Tripurari Sharma – India

inked with National School of Drama – New Delhi.

She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.

Tripurari Sharma (born on 31 July 1956 in Kurukshetra, Haryana) initially chose theater as a means of expression to shrug off middle-class conventions and to seek an identity. It did not take her long to realize that it was more than that: it was an intimate way of revealing and connecting with the lives of women audiences and sharing their perspective with the world. Evolving a play through collective interaction has helped bring theater out of closed spaces, and into the lives of Indian women … (1000peacewomen 1/2).

She says: “Theater has an ancient but male-centric history in India. Tripurari saw it as an intimate way of revealing and connecting the lives of women audiences and sharing their perspective with the world”.

She is an Associate Professor Acting: A graduate in English from Delhi University and Diploma in Direction from National School of Drama. Directed many plays and has been associated with many theatre groups in India and abroad. A playwright of repute and has translated many Indian and Western plays. Has written scripts for films.Was the Indian representative at the first International Women Playwrights’ Conference’ held in USA in 1986. Received the Sanskriti Puraskar award in 1986, and was honoured by Delhi Natya Sangh in 1990. (National School of Drama).

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Tripurari Sharma – India.

She works for Alarippu, and for the National School of Drama.

She graduated in English literature from Delhi University in 1976 and from the National School of Drama in 1979, specializing in direction. Those were the years after the draconian Emergency years, when then prime minister Indira Gandhi had repressed all freedoms and expression in 1975. Tripurari was secretary of the Miranda House College students union at a time when there was acceleration towards social change.

Tripurari comes from a middleclass family, and she chose theatre to free herself from conventions and seek identification. The women’s movement in India was gaining ground: Tripurari saw theatre as a means to share and talk about the lives of women, and she threw herself wholeheartedly into the women’s movement.

She was also involved with trade unions and college students, preparing plays and generating awareness on issues like dowry. Street theatre emerged as a strong sociopolitical medium, an exclusive forum where women audiences could relate to various issues. It was an intimate way of revealing and connecting the lives of women audiences, and sharing their perspective with the world. A play on teasing girls and women, performed by women alone in colleges, served as a device to bring to the fore and evolve a women’s perspective. And this was just one of them.

To begin with, Tripurari explored the potential of theatre as a tool for discussion on issues very much on her own. Then she met the artiste, Lakshmi Krishnamurthy, who suggested that she set up an organization that would provide a formal base to this work. Alarippu was born in 1983.

The experience of traveling nationwide, conducting workshops and working closely with the local people helped forge her approach – to collectively evolve plays. Today, many organizations have adopted this method, and many of those she has trained have become trainers and resource persons.

Tripurari’s background in theatre and her commitment to social issues fused in the more than 70 workshops she has conducted in places as culturally diverse as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Rajasthan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Her method is to deal with locally relevant social issues through plays that are devised through group work. Some of these experiences she has compiled in Searching for a Voice.

The workshop activities were quarterbacked in a congenial manner: instead of lectures and theories, there was a simple sharing of daily lives. The learning and analysis was left to the women. To those women, who had been denied the space to express themselves and had believed that the pain they carried was unique to them, these workshops were life-affirming. As they shared their experiences and realized that they were not alone, many of them came to believe that the workshops changed them almost fundamentally at the personal level.

Tripurari’s scripts and the plays she has directed over the years are today an integral part of secular consciousness. Her approach to the issues of peace, women’s rights, human rights, and the right to information have helped crack the traditional barrier between high art and grassroots communication. Her plays Bahu, Birsa Munda, Aks Paheli, Banjh Ghati, Sazaa, Kath Ki Gadi, Reshmi Rumaal, Pshak, and Daiyre exemplify this. She has also been associated with several parallel-stream movies in contemporary Indian cinema, such as Mirch Masala, Sanshodhan (on women and the panchayati raj), Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa (based on Mahashweta Devi’s book of the same name), among others.

