The history of drama in Dharan is said to be eight decades old. In the 2000s, there were about one and a half dozen theatre organisations, including Anam Natya Samuha. However, lately, the theatrical scene in Dharan had been slowing down.
Nevertheless, the younger generation is trying to bring the theatrical atmosphere of Dharan back to its old rhythm. Mainly, the Rangabhumi Academy is trying to revive the theatre culture in Dharan, also known as Lahureko Sahar (the city of soldiers).
Recently, this theatrical troupe performed a play in the ‘Khuwalung Bachau Andolan’ (Save Khuwalung movement) held at Chatara Koshi Bridge.
Bishnu Moktan, the chairman of the academy, who also played as the Khuwalung Dhunga (stone) in the street play said, “Aware citizens cannot remain silent on national issues. Moreover, writers and artists should unite and take to the streets against regression.”
Through the play, he said that the Khuwalung stone was a symbol of the faith of the Kiranti community and hence, it should not be broken.
The artists of Rangabhumi Academy in Dharan were showing dramas against the dissolution of the House of Representatives continuously, terming the move ‘pratigaman’ (regression). However, as it was a small drama troupe outside the capital, it did not get much recognition.
Moktan, 32, has been teaching drama to teenagers and youth of Dharan since 2014 by establishing the Academy. A permanent resident of Chainpur, Sankhuwasabha, who has been living in Dharan for a decade, says, “In each play, we have cast local actors from Dharan.”
Along with Moktan, many youth including Hari Yuhang, Milan Chamling, Tulsa Thapa, Karishma Chhetri, Ashmin Subedi, Sandesh Dahal, and Goma Poudel are working in the academy.
Apart from this, the academy is also giving drama training to school kids. Along with acting, the academy is also helping them improve their skills in communications, singing, and literary writing.
Though the youth are trained by some established directors time and again, most of the time, Moktan himself is involved in teaching them.
In the last five years, the academy has successfully staged three plays ‘Aba Tauko Kahile Hallinchha?’, ‘Inghang’ and ‘Basai’. As of now, it is preparing to perform a play ‘Kumar Mama’ based on the story of Janak Rishi Chamling.
In 2018, the play ‘Inghang’ based on the Limbu culture was screened for 22 days. This gave the Rangabhumi Academy a distinct recognition.
Despite that recognition, the academy has not got a sufficient audience. Hence, it is forced to show many plays without making the spectators pay. Due to that, the academy is facing financial problems.
Sometimes, the artists perform dramas by investing money from their own pockets and collecting donations.
Young actors in the academy are ready to do so because they say the plays have boosted their confidence as well as their acting ability. Artist Karishma Chhetri, who has been learning and acting simultaneously, considers it an opportunity to attend drama classes in Dharan itself.
Further, Bachchu Himanshu, a theatre worker, who came to Dharan from Kathmandu, says, “It is a very challenging task to do drama outside of the capital. These plays not only raise public awareness but also art awareness among the locals.”
Poet Chandrabir Tumbapo says plays of the academy have added new enthusiasm to the theatrical scene of Dharan.
Lack of infrastructures
Though it has already been four decades since the modern drama culture started in Dharan, there is no theatre house there. Therefore, the artists from Dharan go to either Kathmandu or Biratnagar. Similarly, they are failing to perform at the national level.
As of now, the plays are being staged in conference halls and community buildings of Dharan. Performing on such stages where other public events also take place makes it very uncomfortable, says Moktan. Meanwhile, he also mentioned that it is very crucial to have a theatre equipped with the needful technology.
This is why Moktan along with his friends have come together to build a theatre in Dharan. For this, they staged plays and collected donations. They also pitched their voice to the local bodies. And fortunately, it was heard. MP Jaya Kumar Rai allocated Rs 4 million from the Parliamentary Development Fund for the theatre. Accordingly, the construction of a modern theatre has been started near a conference hall in Dharan sub-metropolitan city-8.
Likewise, a blueprint of a traditional style two-storey building on the area of 7290 square feet of land has been prepared. A theatre construction consumer committee has been formed under the coordination of veteran artist Prem Subba. The construction is expected to be complete in five years.
“It has been my dream for a long time to build a well-equipped theatre in Dharan. We have to struggle a lot to achieve that”.