Published: 31st October 2019
From village theatre to a DLitt from Khairagarh, this UoH drama prof's story is inspiring
Hailing from Odisha, Professor Satyabrata Rout took six long years to complete his research, he had enrolled for DLitt in 2013
Professor Satyabrata Rout was born in Sahaspur, Odisha and comes from a family of performing artists. His grandfather and father were involved with Jatra (village theatre) plays. "We used to have eight to ten bullock carts which we used to travel around in and perform," he recalls nostalgically.
"We still have the costumes made by artisans from Murshidabad, Kolkata using pure silver and the softest velvet," he tells us.
Since then Rout has travelled quite far, all the way to being awarded the Doctor of Letters (DLitt) from the Khairagarh University (Indira Kala Sangeet Vishwavidyalaya) and he is the first National School of Drama alumnus to be bestowed with this degree. His research 'Dialectics of New Direction Theories: A Critical Study' analyses those contemporary Indian theatre directors, including Rout himself, who are taking new concepts, styles and giving them a twist.
The chosen ones
"Take for example Devendra Raj Ankur, former Director of National School of Drama (2001-2007). He adopts the philosophy of Bertolt Brecht, the German theatre practitioner and presents it in the form of Kahani Ka Rangmanch (an unconventional story wherein one actor plays many characters). He doesn't just perform a 'readymade' play. For instance, he will perform noted writer Uday Prakash's play in front of the audience with theatrical expressions which is unusual for the theatre scene today," says Fulbright fellow Prof Rout who has been with the Department of Theatre Arts, Sarojini Naidu School, UoH, since 2007.
Professor Satyabrata Rout
Another example Prof Rout gives us is that of Dr Anuradha Kapur, another former Director of National School of Drama (2007 to 2013). She often uses multimedia in her play and takes the time to sit with the actor and develop the play from scratch.
Through his research, he theorised their methods. "These practitioners work across different and diverse mediums — storytelling, theatre and others. They all have a pattern or style which they follow and are genuine lovers of what they do," he asserts. The research is also a comparative study on group theatre vs academic institutions and compares their theatre practices.
Other practitioners he covered are Ratan Thiyam, Prabir Guha, Robin Das, Bansi Kaul, Bapi Bose and Prof Abhilash Pillai
It took Rout six long years to complete his research, he had enrolled for DLitt in 2013. He delved into books by noted English theatre and film director Peter Brooks like The Empty Space, Shifting Point and also Towards a Poor Theatre by Polish theatre director Jerzy Grotowski and many others. "Unfortunately and extremely sadly, there were hardly any books by Indian authors that I could refer to. So I had to make do with reading several interviews," he explains.
A little flashback
In the past, Prof Rout has also won the Best Play Direction award from Central Sangeet Natak Akademi; BV Karanth Samman from National School of Drama and many other prestigious honours.