Special Grants

Grant Period: Over two years

Prayog, under the stewardship of eminent theatre personality M.K. Raina, is a thirty year old experimental theatre group based out of New Delhi. The impulse for the present project originated at an intensive 35-day workshop conducted in 2007 when a large number of young men were initiated in the almost forgotten theatre art of Bhand Pather.

Bhand Pather is an amalgam of various forms of dance, drama, mime, puppetry, and music that Mr. Raina describes as ‘total theatre’. The earlier workshop had enabled the participants to develop a sense of the form, how it uses space, the movements, improvisations, and so on. The ongoing plan will identify the unique talents of individual participants and guide them into specialisations.

The project is once again set in Akingam, home of the Bhagat community, long-standing practitioners of the Bhand. The Bhagats will be at the heart of the training to be imparted. Akingam has been identified as a heritage village, and the State government has built and developed a performance and rehearsal space there. This will be the venue of the many workshops that make up the training programme.

Twelve students selected from six villages spanning the region around Akingam will be trained for a period of two years by four ustads. Four students will learn the swarnai (a large version of the shehnai). Four will learn the percussion instruments of the dhol and nagara, and the last four will learn the acting craft of maskhari. Moreover, all the students will be trained in the Bhand style of acting and singing.

The two years of training will be divided into four modules as follows:

  • Understanding the Bhand Pather style of acting
  • Developing skills of dhamaal, acrobatics, singing and dancing
  • Developing and understanding ritualistic aspects and their significance in Bhand Pather
  • Final performance

These four components will be fleshed out in detail by M.K. Raina in consultation with the four ustads – Ghulam Rasool Bhagat (Swarnai master), Mohd. Amin (Swarnai master), Ghulam Rasool (Dhol and Nagara master) and Ghulam Mohd. (Bhand and maskhari acting expert).

Periodic performances are envisaged during the training period, which will also become the basis of the evaluation of the students by the ustads. At the end of two years, two old Pathers will be ready to be performed anew.