Lecture by M K Raina at UoH

“Will there be singing in the Dark times?
Yes! There will be singing of the Dark times!!”
~ Bertolt Brecht

It is vital to safeguard the values of artistic and intellectual freedom of expression in democracy. History reveals that the culture becomes first victim of authoritarian political development. Today, there is ever increasing need of arranging various types of artistic expressions in public spaces, not necessarily in cosy air conditioned auditoriums, that can be accessible to the masses; this can be effective strategy to reclaim and preserve diverse cultural spaces from the clutches of intolerance and autocratic groups, said noted theatre director Shri M. K. Raina this while delivering a lecture titled “Politics and Performance in India”, as part of the International Federation for Theatre Research (IFTR) Annual Conference 2015 at the University of Hyderabad (UoH) on July 07, 2015.

Shri Raina described his experience of engaging with a community of Bhands, the traditional performers of the Kashmir valley in Anantnag district to adopt Shakespeare in their ancient play traditions called Pather. In 1990s, Bhand Pather was termed as non-Islamic by extremists and came to the extent of extinction. Raina’s production Badshah Pather (King Lear) became a successful story in supporting the struggling art form, making it accessible to the outside world while retaining its essence also safeguarding democratic value of artistic expression.


Shri Raina expressed that shared dimension of various forms in the Indian freedom struggle has been the principle of communal harmony, cultural interdependence, and element of peaceful coexistence among all the diverse ethnic population of India. In these long struggles the involvement of cultural community, many poets, scholars, musicians, theatre people, from all languages and all strata of society, contributed largely cutting across barriers of divisiveness for a common goal- that was freedom. Today, it has become challenging and tough, under the circumstances to keep the values of Indian democracy and artistic and intellectual freedom safe and alive in India. Many artists and intellectuals became victims of this development and some even paid the price with their lives. For the last 27 years Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (SAHMAT) has been working in creating a platform of resistance and dissent against such happenings. It is a platform, which has been constantly contesting, culturally in the political space and in the realm of cultural discourse through the arts both traditional and contemporary to keep alive elements of protest and resistance through arts alive.


Shri M. K. Raina graduated from National School of Drama in 1970 with Best actor award. Since 1972 he has been freelance theatre worker and film person, working all over India in many languages and with many traditional forms. His association with the rural and urban theatre across the country has developed into a unique style, where both forms blend together and yet are rich with contemporary meaning and significance. As an actor, he has worked in more than a hundred plays. He has directed several memorable productions like Kabira Khada Bazar Mein, Karmawali, Lower Depths, Pari Kukh, Kabhi Na Chooden Khet and The Mother; Andha Yug, which he directed was performed in Berlin and the Festival of India in the USSR. He also produced Jasma Odan at Hawaii University in 1986. Raina has conducted many theatre workshops and acted and directed in a number of feature films including 27 down, Satah Se Uthta Aadmi, Ek Ruka Hua Faisla, Tamas, Titli, Genisis, Tarang, Ankur Mayna Kabutar etc. He has been making documentary films for many years. His latest documentary Sacred Dances at Hemis Festiual has been made for Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts. M.K. Raina has been honoured with the Sanskriti Samman in 1980, the Sahitya Kala parishad Award in 1981, Best Director of the year by West Bengal Government 1982, the Best Director’s award of Punjabi Akademi, Delhi in 1987. He received the Sangeet Natak Akademi award in 1995 and the Swarna Padak from Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir in 1996 for his contribution to Indian Theatre. Besides being a practicing actor/director in theatre and media, he is known also as a cultural activist.

-By Kumar Ashish, Research Scholar in Economics