When Himanshu Dwivedi passed out from the Department of Indian Theatre, Panjab University, Chandigarh, he didn’t head to Mumbai or Delhi to pursue a career in film or television, but back home to Bundelkhand to work with folk artistes, especially in the folk tradition of swang. It was a commitment and promise he had made to himself and also his teachers, when he came to the city to pursue his studies.
“From a small town to Chandigarh was a completely new experience for me, as the years here shaped my initial learning in theatre and also shaped my personality,” recalls Dwivedi, here on the invitation of Alankar Theatre to conduct a Naatyashastra workshop for theatre practitioners. With a gold medal in his Master’s course, Dwivedi’s PhD focused on Bundeli folk theatre called ‘Swang’, a form he continues to promote through Bundelkhand Theatre Arts, which he formed more than five years back to provide a platform activities in theatre and music.
Now heading the Department of Drama and Theatre at Raja Mansingh Tomar Music and Art University, Gwalior, Dwivedi says as an actor and director, he has been consistently working to explore the many dimensions of the folk theatre form of Swang, which is different in every region, in terms of its value and take the artistes and productions to a national level. The basis of his theatre journey, says Dwivedi, is the Natyashastra, a Sanskrit text on the performing arts attributed to Bharata Muni.
“All traditions and forms of art find an integral place in Natyashastra and it is a complete text, one that must be a part of every theatre practitioner’s journey,” says Dwivedi, who has written a book on Swang and the first volume of Natya Sangrah, which covers 11 aspects of dramatic performance, including extensive work on Sanskrit classical theatre, its contemporary value and folk traditions. “To understand world theatre, we first need to go back to our roots, which is Sanskrit classical theatre and also Hindustani theatre. As part of my work to promote folk theatre, I conduct workshops on Natyashastra, urging artistes to get closer to its tremendous text value. Theatre encompasses all arts and our traditions help us understand the arts,” he says. As part of the workshops, he focuses on the theory, vision, values of Natyashastra, its aspects, emotions and principles.
Over the years, Dwivedi says he has focused on developing avenues for folk artistes back home, by staging street plays, making swang a part of youth and theatre festivals and presenting regional content in a manner that common people come closer to folk theatre. “Our past and traditions give us a new perspective to look at things. Trained theatre people must contribute and work for the larger society. Audiences will accept work with values and content and every theatre person must know these traditions,” says the theatre person, who has been part of productions like Gagan Main Thaal, Oedipus, Main Bojh Nahin Bhawishya Hun, Sadhu Aur Sundari and Bhagwadajjukam.
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