to have Bhagat banned.

Curiosity within the theatre kind revived within the nineteenth century, as poets put collectively exhibits that launched a blended ‘Khari Boli’ dialect of Hindi to enchantment to city audiences — earlier performances had been in Braj Bhasha — in addition to people tunes from the encircling Braj area. And it wasn’t lengthy earlier than totally different
akharas or ‘colleges’ of Bhagat emerged, every with a
khalifa or head who would practice artists in their very own type.

Lured away

However at the same time as Bhagat started to flourish as soon as extra, it was hit with a physique blow. Because the twentieth century progressed, its audiences had been more and more lured away by the novelty of shifting footage. And as its enchantment weakened, the people theatre was pushed to extinction. In reality, it’s believed that no Bhagat play was staged for greater than 4 many years.

Reminiscences, nevertheless, lived on. Within the Nineteen Seventies, Anil Shukla, a former journalist primarily based in Agra who had faint reminiscences

of power-packed musicals that includes “males in flashy costumes enacting feminine roles with an enthusiastic viewers showering wads of notes on them,” began questioning, ‘No matter occurred to Bhagat?’ He nonetheless remembers some exhibits that had been extremely popular, with titles like
Sheela ka Vivaah and
Haqeerat Rai urf Shahjehan ka Insaaf . “It was unlucky that whereas efforts had been being made to maintain theatre types like Nautanki and Khayalgoi alive, no person was considering of Bhagat, which was as soon as such an intrinsic a part of Agra’s tradition,” says the 62-year-old.

Komal Gupta (centre) in a Bhagat efficiency with regards to cruelty to animals

 

Outdated-world type

Deeply enthusiastic about theatre — he’d taken half in a workshop with Bansi Kaul, who went on to discovered Rang Vidushak, within the early Nineteen Seventies — the ‘cultural activist’ (“that’s what I want being referred to as,” he says) turned increasingly decided to inform the world that “there’s extra to Agra than simply the Taj Mahal.” He made a begin by combing the older elements of the town for surviving Bhagat artists, and was lucky sufficient to come back throughout Phool Singh Yadav, maybe one of many final residing performers.

Shukla recollects ready outdoors the aged artist’s dwelling, when he noticed a frail previous man, “being mercilessly teased by the mohalla youngsters”, slowly stroll in direction of him. With no supply of earnings, Yadav “was residing in abject poverty”. For sure, when Shukla spoke to him about the necessity to revive Bhagat, “his face lit up”. However he had a query: “Will individuals watch it now?”

The veteran artist had seen his beloved theatre kind fall prey to the extra trendy types of leisure, “so his scepticism was justified,” says Shukla. However as soon as satisfied of the necessity to resurrect Bhagat, Yadav grew excited sufficient to share not simply the assorted nuances of the shape but additionally his reminiscences of performances he’d seen and been a part of within the Nineteen Thirties.

He additionally began serving to Shukla create new scripts for Bhagats “that had been utterly in sync with its unique, old-world type”. And what’s extra, he went on stage as a performer himself. “It was heartwarming to see the gang’s response to Bhagat — their sense of delight in one thing they felt was a part of their metropolis’s heritage was palpable,” says a smiling Shukla. “And the unanimous feeling was that Bhagat should not be allowed to die.”

Yadav is now no extra — he handed away in 2015, “a contented man, content material that the art-form that was a part of him from the time he was barely eight had acquired one other lease of life,” recollects Shukla.

A scene from ‘Sangat Keeje Sadhu Ki’, that stresses on the ills of misplaced ambition and ill-gotten wealth

A scene from ‘Sangat Keeje Sadhu Ki’, that stresses on the ills of misplaced ambition and ill-gotten wealth

Alive once more

In the meantime, along with his assist, Shukla had put collectively a bunch of artists to be skilled within the fundamentals of Bhagat. “Though its important type of
raag
raginis and
swang metre stays undisturbed, we launched some modifications in
Naye Daur ki Nayi Bhagat (‘the brand new Bhagat for the brand new age’), bringing in social points like ladies’s empowerment, the significance of training, spiritual concord and so on.” he says.

This new-age Bhagat is seeing ladies on stage too. Right here Shukla mentions considered one of his group’s star performers, Komal Gupta, who, after watching a present, was fascinated sufficient to turn into a part of it. “Its type of
thet gayaki (the standard type of singing within the regional idiom) is what attracted me to Bhagat,” says the 16-year-old scholar who, regardless of having no formal coaching in music, leaves audiences spellbound along with her full-throated renditions.

With a “minimal of assets” at their disposal, Shukla and his crew work onerous to maintain the people theatre going. Greater than 100 slum youngsters have joined his newly fashioned group, Basti Ka Rangmanch, together with faculty dropouts and addicts.

“And since these youngsters have joined of their very own volition, with none parental strain, their sense of dedication to our trigger is wonderful.” However the lack of funds is regarding. “I want we may begin a repertory in order that we’re at the very least capable of pay some quantity to our artists. No person can proceed to work endlessly totally free,” says Shukla.

Possibly that too will come to go within the metropolis of the Taj.

The impartial journalist enjoys writing about individuals, locations, artwork and tradition.



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