The 13th edition of the ‘Under the Sal Tree’ theatre festival, organised amidst a unique natural setting in the middle of the Sal tree forest at Badungduppa Kalakendra, Rampur in Assam’s Goalpara district, was set in motion with captivating performances on December 15.
On the Day 1 of the three-day long festival, ‘Rishi Jolongka’, a play in Rabha language, was performed by the troupe from Badungduppa. The play was scripted by Madan Rabha and directed by Dhananjay Rabha. Before the commencement of the performance, the theatre festival was inaugurated by renowned writer and theatre personality Dr. R. Kaaleeswaran in front of a host of audiences from across the country.
Later in the afternoon, Tiny Tales Theatre Company from Kolhapur in Maharashtra performed the Bengali/Marathi play ‘Alor Gaan’ (Song of Light). The play was scripted and directed by Pratiksha Khasnis. The performances were followed by a session of informal discussion in the evening at the courtyard of Badungduppa Kalakendra where the critics and artists shared views on their individual experiences at the festival.
This unique theatre festival, held every year in close proximity to nature completely keeping artificial lighting and electronic devices of sound amplification at bay, seeks to continue the legacy of facilitating a new idiom of theatre expression incorporating ‘ethnic turbulence’, ‘economy of dialogue’ and ‘intensified focus on body movement’ in an eco-friendly setting made of bamboo and straw.
Inaugurated almost two decades back by the Badungduppa Kalakendra, the unique style of theatre festival has been adopted by several other theatre groups across the country in recent times only to affirm that Badungduppa has been able to make a strong impact on the general perception of theatre lovers over the years. Altogether seven plays will be staged in the three-day festival this year. One play is from Sri Lanka while the rest are from different parts of India.
“We are thrilled to bring back the next edition of the ‘Under the Sal Tree’ theatre festival. The love and affection given to us by the theatre lovers of the region made us believe that we can continue presenting some of the best plays in the lap of nature. Do join us as we continue the activism started by our founder Late Sukracharjya Rabha,” said the managing director, Madan Rabha.
On Day 2, the play ‘My Sweet Rotten Heritance’ in English from Sri Lanka will be performed. Later, ‘Atho Hidimba Kotha’ in Bengali from West Bengal, ‘Erendira’s Metamorphosis’ in Assamese from Guwahati, ‘Jhalkari’ in Hindi from Mumbai and ‘Pancho No Vesh’ in Gujarati/Hindi from Ahmedabad will be performed during the festival.
In some of the previous editions, theatre groups from South Korea, Brazil, Poland and neighbouring Bangladesh had also participated and performed their plays in the festival.
Spearheading the avant-garde movement of “Hygiene Theatre” since its inception in 2008, the founder director Late Sukracharjya Rabha, one of the widely respected theatre personalities of the region, organised the theatre festival in the midst of nature to spread the message of the importance of co-existing with nature establishing a symbiotic relationship. Swimming against the tide, Badungduppa has maintained its focus cantered on the redefinition of reality through self-realization by inversion of the colonial ‘self/other’ binary avoiding the easy tradition of imitating the ‘other’ in performing art.
This year, the festival is supported by the Chief Minister of Assam, Rabha Hasong Autonomous Council, Indian Oil Limited Corporation and Bongaigaon Refinery.