Nurturing theatre culture in Arunachal is hard to do: Riken Ngomle

[ Amar Sangno ]

ITANAGAR, 6 Feb: They say that theatre is a powerful form of creative imagination and expression. As famous Brazilian theatre practitioner and drama theorist Augusto Boal once said, “Theatre is the art of looking at ourselves.”

In a society like ours, where there are no footmarks of the proscenium theatre culture, except the pantomime theatre found among the Buddhists, such as the Khamtis, instilling the theatre culture is apparently a mammoth task to do.

With this in mind, National School of Drama (NSD) Assistant Professor Riken Ngomle, who himself is an alumnus of the premier drama school, has been promoting theatre dramas/plays focusing on folklores and contemporary social issues over the years in Arunachal.

Teaming up with creative people such as independent filmmaker, playwright and MC Duyu Tabyo, NSD graduate and actor Kabak Palin, and Rilli Ngomle, Riken has been training around 30 artists for the last one month to stage a play at the closing ceremony of the state’s golden jubilee celebration on 20 February.

During an interaction with The Arunachal Times, Riken shared the predicaments and challenges faced by him in promoting theatrical arts and dramas in the state.

“After graduating from NSD, I came back to my state with the aim of promoting theatre. I came here for acting and directing, focusing on promoting our roots and folklores. But I had to switch my interest from acting and directing to teaching for my own sustenance,” Riken said, disclosing that he had to run from pillar to post in the bureaucratic and political corridors for sponsorship and funding.

Riken narrated his journey from being an unemployed village youth to becoming a premier theatre artist and teacher.

“Being from a humble background, my initial goal was to just get a government job by any means. That’s why I tried my luck for the post of a radio operator (constable) in the Arunachal Pradesh Police in 2004. Though I did qualify in the physical test, I couldn’t get through the interview,” Riken said.

To ensure his family’s sustenance, Riken had to run a CD library from a small ghumti near The Arunachal Times office, and started working as an Airtel SIM card distributor for a wage of Rs 4,000 per month.

Life-changing moment

Getting selected for enrollment in the NSD in 2007 was a life-changing moment for Riken.

“Throughout my youthful days, I had been nurturing anger and frustration. NSD gave life-changing experience to release frustration and angst and shaped me as mature man what I am today,” he said.

“Acting gives opportunity to express your feelings on stage, which you are hardly able to do in real life,” he added.

He said that the NSD not only taught him humanity but also taught him that religious beliefs should not be an impediment to creativity and arts.

Challenges ahead

Lack of institutionalized theatre and infrastructure in the state is the biggest challenge for artists in promoting plays and theatres, according to Riken. He opined that the state government needs to support and promote theatrical arts in order to preserve the state’s rich folklores and culture, as theatre is considered a powerful medium of communication.

“To have an institutionalized theatre, it needs to be incorporated in the school syllabus, and a proper policy needs to be formulated, giving responsibility of creativity to people with artistic background,” he said.

He further said that lack of knowledge of one’s mother tongue or one’s own dialect among the young artists is another challenge to nurturing an effective theatre culture in the state.

“We can teach arts and craft in our training but cannot teach one’s mother tongue. Language is our root and identity. To be an effective artist, one has to master one’s own language,” he said, adding that many artists who are interested in theatre have no knowledge of their own languages.