Interview mit Sunil Pokaharel

Dieses Interview bildete die Grundlage des Artikels Identitätskrisengebiet aus der 6. Ausgabe des Baggers.

Aus technischne Gründen fehlt der Anfang der Aufnahme des Interviews mit Sunil Pokharel. Daher beginnt die folgende Transkription mit ein paar vagen Notizen, die sich die “Interviewee” direkt nach dem Gespräch gemacht hat.
Wir bitten um Verständnis!

Why did you choose to become an actor?

Coincidental. People who were against the system would come to Aarohan.
It was almost shut down in the beginnging, because there was no money. (Even though this was their motto/spirit, but it just doesn’t work this way). Almost everybody got back to their villages, to work in farming.
But then Sunil got admitted to Delhi National theatre and a friend got a good job. When he came back from Delhi, things went on.

[Erinnerungslücken]

Aarohan went on the streets in April 2006; members would sit on the street with black tape on their mouth. Therefore the police would come to Gurukul and check on the ongoings in the theatre regularly. In the course of this they arrested 8 people.

Then they put up 5 police men here, 5 police men there, 5 police there (points to different spots) for 5 or 6 days to see who would come and watch the plays. If we hadn’t had this democratic change, perhaps this theatre would have been the 2nd one which would have been closed after Kantipur.

Were the people who were arrested released?

Yes, because there was huge pressure afterwards.

When things like this happen, don’t you feel afraid?

No, it is a part of it. In our generation, because we came through it, we know these things.

How can Aarohan/Gurukul contribute to society?

When we opened Gurukul, there were some vague ideas about Aarohan, but it wasn’t very clear what we were doing and what we wanted to do. Then, after a 3-day workshop, we decided a few things:
The guiding principals of Aarohan are: democracy, pluralism, social justice. And now republic. It’s a new element. These are the guiding factors of Aarohan. So, whatever we do, somehow it is related to those principals. Then we do both developmental and Forum theatre here, with at least 15 performances every month. Our people go to schools and perform on various issues like gender, domestic servitude, democracy and many more. They perform in the streets, schools, street corners, various places. So, it is going on.
And then we have partnerships with the local groups around the country. Right now, I think we have 21 partner groups. It’s a very informal partnership, we provide training to them about Forum Theatre, Street Theatre, and other kinds of theatre. But they perform on their own issues. They use theatre as a platform to fight for their own issue.
So I think it is continuity that we are contributing towards society.

Prateep Gyawaali (Minister of Culture) said at the opening of the festival: “Though many people say life is like a play, I feel a play is life itself.” How do you think about that?

It is…. Somehow, how we think on a role or a play, that influences your life. But your life also influences a play, or the role. Sometimes it has happened, that we took our own personal experience to the role. We filled our role through our personal experience, our life. But sometimes it comes back to your life, the role comes back to your life. And it creates some trouble (laughs). It goes both ways.

Aarohan for example took part in the Tri-Nation Theatre Festival of India, Nepal and Bangladesh. How important is theatre in this region of the world? How important is theatre in Nepal?

In terms of audience, for example in Bangladesh they have a huge audience. Huge. We can’t even guess. They have this theatre-going culture. They have few theatre houses… well… there are some problems with fundamentalism, but the theatre is a spirit against fundamentalism. So they have quite a good audience. In some parts of India they also have a good audience, and also a long history. Like in Bengal, Gujarat, Maharashtra. In the Hindi speaking theatre they have little less, but now it is increasing in Delhi.

Is the theatre culture around here a very democratic movement in a way?

It is. It is.
Theatre around here is mainly associated with the democratic movement, and other social movements. Somehow it is a sort of mission. It is very interesting: After the 1990 movement, when we got democracy and freedom of expression, we were expecting, theatre would emerge, actually grow! But the opposite happened. There wasn’t any theatre after having freedom of expression in Nepal. It was really strange. Then we realized: Before 1990 we had a mission, an enemy. A very clear enemy. Then you got democracy, you got what you wished – there wasn’t any enemy any more. So to find a new enemy took some time. And then you have developed a certain language, certain symbols during the fight. But when you have freedom of expression, everything is clear – this language becomes irrelevant. You have to find a new language again. So everything takes time. And then, for 10 years after democracy, or 8, 9 years, there wasn’t any theatre in Nepal.

