With the lights out, it’s less dangerous,
here we are now, entertain us.
I feel stupid and contagious,
here we are now, entertain us.
– Kurt Cobain
Hello! Would you talk to me?
No. I am not interested in your outer-shell, which you take time to put up before you walk out of your hiding each morning. If our exterior shells communicate, conversation will be too depthless to really penetrate each-other, don’t you think? Then, why waste time in building another relationship which will only scratch the surface?
What did you say?
“I am afraid.”
Are you afraid of thinking on your own? Are you afraid of the system that traps you? Are you afraid of the society that tells you what’s right and what’s not? Or, are you afraid of your own mind?
I understand. It’s ok to be scared. It’s okay to follow. It is always less problematic to ignore your consciousness, and give into powers and trends. But, listen to the one who plunges fearlessly to untangle the strands of his own mind and comes to tell you the tale. Meet Asijit Datta and let us explore the chasm of “My Life as I” in a short conversation which will definitely fail to capture it all.
BongRong: If I say ‘life’, what’s the first thought that crosses your mind?
Asijit: There is no fixity. I don’t think there is an absolute somewhere. Whatever there is – it’s challengeable and refutable.
I consider myself an artist and I would follow this ambivalence, this multiplicity as a definitive state. It’s like saying, a negative is a positive.
BongRong: Depends on where you are?
Asijit: Absolutely. Perspectives are so varied… If you take My Life as I – he kills the vigilant officer. But the officer doesn’t die. He keeps coming back.
BongRong: Someone else will always take that position….
Asijit: Yes. He will always be there and there is no escape from him.
BongRong: If that’s the case, what’s the point of revolution?
Asijit: The point of revolution is in pushing the boundary. You always hope you might be able to convince someone. The others are just like you. Aren’t they?
If I talk today on stage, maybe tomorrow someone else will come and ask, can I talk a little? Would you permit me to talk?
Of course, it’s your space and I will clap at your performance in truth and admiration. You haven’t, but I will. So, come to my space. That is the purpose of art. I don’t think there can be a readymade purpose for art where change will come immediately. I think it is a process. Everything is in a process of becoming.
I always tell my theatre friends, it’s a very false notion that human beings are social animals. I think human beings are animals trying to be social every moment and failing.
BongRong: There is a regime of power in our nation which is labelled as fascist by the free-thinking intellectuals of the country. But the fact of the matter, or rather… the truth is – they were elected. We know the people of the country just wanted an alternative after multiple corruption cases in the 10 years of UPA governance and they really couldn’t find another alternative. We couldn’t expect regional parties to come together and form a government which will be stable. So, where are we heading?
Asijit: Being a pessimistic-optimist, I do think that we are heading towards a collision. What way the collision will take place – history will tell. Right now we are in moment of history. Isn’t it? I mean everything is historical. I don’t think a present exists. It’s only an unseen future and a very distorted past. I feel that history is constantly being formed…
BongRong: And it’s changing even after it’s formed.
Asijit: Absolutely. The current regime will decide how to perceive history. Again when the countering anti-regime comes in power, they will decide whether the history was depicted properly by the previous regime or for that matter, they also get to decide on the history of the previous regime. So, the question is – whether history itself is regimented?
If you ask me where we are heading right now, I don’t know. They are very systematic. Because, they are targeting universities like FTII in Pune, Hyderabad University, JNU, JU, NIT – the regime is targeting not the intellectuals specifically, but the dissenters. But I also believe that these individuals have their command over language, command over art, command over politics and command over their own consciousness of dialectics. And it’s very important to be able to take that politics of ambivalence and ambivalence of politics into consideration.
Where I have problems is that in politics, you have to belong somewhere. That itself is an anomaly. If I don’t follow a colour, I am colourless. And here, I think politics of Art has a very important role to play. If you ask me what would be the ultimate solution of this problem, I don’t think there is any. We just have to make do with whatever regime is less traumatic.
BongRong: The lesser evil? Rather, the softer evil?
Asijit: You could say that.
BongRong: Okay… theatre. What is so special about it?
Asijit: That’s the only place where you can feel the rawness of the other. It is so close. You can get the reaction then and there, you know?
There is this composition, of four minutes, thirty-three seconds, by John Cage, divided into three movements. The conductor goes upon stage and he begins and nobody plays a tune. After two minutes twenty three seconds, he breaks. He looks towards the audience and he bows. The audience claps. He begins and goes on for another 1 minute forty and thirty seconds respectively and again nothing happens – he bows down, the audience claps and goes home. If nothing happens on the stage, then where was the music?
BongRong: (We listened to the ambient sound of Afraa Deli for a few seconds) Silence that was broken repeatedly by the audience?
Asijit: Yes, the audience is the music. That is the fun of it I think. When you are listening to silence, you are actually listening to the absence of sound. Silence itself is a sort of speech. Silence is speaking to you – listen, ‘I am silence’.
Say your friend wants to meet you here at Afraa Deli and you come and the friend doesn’t come. So, you are looking at the chair. Is it emptiness that you are looking at or at the ghost of the friend who was supposed to be here but didn’t turn up? So, you are looking at something, not an absence but a loss of expectation of the friend’s arrival. I think that is the beauty of ‘My Life as I’, where one comes and sees and goes away. They might ask, ‘I have come, but what have you given me?’ I have given you so many stories, you want to pick one? Ok, pick one. You couldn’t pick a single one? Fine! Come on stage and give me your story. I will listen to it.
>> Moments from My Life as I <<
BongRong: Where did the ‘I’ in your ‘My Life as I’ come from?
Asijit: Well, it came from the filth of our existence; the filth that you and I throw in the garbage, the filth that is not needed. We create from whatever we discard. Let’s take a collage for example. I take shit and I create gold. They are both of the same colour.
BongRong: That’s art for you.
Asijit: That’s art for me I think. Whatever is shunned by society, I take it up and collect and present it back to them.
BongRong: Most of the youth theatre groups are trying to bring something which has already proven to be sellable and are packaging it with a distinctive touch of their own. Now if we take the stage of My Life as I and the presentation, you are taking up pieces which society considers as garbage and not even trying to make it attractive. If we look at it from a salesman’s point of view, it’s gonna be difficult…
Asijit: It is difficult. It stinks, doesn’t it?
BongRong: It does!
Asijit: We are all fellow stinkers. We are like worms, we smell each-other. In one of my plays, there is this line – “Blessed be the one who turns back to see what is yellow” – which is shit! That’s my product, that’s what I wasted in life. But I want to go to office, I don’t want to look at it. Flush it away! It’s dirty. It’s not me.
BongRong: Point taken! Please break it down for our readers who still can’t get over the smell yet. What are you telling them through ‘My Life as I’?
Asijit: I think it’s telling them to be aware, to have a consciousness and not to be blinded by whatever is thrown at them. You can believe in something, but don’t let your beliefs blind you in turn.
If I say I am anti-corporate, I will be making a very false statement. Because, I end up buying a shoe with a price tag of 2k; in doing so, I myself am propagating capitalism. So, I am not saying I am outside of it or we can be outside of it; very much like politics, nobody can be apolitical. What’s important is not to be dictated. Not to be told that – listen, this is good for you and this is bad for you, so you must follow.
You have to understand that the media houses are mostly political channels. That’s why what Ravish Kumar did was so very hard hitting. The screen just goes dark and only in the darkness of the screen you realize what’s going on; you, as if, demand the source of light. That light which comes out of you, is truth, is human.
BongRong: Thank you very much for your time Asijit and it was very enriching to be among the audience of My Life as I. Until next time then…….
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