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On Changing Face of Culture

On Changing Face of Culture
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Maharaj Krishna Raina actor, theatre activist and film personality, promotes Kashmiri folk theatre and other Kashmiri folk arts through his brand of...

MK Raina shares his experiences while learning and teaching drama and the impact of change on culture

MK RainaMaharaj Krishna Raina actor, theatre activist and film personality, promotes Kashmiri folk theatre and other Kashmiri folk arts through his brand of theatre. He employs his experience in mainstream cinema and making documentary films, his Hindustani music and his theatre to further his cultural activism, to rehabilitate orphaned Kashmiri children and take care of their education in the strife ridden region. He speaks of his training, his influences, his experience of working in Kashmir and the importance of safeguarding culture; the first victim of change

My Story

It is about a young boy who had a dream of acting. But he would be pushed into all other forms by his Guru. If you have to know acting, you must know nature. If you have to understand nature, you must know all the shades of colours in nature. So learn painting. If you have to know acting, you must know sounds of nature. So learn music. Learn to appreciate the different tonal qualities of sound. So, if you want to become an actor you need to go from one Gurukul to another. You need to know how to sculpt. You must see life. You must understand life. There is ‘inter-connectivity in all the creative disciplines of life. We actually are all more involved in our mundane work. Today’s social media and technology is disconnecting us all from the ground realities. We start thinking and imagining only what is projected in our newspapers and television. For example, I frequently visit Pakistan. We always feel that there is a big animated Flag Parade at the Wagah border. But once that is over, it’s quite a friendly time for everyone.

Working in Kashmir

I have been working in the interiors of Kashmir. We have trained many young theatre artistes from the villages who harbour genuine interest in theatre. It’s not been an easy time. We have had hidden workshops in villages as most of the spaces in the cities have been burnt down. It’s been very emotional bonding for all those who participated in our workshops. The children have lost their education and lost their childhood. We hired a house and started reviving the old plays. I travel for about a month at a stretch and conduct training in Guru Shishyaparampara. Our group performed Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’ in the local form, and the play is travelling all over India. India Foundation for Arts supported us in the project. CCRT has also been giving support to the work by creating teaching material for the children. We sat with all Gurus and created a syllabus for the children. I have been caught in crossfire on many occasions. But I have had the zeal to carry on and I go alone. Then the people take care of us. Some right people at the right time help us. A lovely open air theatre has been created near the Manas Lake. As I moved around, I found that ‘Santoor’ musical instrument is made by only one person who lives in the area.

Theatre has its own therapeutic sciences and can help in building a personality. It also builds the communication skills in a person. Theatre is a very important ‘safety valve’ that can protect rights in a democratic society. It questions the values, the past and the present. It is soothing, at the same time. I produced more than 130 plays in 13 languages. I must thank my family for their continued support.

What ails culture?

The Government of India has lot of funds for supporting theatre. But the mechanism of identifying the right people is still not in place. The stock taking of what has happened so far is missing. Most of the Akademies of every State in India are hollow, where people do 10 to 5 job. They are busy organising festivals. They are not looking at the problems of the Gurus and the students. The former tradition of teaching and learning is going for a toss. The quality is going down, day by day. Our body is Indian. Because of liberalisation, we are reconstructing our body to look western. Muscles, six pack and what not. This is the culture that’s coming in. We do not have any good books in schools, which educate us on our heritage.”

As told to Jaywant Naidu

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