Speaking about nationalism in the modern sense on the topic, ‘Nationalism, Culture & Theatre: In the Times of Globalisation’ at the 11th DD Kosambi Festival of Ideas, novelist, playwright, theatre historian, theatre director, architect and designer, Makarand Sathe highlighted the role of common people in creating nationalist feelings
Makarand Sathe was the opening speaker at the four-day DD Kosambi Festival of Ideas that was inaugurated by Minister of Art and Culture, Govind Gaude in the presence of secretary of state, Daulat Hawaldar and others. Sathe whose writings express wide range of concerns, from the socio-political scenario in today’s times, philosophical aspects of time and space, to absurdity in modern urban life, spoke on the topic, ‘Nationalism, Culture & Theatre: In the Times of Globalisation’
Explaining how different people perceive nationalism based on religion, socio-economic aspects, etc, he said that it is a common space that brings together people and can also bring together people who are divided. “Nationalism is constructed; it is not a god given thing or a nature given thing. It is developed in modern time and for nationalism there has to be some human force,” he said before adding that though India is diverse it is together especially because we share a common enemy.
He went on to say that unlike the definitions of Karl Marx or Rabindranath Tagore nationalism for the common man is a very natural phenomenon as modernity brings in extreme individualism, freedom that is absolute and total; while capitalism that brings in competition gives rise to nationalist feelings. He said the idea of nationalism in India was dependent on how history was played out and how it plays out currently.
Speaking about the importance of culture in society he said that culture defines what is good and bad for us. “Culture in society creates thought and communicates thought creatively to reach people. Ramayana, Mahabharata, and great epics are all our culture,” he said before adding that culture is narrowly defined through theatre, art, folk, novels, etc. “Who will drink water? Who will drink water from which well? Who will eat vegetarian food, or who will eat the carcass of a dead animal is also defined by our culture. It defines the distribution of our essential needs. In India culture has more significance than the West because we are a poor country and were a colony,” he said.
He went on to say that our poets weren’t revolutionary, nor was theatre able to create a great political awakening because Indians look at culture as entertainment and an escape from our daily routine. While culture and traditions are ever-evolving, he asserted that the culture of nationalism in today’s time is more violent, xenophobic and jingoistic.
Speaking about theatre, he said that it is conflict and tension that is at the core of theatre which has to be dramatic. He highlighted the importance of natyashastras that though ancient is still relevant. “The first sword would fall on theatre or poetry because it was so provocative. The British ruled the masses by creating another class between the British and those ruled, among Indians who had British taste, but were Indians,” he told.
Because plays were performed people got enlightened. There were feelings of anger, fear (of being converted to Christianity) among people who started creating a theatre movement highlighting Indian culture etc, like Rajsanyas by Rama Ganesha Gadkari. “Culture and theatre played an important role, and Marathi theatre fought fiercely, which is called cultural nationalism based on many things, shared culture, shared history, traditions,” he said.
Speaking about the prevalence of culture in a time when India is independent in the time of globalisation, Sathe said that it is being used with a changed concept. Putting it in context of fragmentation he said that when different aspects come together, it creates many more choices, though there is a lot of chaos.
“There is no dialogue left between two cultures, countries or even individuals today,” he said highlighting how time plays an important factor where different people with different ideologies from different backgrounds live together.
He said that today everything is a commodity, from culture to religion. “Religion is an industry now and in most of the cases it has nothing to do with spirituality, it is nothing to do with my relation with God or with spirit but it’s about commercial negotiations. If you give me this, I will pray,” he said adding that we no more talk of saints or fakirs.
There is compulsion of culture and religion that is taking place. He said that the present station of cultural nationalism in India is getting. “It’s exploitative, it’s divisive, it’s fundamentalist, it’s backward looking and is majoritarian. The real thing that happens is the jingoism that erupts and the use of terms like patriotism, nationalism, and soldier duty opens up or gives sanction to use violence.” And thus he says those who voice their opinions against such violence are called seditious.
He explained how culture shapes society at the same time people should have the freedom to choose their culture in today’s age of globalisation. He highlighted how cultural communication is important, but there is a huge gap. However, efforts are being made to bring culture to the fore across the globe through various forms of art.
“We all want to have an idea of nationalism, there is nothing wrong, but the problem is how we define it in the background of globalisation. It is a condition of crisis, and yet provides us an opportunity to think; we become public centric that focuses on policies that are future oriented and live in a shared present than our divided past, that takes us beyond fragmentation like majority and minority based on our constitution, which is also under threat.”