Tripurari also coordinated a four-year project on women’s portrayal in the traditional performing arts, which involved working closely with performers of various dramatic forms, like Nautanki, Tamasha, Khyal, Pandvani, and Surabhi. She built new scripts, keeping within the parameters of the traditional forms, which were unable to assimilate the vast changes in the ways women worked, or to give space or recognition to these endeavors.

An example: She speaks of a Nautanki she had organized in Kanpur, where the man marries two sisters. The characters thought that in the end the husband should return to his “good wife”, not the second one, who had “lured” him. The Alarippu members felt that both women should bid goodbye to the husband. The characters in the Nautanki thought the audience would not accept this denouement but, after discussing it threadbare, they decided to go with it anyhow. The audience, to everyone’s surprise, accepted the ending readily. This kind of theatre helps open up discussions on issues that go, for various reasons, unaddressed.

Alarippu and Tripurari have also been associated from the very beginning with the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (Laborers and Farmers Power Collective) and its campaign on the right to information. They toured villages in Rajasthan, blueprinting and performing plays. They were part of public hearings, youth workshops, and jatthas. These plays helped to simplify complicated issues. Other organizations also took up the plays – often more than 20 times – on the right to information and on communalism. Public opinion evolved at the grassroots level. The performances pressured the government to enact the Right To Information Act, first in Rajasthan and then in several other states.

There were several difficulties along the way. To begin with, it was not easy to convince her group about her method of collectively evolving a play. There were severe financial constraints, as well as hostility from close friends about her perception of certain issues. When Tripurari started working, there was also no space where women could show their work. In the bastis they visited, they had to perform in cramped lanes. It wasn’t easy to keep the process growing, but no challenge proved greater than her conviction. (1000peacewomen 2/2).

Tripurari Sharma has been at the forefront of theatre-based activism in India for almost 30 years. Her approach of collectively evolving a play through group interaction has helped bring theatre out of the closed spaces it inhabited and into the lives of women in India … This kind of theatre, therefore, also helps to open up discussions on issues that remain unaddressed. (full text).

She says also: … “I have had informal readings of all my plays at my home,” says Sharma. “Based on feedback, I make changes in the script before staging it. This time, I wanted the opinion of a larger audience.” Before the curtain rises on Traitors, produced by the Hungry Heart Festival, later this summer, Sharma will have made several changes. Theatre director Sohaila Kapur, who was part of the audience when Traitors was read, has suggested a few nips and tucks. “Too many lines, too many words,” she says. “The audience does not have a long attention span. They should get rid of the heavy dialogue” … (full text).

Her Filmography.

Tripurari Sharma’s “Poshak” mounted this past week has come as a shot in the arm for the NSD Repertory that is on the road to recovering its past glory: This past month we had mentioned in these columns that Bahrul Islam’s presentation of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” had to an extent helped the NSD Repertory recover its health. And now, in its convalescence, comes the much needed dose of vitamins in the play titled “Poshak” written and directed by Tripurari Sharma, who is at present working as an associate professor at the National School of Drama and has directed some very good plays like “Bahu”, “Kath Ki Gari”, “Aks Paheli”, and many more. Tripurari says “Poshak” was written more than 10 years ago for Alarippu, a small theatre group in Delhi, but somehow it remained mostly as an in-house activity … (full text).

Andhåa yuga – The blind age = Andha yug, by Dharmvir Bharati, Translated by Tripurari Sharma.

The National School of Drama (NSD), India’s premier theatre training institute situated at New Delhi, India, is an autonomous organization under Ministry of Culture, Govt. of India … (full text on wikipedia).

Find her and her publications on amazon; on Google Book-search; and on Google Scholar-search.

links:

THEATRE, Initial dialogues, Feb. 6, 2005;

The Voice of Youth in Delhi;

the book: Muffled Voices: Women in Modern Indian Theatre;

See on wikimapia: Amit (s/o-Tripurari Sharma);

The Film: Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa;

Alarippu Theatre Group, India.

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