Student theatre enlivens JNU

Earlier this November, the School of Social Sciences auditorium of the Jawahar Lal Nehru University, reverberated with laughter of a young audience which had come to watch a satirical theatre performance by the Revolutionary Cultural Front (RCF), titled Saheb, Gobhi aur Ghulam.

Adapted from The Resis­tible Rise of Arturo Ui, a play by Bertolt Brecht, Sahib Gobhi and Ghulam, according to its makers, was a juxtaposition of the current Indian political scenario with what they call ‘the crisis of capital and the exploits of imperialist nation-states in desperate attempts to recover from the aftermath of World War II’.

Such was the reception of the performance, that the RCF decided to repeat it within the same month, a deviation from the ‘Constitution’ of the leftist cultural organisation, according to which the group is supposed to perform a minimum of one major play in a year.

“The auditorium has a capacity of 250 people and almost 450 people turned up. We had to request more than 100 people to leave,” said Srirupa Bhattacharya, a student of sociology and an RCF member. The group, which calls itself a ‘political-cultural organisation’, is an amalgam of students from mostly political science background. Founded in 2008, the RCF, initially focused on campus politics and “greater democracy” in Indian Universities.

“Our first project was called Campus Leela”. It was a Sangeet Natak (musical drama) and managed to pull a sizeable crowd comprising JNU students. RCF’s turning point came in 2013 with a performance about the Batla House encounter which was an adaptation of Dario Fo’s Accidental Death of an Anarchist,” Bhattacharya told Metrolife.

According to her, over time, RCF has tried to spread its domain outside University campuses in a bid to make people ‘politically aware’.

“The goal is to assimilate more and more people,” Bhattacharya said. The magic seems to work as the group has managed to pull students and activists to become a part of it with its strength to an all-time high of 25.

It took one street performance by the RCF for Devika, a student of arts and aesthetics to join the troupe.

“I saw a street performance by RCF and could immediately connect with the core ideology of the group. The best part about the group is that it hasn’t compromised on its political stances for the sake of performance,” said Devika.

Other themes of the group include worker’s movement, gender and minority issues and human rights violation in Kashmir, Bastar and Northeastern states. Members of the group also told Metrolife that they have faced opposition over the content of their acts, especially after one of its member, Hem Mishra, was arrested by the Maharashtra police for his alleged role as a ‘Naxal courier’.

“Our group is often called radical and targeted by right wing groups. However we don’t mind such opposition as long as the message is received by the people,” Bhattacharya concluded.

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