Theatre is a release: of artistic expression, an outlet of human communication, a pot where human experiences melt and morph to explore the relationships set up in various contexts and their interrelatedness. An art form so otherwise understood as a creative vehicle of message carrier. It ranges from the most elemental to an inwardly metaphysical—and in the interim touches the ring of recreational passage. Even at times, it endures the accusation, dismissively, for being unreal, a mere enactment.
Can this art form be a tool of humane touch, heal, and remedy? Expanding its scope and effect that transcends into human psychology and examine their frailties, the international award-winning theatre personality Ramanjeet Kaur delves deeper, and help explain how theatre can venture into human psychology in reintroducing one with oneself so unknown until applied.
Q: Theatre has an otherwise well-defined role. At what point of time you realized to utilize it to help explore human psychology and a resultant tool of healing and development?
Ans: The natural inclination to theatre and dance started at a very tender age—around the time I was 3-year old—but a formal training shaped me around the time I was 13. At 15, I held a lecture for the spastic children at the Doon school. Under the tutelage of Clive Barker of the UK, who has written ‘Theatre Games’,I got exposed to that facet of theatre where it can expand its scope to reach the realm of human psychology and understanding it well. Later, I converted those theatre games to the convenience of special children in dealing with their conditions. What started out as a passion for theatre in due course of time has turned into destiny, if I look at that way as I meet more people through theatre workshops.
Q: And who get drawn into that bracket, demographically speaking?
Ans: In 2002, the creative art of theatre started touching both children and adult base. From the simple course of acting and art form branched the strands of life skills and life values. From corporates to home makers; from trafficked women and underprivileged to a student as old as 68-year old. My time with eminent theatre personality Padmashri Dr. Neelam Mansingh Choudhary allowed me to understand the process very well, accordingly I developed my own set of games, which are mostly situational and dynamic in nature.
Q: Only socially oppressed make cut for your workshop?
Ans: Interestingly, I have a women group who were from the upper echelon of the society, and I presumptuously shooed them away,initially, for the comfort they have. But I guess I was judgemental in my own assessment, they all surprised me with their commitment, evolution and willingness to learn, not allowing their privileged background to interfere in the process. Sometimes we tend to be judgemental—in this case, it was an eye-opener for me— how we underestimate the ache, the pains, that all human beings experience at all levels. There is no known NGO that works for the issues of the privileged class so to say. We generally take their social well-being on face value as the healthy state of their mind, which isn’t the case always.
And, I must admit how judgemental I was when a request from a women group came through—who were from the upper echelon of the society.
Q: Part of your methodology through the theatre games is to break the psychological barriers. What forces are at play? Do they differ from person to person or there is a commonality upon which everyone appear just the same?
Ans: It is strange. Cutting across socio-economic background from 5-year old to 68-year old, the human issues are universally same. What hurts them, what inhibits them, the common barrier of “I can’t do it”, these are the common issues I encounter across all the strata of the society.
Q: And the technique you use is quite a roller-coaster. First, you make them do physical exercise, nearly exhausting them and then retreat them into some kind of meditative reflection.
Ans: This technique is to create a synergy between energy and time. First, you got to bring all together, without discrimination, to make them your own. Then the games are given to for psychological directions. This generation needs lots of healing touch for the strife they endure at various levels for the forces at play are quite distressing, which was not the case with our parents’ generation.
Q: Do they well and truly open up?
Ans: Once they connect themselves with their own private feelings—happiness, sadness, anxiety, fears etc.—that leads to the next stage where the sharing of their feelings happen. Believe me the darkest of secrets have poured out without a scant care of any of them going out of the forum. It is unbelievable how people confide their feelings in front of others— and they never go out of the forum ever.
Q: Do they really come out of their psychological pupa to transform into another personality altogether?
Ans: Once you tap the innermost corner of their personality and awake the latent energy, they morph into completely another personality, branching out of their baggage. The realisation comes through an inquest into “Where am I standing”. Once they figure, their communication with oneself and others improve, they successfully break the cycle of pressure that comes at various levels.
Q: It is one thing to communicate well with the world outside, it is another to communicate well with one self. Where would you place the importance of self-talk in the whole matrix of change?
Ans: It starts from the very beginning, it is fundamental. We are the creator of our own worries. Pains are self-inflicted: for not getting appreciation, by responding to someone’s comment, some said a bad thing so we are under the obligation of feeling bad. We, decidedly, allow them to hurt us. If we can afford a bit of blasé—that nothing affects me no matter good or bad.
I offer them a paradoxical proposition: give lot of importance to yourself yet don’t take yourself too seriously. Hold a mirror, judge for yourself before speaking about right or wrong.
Q: Another aspect is voice modulation which you employ, in what way it shapes one’s external communication?
Ans: It is very important to know what tone your are using, who are you speaking to, your volume, the speed at which you speak, the tonality carrying the feelings, and in what context, and your relationship with the person you are talking to.
Then comes what are you saying, what words are you choosing, communication vis-a-vis our personal, social and public life be it husband-wife, kids-parents, if you can break the set pattern and choose a new dialogue, it lends a wonderful meaning to relationships and communication.
(Interview By: Sai Prasad Mohapatra)