Monday, December 23, 2013

"I Won't Sing": When a singer throws his microphone right on the stage 

There were four poetry reading sessions at "Poetry with Prakriti" program where I had to participate. At one reading one asked, "Why do you write?" I instantly said, "I cannot sleep the day I do not write a single sentence. I simply cannot sleep". I assumed people liked to hear it. I had a fear of sounding too sarcastic.

Then came another question, "How do you define poetry?" This time I was wordless for a moment. I could not figure out exactly what to say. Then I quite appropriately remembered my notebook what I inaugurated the day before. I was sitting on the window seat inside a Spice-Jet flight at Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi, for Chennai. I bought a new notebook after a long time thinking of resuming the habit of scribbling. The choreographed performance of safety guidelines inside a flight was not happening. I always enjoy seeing that; otherwise there is nothing in a flight that I can actually enjoy. I opened the notebook. I got a pen in my pocket, a black inked gel pen, I do not know where it came from- where I stole it from and when.  However I had a pen and I had an empty paper in front of me. A virgin notebook (apology for the word). I had a pen and an empty paper opened in front of me. exactly this was what I thinking: "I have a pen on my hand and an empty paper in front". I repeat, "I have an empty paper and I have a pen".  

Do I dare? Do I dare to disturb the void of the empty paper? Do I dare Eliot?

I took a pledge of not writing anything. I have no right to write on a clean sheet only for the writing's sake. I would not write. I won't invade into the purity of an empty paper-land.  I tried to convince me: I won't write. Finally I wrote something at a corner of the paper out of temptation of a virgin paper. I wrote at a corner keeping most of the page empty with a hypocrite pretension of keeping the page as clean as possible. 

এখিলা উকা কাগজত
নিলিখাকৈ কেনেকৈ থাকিব পাৰি?
মই আছোঁ এই সৰু কথাটোকে নোকোৱাকৈকেনেকৈ থাকিব পাৰি?
কেনেকৈ পাৰি?
কেনেকৈ পাৰি?
Then on another I wrote it in English:
How not to write on an empty paper?
I do exist, just another ordinary matter but how not to proclaim?
How not to proclaim?
How not to?
How not to?

Showing the page to the audience I said, this the definition of poetry for me.

Now keep this apart. This was just a prologue for this dialogue. Now I think, what was it that made me to think of NOT writing? A pen is made for writing, a paper is made for writing; if I am a writer then I am made for writing. In that case where was the problem? Well, it was not a problem, but a momentum, where a writer refuses to write.

I frequently come across to such a juncture. It was back in 2004 I think, in front of a huge crowd, at a massive production, as an actor on the stage I thought of not performing anymore. I was (we were) on the well-lit stage and the audience was buried in darkness. There was a ramp proceeding to the audience. We were moving to the ramp. As we stepped ahead we started seeing the darkened audience gradually. But suddenly I realized: the particular "spectator" whom I wanted to see amongst this crowd was not there. My actorly self was collapsed in frictions of a second. There are many more akin situations we experienced. They could be only realized, not understood. That was one of the many major determining factors or moments when I decided to think of a disposable theatre

What if a writer refuses to write? What if an actor refuses to enact right on the stage? What if an artist refuses to do art? What if a performer refuses to perform? What if a singer refuses to sing right on the ramp?

After seeing Zubeen Garg, the most miraculous singer of our times, the heartthrob of youngsters of Assam saying "I won't sing" and throwing the microphone right on the stage, precisely in the middle of the performance I'm tempted to write this note. What made him to do so? Exactly what made him making this statement? 

Recently Manmeet Devgun did a performance at JNU campus as a part of "Mapping Gender" programs where in the middle of the performance she receives a phone call from neighbor saying some problem with her lonely child. She left the performance in the middle of it. It was planned, in fact a choreographed situation it was. Nevertheless the idea started from an urge of "not Performing". A sense of rejection was working as a driving force in the process of building the concept. Here I am thinking the same: what made a performer thinking of not performing? Where this denial generates? Why this rejection?

Manmeet Devgun at "Mapping Gender"

Manmeet Devgun at "Mapping Gender"

Manmeet Devgun at "Mapping Gender"
Last year at KIPAF (Kolkata International Performance Art Festival 2013) Dharitri Boro wrote something on a roadside wall at Bekbagan, Kilkata. She was wearing a specially designed costume which contained a number of red tomatoes. People were addressed to pick up those tomato and to throw them to the wall. People coming and picking/ plucking something (tomatoes) inserted into a woman's cloth itself was a violence. Then throwing those tomatoes to the wall, the gesture of throwing by the public to a public wall-  the spread-out red ingredients, sparkling reds were the other gesticulations of violence. What the sentence was written on wall, and what a meaning it conveyed that was different. But my concern is, from where this sense of "destructing the self" comes? Why the artist decided to violate her own scribbling on wall? Exactly where generates this sense of violation?

Dharitri Boro at KIPAF, 2013
When Zubeen throws the microphone, from where this rejection came? Where is the source of this anger? To whom? What he tried to establish?

Well, now it was the ridiculous part to ask Zubeen the next day why did he behaved that way in the Television sets. Was there any explanation behind what insisted him to do so? Zubeen's response was equally idiotic, nonsensical but intelligent at the same time. It was idiotic because he did not hold the intellectual capacity to frame an act in a political manner or to take a "stand-point" that could  well-justify his own behaviour. He blamed the audience for provoking him and so. At the same time it was intelligent because he sustained the nonsense-ness in the response towards a nonsense act. We got a viral video of the accident/incident where it clearly shows that he was simply not in a mood of singing. He tried to prolong his dialogues (some say that prolonged dialogues made audience irritated). He was more interested in coming out of the stage and shaking hands with audience despite of being drunk enough and about to loosing balance. The background track was on. He controlled balance somehow with the help of his supporting guards and sat beside the sound boxes and appropriately he started his song "Runjun...'. Here it was the same Zubeen, the singer Zubeen, the tender Zubeen. But he was not in a mood of singing as it was apparently visible in several other parts of the video. Now what to do? Exactly here lies my point of discussion. What if a performer does not feel performing right on the stage? No doubt, this feeling itself is a sadistic one.
One might feel withdrawing the act at the very middle of making out with the most beloved partner also. Many times an examinee feels like throwing the examination sheet and coming out of the hall. Every day morning we feel like throwing a resignation letter at our regular office. A teacher feels it so many times of not teaching anymore, of coming out of the podium in the mid of a lecture.
Long ago I was interviewing Rathan Thiyam - the living legend of Indian theatre where he said of cancelling his show on the very announced evening. "I am not committed to the audience, I am committed to my art. I was not satisfied with my own production so at the last moment I had to cancel the show. I do not bother what the public would react. If I am not satisfy, I won't let the theatre happen"- this was his comment [I apologise for not having any written or electronic record of that particular conversation on hand]. This is a different situation, different ideological stand-point. but I just remembered in terms of stepping back from a pre-committed performance resolution.   
We felt several times of not performing, right on the stage. But the biggest problem with a performer is that: his very body is the essential tool for his art. This is a body bound with certain time and space.  

There are certain times where he is not in, where he is not out... 
Watteau Pierrot

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