An open letter to janab MS Sathyu Sa'ab


September 21, 2007
Dear Mr. Sathyu,

It is with great restraint that we are writing this mail to you. During the recent theater festival hosted by a foundation you have passed certain remarks about theater being non-existent or dead in Hyderabad after 1984 – the year in which Qadir Ali Baig sahib passed away. We don't know what is the basis of your claim or whom were you trying to flatter. We also don't really know how often you visit Hyderabad (of course your visits have decorated certain 5-star hotels where you imparted your gyan about theater to the page 3 janta).That apart, we have not seen you do theater in the past so many years (your Garam Hawa however remains a milestone in Indian cinema) and this is not the first time that you, an ignoramus about Hyderabad theater, has uttered such baseless statements. It's not only you, but also the man considered as the doyen of Indian theater- Habib Tanvir- has spoken such gibberish in the past. Just wondering, how you all have suddenly woken up to theater in Hyderabad.

You were the first to announce while the foundation was being inaugurated that the latter would promote local talent, establish an acting school and promote Urdu through theater. Unfortunately none of this is happening. Importing plays does not make one a theater person. One need not resort to jargons in theater, one has to practice it and practice it sincerely. Unfortunately, the man in whose name the foundation has been formed not only always worked with, but also promoted local talent in a big way. Therefore “revival” cannot happen, unless one works with home-grown actors. You also give the excuse that there is not enough local talent. Nothing can be farther from truth. Each time, Sutradhar, a local theater group which also incidentally promotes talent for the media has its hands full whenever a theater workshop is announced or a casting is being done for a play. The so-called “revival” can happen only when one starts working with local actors and not bring stars to perform here. And where is the question of revival, when theater did not go away anywhere. There are at least one dozen theater groups in Hyderabad, who regularly perform plays on their own, and don't always get plays with “stars” from outside. There's no harm in bringing outside groups, as it only helps us in understanding where theater stands in other parts of the country. But that does not help develop theater here because there is nothing new in your “imported” plays. During the recent festival, the crowds came to see only Naseeruddin Shah and his team perform, and not out of love for theater. The incessant ringing of mobile phones during the performances is an indicator of your audience's interest in theater. What was the attendance in the foundations own play is for you to introspect. Not to speak of the audiences who started leaving midway through the play. This also brings to the fore Mohammed Ali Baig's statement as quoted in THE TIMES OF INDIA, TUESDAY, SEPTEMEBR 11, 2007, PAGE 4, under the heading LIVE ART HAS NO PARALLELS, SAYS JABBAR PATEL “….As theater personalities, we have a twin task- to bring people to theater and also not to scare them away by being abstract”. Nothing would have been more abstract than your own foundation's TARAMATI, as was evident from people walking away mid-way during the show.

Apart from plays being performed in the regional language-Telugu- plays are regularly performed in Hindi, Urdu/Hindustani, Marathi and English.

One must also understand the difference between doing theater and organizing plays. The latter is event management, which is what your foundation does most often.

Nobody has problems with your activities, but why claim that it's the foundation only that is doing plays, when the fact of the matter is that the foundation does hardly anything on its own.

There have been groups like Rangadhara which have been active for as many as 35 years and performed some best Indian, British, German and French scripts. Pandit Jagat Jeevan Jaiswal has been doing theater since 1965. With due regards to your “intellect”, just to update you on the theater activities that have happened in Hyderabad since 1984, – the year that you've oft-repeated that the theater activity has since ceased/dead - for your guidance and future reference:

PRASTAV (CHEKOV'S PROPOSAL), EKALVAYA, BHOMA, KRAPP'S LAST TAPES, AAROP, AAGE DOUDO PEECHE CHODO, GUDDI, PAPPU, MUNNA (VOLKER LUDWIG'S MAX UND MILI), STRONGER THAN SUPERMAN, PHANDI, BUS STOP, KHELE TO KAHAN KHELEN (GRIPS THEATER), BALLABHPUR KI ROOPKATHA, GANDHARI, KAATH KA GHODA, AREY BAAZAR BAAZAR (DARIO FO'S CANT PAY, WONT PAY), MUKTI, NAVRATRE SAMPLEY, VICCHA MAJHI POORI KARA, DEATHWATCH, GANDHI-AMBEDKAR, MAIN NATHURAM GODSE…, SAKHI SHEZARINI, UTTARAARDH, SHANIWAR- RAVIVAR, TENDER TAJMAHALACHA (Only some of the many plays performed by Rangadhara, which has traveled across the country with its plays).

KUDE KA PEEPA, SALWATON MEIN SAMWAD, CHIDIYAGHAR KI KAHANI, GULEBAKAVALI, ZOO STORY, YATRA, SETHJI KI VASIYAT, ANTHEEN PRASHN, KHELIYA (THE SLEUTH), ANTIM NIRNAY, YE NAZDEEKIYAN, NAGNA SATYAM, COFFEE HOUSE MEIN INTEZAR ( Some of the plays performed by another group Kalashrot).

RAJA KA BAJA, SAIYYAN BHAYE KOTWAL, INSPECTOR MATADIN CHAND PAR, BUDH KAAM SHUDH, HAI MERA DIL, TEEN APAHIJ, THE PHOENIX, THIEF! POLICE, SHANIWAR KE DO BAJE, ANDHON KA HAATHI, KISI AUR KA SAPNA, KISSA KARORIMAL KI LAASH KA, GOODBYE SWAMI, NEEM HAKIM KHATRA-E-JAAN (MOLIERE'S THE PHYSICIAN INSPITE OF HIMSELF), ROOM NO.13 BLOCK NO 14 (Some of the plays performed by Sutradhar, which is 8 years old).

THE CHAIRS, SURYA KI PEHLI KIRAN SE SURAY KI PEHLI KIRAN TAK, ANDHA YUG, MUKTDHARA, CHAKRAVYUH (some of the plays done by a fledgling group - Nishumbita).

Another organization called Rasaranjini has performed more than 100 Telugu plays with about 2000 performances of these in Hyderabad alone.

Since the list would be too exhaustive, it would suffice to say that there are other groups too who perform regularly in English, Marathi, Kannada, Hindustani etc.

And none of these plays were sponsored. Since all of us here believe that theater is a self-sustaining activity, which in any case it is, we survive only on ticket sales. We are proud to say that we don't have to beg people to buy tickets. Our tickets sales are extremely good and we feel proud to say that we have inculcated the habit of watching a ticketed show.

Besides, a number of theater workshops were/are conducted here by the NSD, CENTRAL SANGEET NATAK ACADEMY, MAX MULLER BHAVAN, BRITISH COUNCIL and other NGO'S.

Hyderabad also has three Universities with full-fledged Theater Arts Departments, whose pass-outs work dedicatedly for theater. We are not obliged to inform you of the happenings here and also the activity is not deemed to be happening only when you are aware of it. Facing all odds we do theater, and would like to continue with the same seriousness as against the snobbery that you are trying to promote.

We only hope that you and the members of the foundation would be more careful in future utterances vis-à-vis theater activity here, thereby avoiding any kind of explosive confrontation.


Theatrically yours,

Pandit Jagat Jeevan Jaiswal
Professor Bhaskar Shewalkar, Founder-President, Rangadhara Theater Stream
Anant Kulkarni, Secretary, Rangadhara Theater Stream
Chandrakant Khanapurkar, Kalashrot Theater group
Vinay Varma, Sutradhar
Holagundi Ram Mohan, Nishumbita Theater and Ballet group
And many other distressed theater activists

e-mail: vinay@sutradharactors.com