Sannidhya Samvad 9 – Theatre Director RAJ BISARIA in conversation with writer LALIT MOHAN JOSHI

COVID Creative Events / Mar 19, 2021


Raj Bisaria ensured for the first time that the dramatic and performing arts conform to a new professional discipline and communicate through a new aesthetic medium.

The pioneering effort brought in focus his intensity of commitment and involvement, which in the mid 1960’s led to the establishment of a broad ranging, semi-professional theatre movement in Uttar Pradesh.

The first initiative was taken by his University Theatre Group formed in 1962. Four years later, following a successful run of the “University Productions” Raj Bisaria founded the Theatre Arts Workshop (TAW), the premier training and performing group of its kind in the State.

TAW spotlighted the emergence of a remarkable sophistication in the dramatic arts which gained a new impetus and created an unusual impact on the audience despite all its limitations of response.

As a theatre educator as early as 1973, Raj Bisaria suggested to the State Government that he should start a semi-professional repertory theatre in Uttar Pradesh, in 1974 the State Government went a few steps further and requested him to evolve a scheme for establishing a drama school, which would function as a full fledged academy of dramatic arts.

The Bhartendu Natya Akademi (BNA): Bhartendu Academy of Dramatic Arts (BADA), when it was founded in 1975 (with Raj Bisaria as its founder director) became the first of its kind in the large Hindi belt of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. The only other being the Delhi based National School of Drama (NSD).

At BADA, Raj Bisaria, from 1975 to 1986, in an honorary capacity shouldered the total responsibility of teaching acting and direction (aspects both theoretical and practical) western drama, from Greeks to modern times; theatre criticism and adjudication and aesthetics of light and set design. He worked again as, director of the akademi as well as the director of its Repertory Company from 1989 to 1992, 1995 to 1997.

As theatre actor – director Raj Bisaria took lead roles in several of TAW English productions. But also noticeable in 1972 was a major shift in his emphasis from modern Euro-American productions to plays in Hindi of modern Indian playwrights: Mohan Rakesh, Badal Sircar, Adya Rangacharya, Dharamvir Bharti, Shesh and Mohit Chatterjee.

Obviously the effort at this stage was to promote a serious bi-lingual theatre, more purposive and contextually relevant to India’s social conditions – an evidence of Raj Bisaria’s increasing maturity as a producer director cum actor of merit.

As stage and light designer his special talent has always been pronounced, in the use of colours and perception of its psychology, which helped in creating a new spectrum of innovative theatrical images and which moved from realistic to the symbolic and at times poetic.

Theatre training for Raj Bisaria over the years, besides efforts on his own, included an invitation by the British Council, London, to visit U.K. and train at the British Drama League (now the British Theatre Association) as a producer, drama – instructor, and adjudicator, in 1969.

He took up the examination of the Education Board of the United Kingdom, and was awarded the Associate Drama Board (U.K.) Diploma in 1969.

Visits abroad in 1980 included both a trip to the United States and the United Kingdom. Raj Bisaria was especially invited by the U.S. Government to tour the country and familiarise himself with the contemporary theatre scene in America. The same year the British Council, London, extended a second invitation for a six week visit to U.K. on a similar study trip.

In 1986 the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, New Delhi, sponsored his visit as a theatre director and expert under its Cultural Exchange; Programme to USSR, German Democratic Republic, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary. Again he visited U.K. in 1993 as theatre director and expert.

As film & T.V. actor/teacher Raj Bisaria was associated as a dialogue coach in Shyam Senegal’s “Junoon” and as an actor of Muzaflar All’s “Aagman”; Govind Nihalani’s “Aaghat”, and Doordarshan’s own T.V. serial “Bibi Natiyon Wali”, and Amal Allana’s Raj Se Swaraj”, and recently in, “Ret Par Likhe Naam”, written by Kamaleshwar. He acted regularly in TV plays. Since 1978 he is rated as a top grade actor of the Doordarshan.

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