Do you receive a lot of attention from Western countries?

Ahhhhh. Now, these days, not a lot, but a little attention from Western countries, yes. Especially after having Gurukul. Because this was almost the same time, sometime in 2000 or 2001, when Nepal established the Nepal Center of ITI (International Theatre Institute).
It was a first step towards entering into international collaboration and sharing of information. So, after establishing this ITI we got some attention by presenting papers about Nepali theatre, publishing articles there and there. Then we started Gurukul, that’s when we also started to have some collaboration with Denmark, Norway. Now there is a small collaboration with the Netherlands. So it is opening.

So you went to Europe. Did you go on a tour with Aarohan there?

Yes. I have been there many times to conduct workshops, to work with image theatre groups and having a tour.

When you consider this experience there, what do you prefer about Nepali theatre?

Well, not only there but here too, there is a discussion going on about what is Nepali theatre. Sometimes people see that there are 2 things, what we do here in the ‘blackbox’ and what we do in schools. I don’t see any difference. These are two kinds of work for the same mission. Of course there are 2 different ways to get the goal. So these are 2 things but with the same mission. And now where we are, there is a discussion, that went on for the last 1 or 2 years, about what is Nepali theatre. See, it’s culturally very much dominated by India. For a while we saw the film industry as a huge competitor, because film and television destroyed theatre. Then, later on, we realized: No, we don’t have any competition with them. Theatre is a different media. Our fault was, that we didn’t try to make it different. We tried to compete with film and television, we can’t do that. Because every media has their own limitations and possibilities. We didn’t explore the possibilities of theatre, we were stuck in the limitations. So we started to realized, that theatre was different. We are not competing with films. Now we can compliment each other, the television too.
So, another discussion which is going on, what is Nepali theatre culturally? What is the Nepali theatre language? I mean visuals, colors and everything. Then the discussion is going on about how the previous theatre language, in Nepal, was very much dominated by India. Indian theatre language, Indian film language actually. Because Indian theatre is sooo diverse. Then we realized, we should look out for traditional things, traditional forms and reinterpret it in contemporary values. So, we started to look into different ethnic regions. Because that is our power. We have a lot of ethnic culture, so we’re trying to look on our own tradition these days. I think that is important. Here and in Europe, both. To explore our own theatre language. It needs a lot of research, a lot of practice, a lot of patience and a lot of experience, too. Which Nepali theatre has started, but it’s not enough yet.
And then again, also, in Europe what I feel sometimes: Theatre is a profession there. Here theatre is a passion. More than a profession. Because in Europe, if the government cuts the subsidy, a lot of theatres will have to close. I had this experience in Denmark: One year the government cut 15 % of the subsidy in theatre, and a lot of theatre companies had to shut down. But here that doesn’t happen, because we don’t get any subsidy from the government! So, it is a passion of the people, it is related with life, somehow. It is not a profession, like… see, here we don’t expect that someone will prepare everything and the actors will join then and perform. No. Because you have to be a part of everything.

When you look at European theatre, the actors, the theatre society, you find a very own little world, very much “closed” and “different” in a way to the “normal” world. It doesn’t seem to be like this here.

No. Because people should do everything, that’s why we don’t want to forget from where we came. That’s why every actor has the responsibility to clean the toilets. Because you have to be there. You are not a very special one, because you do theatre.
And the 3rd thing that I forgot: This is what we want to project: It is a characteristic of Nepali theatre, that it is associated with the civil movement, democratic movement and social movement.

Before these various movements arouse in Nepali society was there any other theatre besides the Royal National one?

Before 1990 there were many local groups outside, and 2 governmental theatres. They had a huge repertoire of artists. Even though they still have, they haven’t done anything for many years. And there is one more stage: Police Club. The Police has their own small group of dancers. Even the Army used to have drama. They had their own auditorium in their headquarter. They used to invite the king and the queen and the royalties once a year. It’s a more patriotic sort of thing.

Sophokles, Moliere, Sartre, Camus – why do you bring specially these Western writers on stage in Nepal?

