Young artistes from Jammu are reviving Dogri culture through their livewire acts and performances. Some of them share their connectedness with Surabhi Jajodia
Seldom do you expect the digital generation, for whom language is the only access to staying relevant on discussion boards and who subscribe to the uniformity of acceptance, to campaign for saving extinct languages. But young people of the Jammu region are on a crusade to save the native Dogri language, predicted by linguists to lapse in a decade, and make it their badge of unique identity in a post-globalised world.
A group of young performers, under the aegis of the Kunwar Vyogi Maharaja Trust, will be staging Dogri plays, readings, discussions, music and culture, over the weekend at the Kingdom of Dreams, Gurgaon. “Despite being included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution, Dogri has not got its due primarily because it is not economically viable and does not generate income for anyone. If you think about jobs, there aren’t any”, said Nidhi Soni, a member of the organising committee.
The fest brings together theatre director Aarushi Thakur Rana of Natrang, which was founded by her father and Padma Shri Awardee, Balwant Thakur. She will be presenting an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Kathak dancer Sanchita Abrol will be staging a dance drama based on Kunwar Vyogi’s celebrated Dogri poem Ghar, which talks about love and loss, the timelessness of a dead man’s love for his wife. Jazz dancer Anmol Jamwal will be choreographing pieces based on the ideas of Kunwar Vyogi. A Sahitya Academy award-winning poet, Kunwar Vyogi is the only airman in the history of our Airforce to have been honoured with a national literary title for Ghar. He wrote prolifically in Hindi, English and Urdu. And as general secretary of the Dogri Sanstha, he actively worked towards the promotion of his mother tongue.
“I have been working with the scripts of Shakespeare. for sometime. I have been a literature buff since childhood and have written plays in English. I have been translating Shakespeare since last year because I wanted these classic works to reach more and more people in their local language”, said Aarushi when asked about her choice of Shakespeare. “The universality of Shakespeare lends itself to local adaptations and interpretations. Hence the choice of play. And since theatre is a live artform, it connects with the audience better. Using a local language heightens the emotions and their connect with the audience,” she added.
Kathak dancer Sanchita Abrol was struck by the imagery of the poem Ghar, which is a summary of a life lived there and its felt emotions. “It is about how every soul finds a home in love. I felt like dancing on it. Some songs are from Vyogi’s book Pehli Banga. There is a depth of emotion in his words which I feel need to be communicated,” she told us. An Odissi dancer, Sanchita believes in the emotion of words, even if they are not too familiar to her. “Any performance that comes from your soul is perfect. It may not necessarily be technical. Dance is just as communicative as language,” she felt.
Jazz dancer Anmol, who also happens to be the grandson of Kunwar Vyogi, said, “We are trying to mirror the spirit of his writings. He was an individual who had no inhibitions. He was original and fearless. My performance is a representation of complete liberation and owning your character without subjecting yourself to social norms. I had gone to Jammu and Kashmir about six months ago when we were promoting Kunwar Vyogi’s writings and trying to incorporate them in school curricula. I got to learn a lot about him. So I wanted to showcase his works here in Delhi.”
“This fest focusses on getting a bigger platform for Dogri music and culture beyond Jammu. The generation that speaks Dogri is slowly fading away. The youth are not connecting with the language as much. This vision behind this fest is to bring a whiff of Dogri culture to the capital city and then spread it around the world. Kunwar Vyogi’s work talks about human emotions and deserves a wider audience beyond Jammu university. There were musicians who sang his couplets, enacted his plays and recited his poetry. Nobody has even attempted translations. Only a pan-Indian dissemination of ideas can help save Dogri traditions”, said Asyushmaan Jamwal, the organising committee member.
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