||My work is a mission, deeply grounded in various aspects of Indian traditional and contemporary theatre, one that opens a fascinating new world of discoveries for me.'' Bhanu Bharti, eminent theatre director, who has choreographed Loktarang the National Folk Dance Festival, which is travelling outside Delhi for the first time and is on at Mohali, talks about his work spanning more than 35 years. A graduate from the National School of Drama, Bhanu has directed more than 70 plays and has extensively studied the traditional theatre of Japan and also the life and art of the Bheel tribe of Rajasthan. His work with folk performers is a mission, for Bhanu rues the manner in which they are presented in urban areas, "it's pathetic, boring and uninspiring, an absolute opposite of what they and their art really is,'' Bhanu's happy that with the festival having travelled Jaipur and now in Mohali, a larger audience will get a feel of the mind-blowing performance of as many as 450 folk dancers of the country, each uniquely talented. Using state-of-the-art lighting systems, modern sound effects, a multi-level stage, the result has been simply fantastic, Bhanu is quick to add that the costumes, steps, music, hasn't been tampered with and the character of the art remains intact. "Why should they be denied technology?'' Bhanu is happy to be back in Chandigarh, which he says has a sensitivity for culture and art.
Having travelled with Habib Tanvir to the interiors of Chhattisgarh, Bhanu recalls how they accidentally discovered Teean Bai and how his interaction with the Bheels opened before him a world of rituals and their live connection with the community, which the modern man has lost. "We have such an old tradition in theatre and my attempt has been to recreate and reconstruct. I don't know why we have to look towards the West for inspiration, for we have a tradition that can't die, it's intact and interacting,'' Bhanu's productions, Pashu Gayatri, Kaal Katha and Amar Beej are based on rituals of the Bheel tribe and he says working with them makes one feel inadequate, for the deeper you explore the heritage, the more you realize how little you know. "It expands my horizon and my work with them complements my theatre and vice-versa,'' Bhanu's group Aaj is these days working on a festival of plays, each exploring a variety of subjects, which will also be staged in Chandigarh.