Theatre artist and film actor Maharaj Krishna Raina, popularly known as MK Raina has been stationed in Vizag for a month now for a theatre workshop in Andhra University organised by India’s premier theatre institution National School of Drama (NSD).
For the first time since bifurcation of the Telugu states, NSD is conducting a one-month workshop for artistes at Andhra University. The workshop that is being led by Raina has been organised by Natyasudha in collaboration with NSD.
26 artistes from parts of Andhra, Telangana, Karnataka and Uttaranchal have gathered to gain some insights from the veteran artiste.
"My worry is not about the ongoing stint, but once these young minds come out they need potential avenues to showcase their brilliance, which unfortunately we are lacking,” says Raina.
Raina started his stint as a freelance theatre actor in 1972 and worked all over the India featuring in a range of traditional forms. His parallel engagement with rural and urban culture and theatre forms has flourished into a unique style. He has developed over 150 theatrical performances in different Indian languages and folk forms. He has also made documentary films and acted in several renowned television serials and feature films.
His plays ‘Kabhi Na Chooden Khet’, ‘The Mother’, ‘Andha Yug' were performed in Berlin and the Festival of India in the USSR casting Indian theatre on the canvas of world theatre.
Speaking about Telugu theatre Raina says, “In 30 years, in terms of Telugu theatre, nothing has disappeared or progressed. I think Telugu theatre requires new ideas with rigorous exposure and revitalisation."
Raina believes that the state bifurcation has potential to spur different styles of theatre culture.
“The government should organise national theatre fests so that it can open up ideas and opportunities,” Raina said.
Culture and arts under threat
Raina has been very vocal about the threats that artistes are facing in the current political scenario. In 2015 the Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee came out in support of writers, filmmakers and other intellectuals who returned their state awards in protest against rising intolerance in the country.
Raina is particularly unhappy with the political turmoils around the fields of culture and arts under the present regime.
Expressing his anguish over the increasing intolerance towards works of arts Raina says, “The BJP has no sense of history. They have a very narrow way of looking at history in the name of nationalism. They want us—artists, critics, filmmakers—to tell stories from their narrow point of view. We can’t reduce the idea of India to BJP standards.”
Adding that the sphere of art, academics and culture is all under attack in BJP regime Raina says that the country is becoming a laughing stock in front of the rest of the world.
“The ruling party seems to lack intellectual depth. How can they attack any platform which doesn't reflect or contests their views. They did not even spare Amartya Sen,” Raina says.
The attack on arts is evident from the recent controversy around recent movies like 'Lipstick under My Burkha' and 'Jab Harry Met Sejal’.
Raina believes that this kind of censorship of art works is a mockery of democracy. “We should agree to disagree that democratises any Institute be it academics, arts or politics"
Stating that theatre is an art of refraction of social reality, he says that is inevitable that it will express its dissent whenever it is required to.
The participants are being trained in a query-based pedagogy designed exclusively for the workshop, where aspirants can interact with the faculty for 8 hours a day. Chalasani Jayaprada, founder of Natyasudha is also part of this one-month workshop which began on July 27. The aspirants would be learning nuances of script writing and costume designing in the coming two weeks of the workshop, which is going to end on August 25.