Dancing On Glass on the Guardian theatre blog: A break from Bollywood?!

Posted on Sep 9th, 2010 by Shuchi in Theatre Trivia, AEIF

Dancing On Glass on the Guardian theatre blog “A break from Bollywood: make a song and dance about this brave Indian play” – that’s the title of the latest article [link] on the Guardian theatre blog, about Ram Ganesh Kamatham’s play Dancing On Glass.

I was initially thrilled to see something about an Indian play on the Guardian’s blog. By the end of it, I was pretty disappointed.

The article makes statements like:

Bollywood is notorious for churning out vast quantities of films that take pride in being entertainment and nothing more. Young playwrights like Kamatham are stepping in to fill the void.

Ignore for a moment the sweeping generalization about Indian films, just consider: when writing of a play, why has the Guardian theatre blog chosen Bollywood as its yardstick for comparison? Apparently, the audience at New Delhi’s Habitat Centre were gasping at the profanity in this play because:

In a cultural climate dominated by escapist Bollywood  narratives, where a song-and-dance routine is never more than a few minutes away, the concept of realism can be every bit as shocking as the swearing.

Is it credible that the audience at IHC were shocked by Dancing On Glass because they had not seen anything but escapist Bollywood narratives, not watched a dark, song-less play before?!

Indian theatre and Indian films are entirely different kettles of fish. Song-and-dance routines in Indian theatre are a rarity – musicals are far more popular on stage abroad.

This is not to knock the praise off Dancing On Glass, just to point out that escapism is not a defining characteristic of our theatre. It’s nice that theatre critics overseas are noticing Indian plays but I hope they will do better when writing of them than recycle stereotypes about Bollywood.

[Read the DramaDose review of Dancing On Glass.]

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Shuchi lives in Bangalore (mostly), when she isn't traveling out of town for work. She adores theatre and writes about plays she watches whenever she gets a chance.
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9 Comments to “Dancing On Glass on the Guardian theatre blog: A break from Bollywood?!”

  1. True..not to mention that Indian cinema isn’t just mainstream Bollywood either.Probably the success/visibility of mainstream Bollywood provokes some jealousy (and stereotyping)abroad.

    September 10th, 2010 3:14 pm

  2. I agree, Shuchi. It’s a sign of modern times when a mediocre blog making sweeping statements finds patronage in The Guardian. But I suppose we must be glad that at least one playwright is getting international notice.

    September 10th, 2010 4:22 pm

  3. B – You should check out the Guardian film blog’s writings on Indian cinema – consistently shallow, short-sighted and patronising. They seem incapable of praising an Indian film without adding that the film is a mile apart from hammy Bollywood fare, Bollywood seems to be growing up thanks to internation exposure, etc. Look at these – link1, link2.

    One can understand that to an extent since the films that get better visibility overseas are the Yash Chopra-KJo types, but to say a play is groundbreaking because it is not like whatever they know of “Bollywood” is totally illogical.

    September 10th, 2010 6:02 pm

  4. Very true. Theatre is a an art where commendable performances are delivered and sensible scripts are portrayed. Bollywood is way different from Theatre and there can be no question of comparison even. Bollywood’s focus is on churning out money through aggressive marketing campaigns and more and more of glamor oriented movies rather than script based.

    Happy to get a link of your blog.

    Regards

    September 10th, 2010 9:45 pm

  5. Thanks for the links,I checked them out..aaaaargh!!!Seriously these so called film critics don’t seem to know much about Indian cinema.If you believe them,there were no interesting/offbeat movies until very recently.They should at least get some one more knowledgeable..but I suppose they have no yardstick of what knowledgeable is.(On a side note..why be patronizing about KJo/Yash Chopra?They have some pretty good movies:)).And sorry for talking so much about cinema on your theatre blog..could not stop myself:)

    September 11th, 2010 4:48 pm

  6. Hi Anita, Harsha

    Welcome to DramaDose. The Guardian publishes such writing all the time about Indian films – check out the links at comment #3.

    @Harsha: Is it so black and white as that? There are several Indian films with thoughtfully written scripts and good acting, just as there are plays with weak scripts and shoddy acting. I don’t see theatre as superior to films always, only different.

    September 21st, 2010 9:11 am

  7. Hi Shuchi – thought you would like to read the following article, appeared on Slate.com yesterday.

    http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/movies/2010/09/superstar_rajinikanth.html

    PS: Stumbled here, how come no mention of this other interest of yours on the “unclued” site and vice versa? Nice blog!

    September 29th, 2010 12:57 am

  8. Great to have you here, anokha. How did you stumble here?

    Interesting article. There is a lot being written about Rajnikanth nowadays! Look at these Link 1, Link 2.

    I did mention DramaDose once – Plug and Play Puzzles. Over here a link on the sidebar takes you to CU. There isn’t much overlap in the audiences, so I don’t get as much chance to mention DramaDose as Fifteensquared.

    September 29th, 2010 8:03 am

  9. Was looking for a gift for someone I know – chanced upon theatre tickets – hence Ranga Shankara – and your site came up in search (actually the site came up and then found out that it is you)!

    Saw the “unclued” logo after leaving the comment …

    October 2nd, 2010 5:55 am

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