Thiruvananthapuram, Sep 5 IANS | 2 years ago

This year's International Ibsen Scholarship will be used to uplift the Attapadi tribal community of Kerala, using theatre as a medium, Sankar C. Venkatesvaran, the winner of the award, said Thursday.

The scholarship is worth 39,115 euros (nearly Rs.35 lakh). The award was instituted by the Norwegian government, and first given out in 2007.

"The project of the Indian Theatre Roots and Wings by its artistic director, Venkatesvaran has been awarded a scholarship for its initiative of using Brand and Peer Gynt (Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen's masterpieces) as a stepping stone for a forum theatre project involving indigenous communities in Kerala. The project shows great inventiveness and the way they thematise identities and conflicts between traditional and modern societies," the jury's statement said.

Speaking to IANS, Venkatesvaran said this unique project will begin in December, and span 20 months.

"I have been researching the three tribal communities (Kurumba, Muduga and Irula) in Attapadi area of Palakkad district. There are around 170 tribal hamlets, with a population of around 23,000," Venkatesvaran said.

Incidentally, the award comes at a time when Attapadi hit international headlines after more than 50 infants died in the past 18 months, many of them of starvation.

Various ministerial delegations led by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and central ministers came calling to this area and announced numerous special packages for the upliftment of the community, which has remained poor and marginalised.

"What we propose to do is to use theatre as a medium for intervention in this society. Through this, we want to create a space for them for self-reflection, and they would be encouraged to perform plays. We feel that through open discussions and actual performances, upliftment will come naturally, as the community interacts with larger section and they can start connecting to the main society," said Venkatesvaran.

"We seek to involve as many people from these three tribal communities as possible, and we will reach each and every one of the 170 hamlets," the director said.

Venkatesvaran has by now produced and directed five plays for Indian Theatre Roots and Wings. "When We Dead Awaken" by Ibsen, which he directed and produced, was premiered at the Delhi Ibsen Festival last year.

(Posted on 05-09-2013)