Atul Kulkarni, a prolific actor, who has given awe-inspiring performances in films like Chandni Bar, Hey Ram, Satta, Rang De Basanti, and Natarang (This Marathi film on rural plays is a masterpiece for which this guy deserves the highest honour in acting. But how many of us have seen it? Buy the DVD to check it out. The expressions are so profound you don’t even need to read subtitles).
The actor was in Vadodara to attend an Amateurs’ Dramatics Competition held at Gandhinagar Gruh on 23rd December 2010. Despite being a 75 year-old organization, their team was unable to manage enough funds to publicize the event – this speaks volumes on declining interest of people in plays.
Atul Kulkarni took everyone by surprise when he began his speech saying, “Why do we light this Diya before beginning every event in dramatics? Why do we give long speeches about the founder of organization? Who is actually interested in it? Well, I will speak everything that might not be considered suitable on the dais I am standing on, but they might nevertheless make sense to everyone present here. Dramatics have to change with the changing times. After all it is already dead in our society.
Who killed Dramatics? Did television and films kill it? Or is Internet the real culprit? Can it be our mobile phone? Or are all these to be blamed? In fact, the platform of expression has become manifold and people are experimenting with new ways to communicate. Let me give you an example. Backstage, there was a guy trying to take my photograph. The guy took a step backward, and then front and so on, until he found the right frame and finally clicked my picture. What was he doing? Isn’t that filmmaking? Isn’t that what the cinematographers do, day in day out.”
He asserted that every mobile phone has a camera and almost every commoner knows a thing or two about filmmaking. Words like ‘close up’, ‘wide shot,’ ‘long shot’, which were used by film technicians are part of common parlance these days. He reiterated this fact saying, “Once my mother was watching television. She chanced upon a foreign language film which caught her attention and she said: their films are so different isn’t it? She must have watched that film for mere 20 odd seconds.
But those 20 odd seconds made me realize that a common person today has a vast exposure of movies made across the globe. Hence, be it Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi, Malayalam or Telugu movies, our competition is with films made worldwide. The mediums of expression are changing at a lightening speed and Dramatics must keep pace with them or will soon become obsolete.”
As an afterthought, he said, “Even if dramatics die and wither away, what’s wrong? We have short films as medium of expression, which can easily be uploaded on youtube and shared with everyone. You don’t need a theatrical release for everything you wish to say. So why limit our thoughts to just plays?” His speech left people on the dais dumbfounded.
They easily gave in to the fact: Dramatics is dead. The silence of the almost empty hall was eloquent of this bitter truth. Ironically, the Dramatics festival began with an obituary and the performances took place on invisible corpses lying on the stage. May the performing art rest in peace. Amen.
Here’s what the ace actor wrote in response to this article:
“Reading my own words made me a bit uneasy…. but that IS the fact and we must face it smilingly!!! And those who accept changes smilingly, are the ones who create NEW ways… Thanks Prakash for giving me a wider audience than at the Gandhinagar Gruh!! ( quite amazed that you remember it almost word by word!!)” – Atul Kulkarni