Because when I studied in Delhi, we learned about Western writers. One course was about Western writing and world theatre. So it was part of the course.
So then, when I came back … It has 2 purposes when we select these writers from the western world:
We started a campaign when I came back from Delhi: Every Saturday we used to play at the French Culture Center in front of 400 audience members, very selective ones. Intellectuals, doctors, lawyers, people like that. So the other people, who were not the members of this center, couldn’t see the shows. It was a very small theatre, so turn by turn, each Saturday 100 people were admitted into the theatre. So, after 4 weeks all the 400 people could see the play. One month, we would perform one Nepali play, and the second month a translated play from outside. After the performance someone from the audience offered tea. That was the tradition. “This evening, I will offer the tea.” So 120 cups of tea were offered while the actors would come out into the audience, after the play, and have a discussion. ‘Why did you pick this play and why do you do it like this?’ – things like that were discussed. Like this it went for 1 year and created a huge awareness about theatre work.
This is when we started to do these kinds of plays. That has 2 reasons actually: One I never told to anyone yet, but I will. The 1st is: As a theatre person you should know the conditions . Different styles, different writing styles, presentation styles and the things that have to do with yourself. That was a part of the training actually. As a theatre person, as an actor, you can’t do the same purpose, the same style in Moliere as in Sartre. It’s totally different. So that was a time of practice for us. And the second was: Theatre as such was considered as a very low, second grade thing. People in theatre were considered as uneducated. So our fight was to make it prestigious. It is not a job of illiterate people. It is a very literate job, where you need philosophy, you need a lot of things. You need to learn. So we wanted to shock our intellectuals. And now it is a prestigious job. Nobody thought, 15 years ago, it could be like this. The actors/actresses were seen as sort of prostitutes.

Do you prefer Western or Nepali writers?

Oh … we have very little Nepali writers … That was also a reason actually …
You can count them on the fingers. Right now, f.i., Prof. Abu Subadebi is writing. Some people in the theatre are writing, and some other writers are there who publish their own plays. So, it’s difficult, because we don’t have a lot of writers. Furthermore, the first condition to select a play is, you have to like it. Somehow it has to go to your current mentality, your heart. And if a writer wrote a play and you don’t like it then you don’t do it. Very simple. But we have to do a play. So if we don’t find one in Nepal, then we have to look somewhere else.

Do you think it’s easier for actors to perform Western plays or Nepali?

Yes. (Western plays). I think if an actor is good, the Western theatre is better, because if you select a good play, the actors could find parts there, logic. Some sort of link between the scenes and everything. Sometimes in a bad play you can’t find it. You have to make your own logic, that’s difficult. So, building a character in a good play is better and easier. Either Western or Nepali, both.

And what would be, according to you, an ideal theatre?

In an ideal theatre, acting should be based on your social reality, I mean it should be creative of course, but in a sense creative in scarcity, too. Because if you have fewer things, then you have to be more creative. For me an ideal theatre is a theatre of actors, not a theatre of techniques, multimedia, lot of multimedia. Then, it should be very linked to the social realities. If a country, a society needs a theatre, it should go on stage. In the easy days it’s ok to do more creative things in the ‘black box’. But when a society needs you, you should go on stage.

What are you most proud of?

Continuation. And the close relation with the national politics.

How do you finance this theatre?

Ahhhh…. a lot of things.

Tickets?

No.
For the last 3 years we have had a partnership with the Norwegian theatre. So this is the main financial source we depend on these days. And a lot of things, like programs, which are funded by that partnership. Like Training. People come from abroad and make regional art management workshops, for example. And 2 more workshops, with audiovisual documentation, or this generator that you can see there. Lights and sounds, things like that were supported by this Norwegian partnership.
So, these days it’s based on that. Nowadays we also have some income from tickets, it’s going well. Another thing for example is: the university asks us: “Can you please perform a Forum Play?” We charge for that. Then we had some Radio Play, but not any more. Or people hire the theatre place and then we get some money.

When you are a student in Gurukul, do you pay fees?

We give scholarships.
Because we prepared these actors for ourselves. So we provided them with scholarships. But we’ll stop now and we’ll prepare for a college, a graduation level college. And then we’ll charge fees (laughs).

How many people are in Gurukul?

Full time 26.
It is difficult. Because if you want to run a college, you need to have 20 students a year. But considering the whole situation of Nepal and trying to be a responsible theatre person, you can’t produce 20 actors every year. So that’s the dilemma, we are not clear what to do. It’s difficult, really difficult it is.

Thank you very much.

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