People Vs. Indianostrum

Madhushree Basu

Madhushree likes to watch performances, is generally jobless, and thus in continuous bad mood.

I have reasons to believe that ‘what is good art?‘ is one of those disturbing, annoying unanswerable questions, whose level of unanswerability stretches beyond questions like ‘is there a god?’ or ‘are there infinite number of twin primes?‘. Disturbing – because the question is inevitable – there is no escape from it – our experiences, thoughts and perceptions being continuously tingled and tampered with by images, dialogues, music and movements. Annoying – because it is a fuzzily qualitative question presented in a yes-no context. More so, because somehow we take it for granted that mystic questions such as the existence of gods or prime numbers are to be explored by the chosen ones whereas each of us has a right to announce sermons and declarations regarding art, instigated by culture that we are used to – guided by the little lazy critique present in each of our hearts, dying to blurt out opinions, with absolute disregard for the history or the process, through which an artwork emerges.

That was the initial angry bit. Now a few nice words for Indianostrum – my favourite theater troupe based in Pondicherry. Last month Rangashankara (Bangalore) organized a multilingual theater festival (A New Generation Directs Girish Karnad) with nine plays, an assortment of clips of plays and discussions on eminent playwright/actor/writer/director Girish Karnad. Among other performances, all of which were more or less appreciably and skillfully presented, it was the performance of ‘Dreams of Tipu Sultan‘ by Indianostrum that led the audience to the controversy of good or bad art most explicitly.

I always thought Koumarane – the founder director of Indianostrum – is quite insane, but that has naturally been his charm and the biggest selling point of his plays. However seeing his troupe as part of the Chennai theater audience (which is more like a home ground to Indianostrum) for last few years, I had never experienced the savage and almost naive dislike expressed by a part of the Rangashankara audience, directed at the same insanity that differentiates Indianostrum from other theater groups.

Continue reading