RR on Kitab

I missed RR's play Cotton 56, Polyster 84 again and am miserable about it. It came to Dilli yesterday because it was nominated for the META awards.  I would root for his play out of loyalty but RR and K, his wife would never speak to me again. (However, if Dark Horse wins I shall just have to join a monastery.  I saw three-fourths of it and ran out. The only good lines were Arun Kolatkar's. The only thing more embarrassing than the direction is the sycophantic reviews. One reviewer only wonders why the musician on stage does not have a broader stool to sit on. )

I had mentioned one strange incident around Cotton in a recent post but Cotton has been the subject of controversy before. Last October, three shows of the play was cancelled in Nagpur by the police whose slitted eyes saw Naxalite wherever they looked. RR has old-fashioned clarity about ethics and art and Virginia Woolfish standards for himself. So if you mention Mahadevbhai, his brilliant, popularly, critically acclaimed play, he gets depressed because he is convinced it was a fluke! 

The following is Ramu in HT frowning violently at the Kitab fest.

"Whose KITAB is it anyway?

They came. They saw. And they concurred among themselves. A quick glance at the who's who of Kitab Fest; and one detected the absence of Maharashtra (Dilip Chitre and Kiran Nagarkar nothwithstanding). Now, this is a state with four Jnanpiths. It probably boasts of some of the best literary talent in the land. It has a legacy of Drishtantapaath by Chakradhar to Tukaraamachi Gaathaa. From Amrutaanubhav by Dnyaneshwar to Mahatma Phule Samagra Vangmay by Jyotibaa Phule. The plays by Vijay Tendulkar and Mahesh Elkunchwar and Satish Alekar and G P Deshpande. The poems of Vinda Karandikar and Arun Kolatkar and B S Mardhekar and Namdeo Dhasaal and Narayan Surve. The novels by Bhau Paadhye and Shyam Manohar and Ranganath Pathare and Balachandra Nemade.

All snubbed, all forgotten.

Like I said, it would have been nice to have found a validation for the above in the Kitab fest

Many years ago, there was a dramatic moment at the Vidrohi Literary Fest (hosted in Dharavi) that I still remember. It came during the lunch break. We were served roasted beef. This was a Vidrohi-styled statement against "the upma and sheera" being served at Shivaji Park during the upper-caste Marathi Sahitya Parishad. While I was gobbling my food, an important Dalit poet was quick to point out, “Don’t blame us. For years, you have demanded we get our act together, open up. And now that we have and the payback is at hand, you don’t like it.”

His point resonates everytime there is a Kitab Fest, or a similar fest. His point challenges one of the great contradictions of the global-literary debate. It begs the question of the powers that be are pushing back so hard against the very process of literary integration it has so long espoused.

Of course, motives are always open to subjective interpretation. But I suspect that Vidrohi poet's point touches on one of the most important, but overlooked issues in the current literary debate - that the Anglicised and Brahminised are simply unprepared for the successes of the other world.

Let me explain: Even as the Kitab Fest was going through the motions at Prithvi Theatre on Sunday; a Literature Fest was hosting its concluding session at P L Deshpande auditorium. It boasted of Namdeo Dhasal, Arun Sadhu; and writers from more than 10 nations. Naturally, it was totally blanked out by the mass media, print and tv.

Anyway, on Sunday afternoon, Mumbai witnessed a huge power failure. The Kitab fest came to a grinding halt. But at P L Deshpande, the performance of JAMBHOL AKHYAAN merely shifted to the quadrangle. Then when the electricity was restored, this superb piece of theatre returned to the mini theatre - along with the audience. The show had to go on. No fuss, no hang ups. What it showed that for literature (and theatre is literature, too) to survive in the real world, one cannot be lacking in preparation.
As Dhasal stated in his concluding remarks, "we've lost huge amounts of money. But we'll be back, next year. Bigger and louder. The time is ripe for a political backlash. As long as our fight continues against the system, we will make sure our voice is heard." "


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