Can Drama be more Effective than Protests?

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The article deals with importance and the effectiveness that drama projects on people rather than protests that end up into violent activities or a lost effort for justice. Drama is a form of art that is performed by people having characters, plot, dialogues and it shows the orders and the disorders that are present in society. As drama is a form of expression, protest is no different. Protest is a way of expression either by actions or by words to different situations, it may be political or social. It is gathering of people who sometimes have no clue about the problem and thus make the situation no better. While drama creates an intimate and intense feeling that is easily understood by the people around the globe, protest is a diligent process to fall into the mindset of the people.

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The soul and mind of any society can be revealed through the literature it possesses. The artist community is a source by which these literatures have been expressed via paintings, plays, poems, dramas, books, movies, etc. The very first use of theatre as a way to express injustice and aware people was done by African American playwright, August Wilson. He used theatre as a tool to show struggle and slavery of African American people. Soon after that, The National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People was established in order to support the blacks and protest against the whites. Therefore, the African American Theatre is also referred as “Protest Theatres”.

Artists in today’s time are open enough to share their thoughts on the subjects like LGBTQIA rights, Feminism, Pacifism, Immigration Rights, Racism, etc. by their art that highlights the features and values of people of the society and also encourages people to accept or raise voices for any injustice served. An example of this can be seen in 2011 in Chile, where students danced Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ (now a classic Flash Mob choreography) to oppose the Chilean state’s policies of defunding public education. Jackson’s zombies clearly conveyed the protestors’ understanding of the embodied effect (drawing vital energy from otherwise youthful beings) of the government’s neoliberal turn regarding education. These are methods of amplifying the reach and tone of the local protests that carry the potential of being replicated in other parts of the world, creating networks of empathy and nodes within a larger social movement against neoliberalism and neoconservatism.

The fact that theatre can be used as a peaceful and more understandable tool to fight against any injustice or disagreement between people and the Government was first sought in India through “Street Theatre” in 1982 when Niladarpan showed anti-colonial struggles to the general public by using this platform. The name itself suggests that street theatre is the form of drama that is performed at open places like street, slums, open lots, temples, parks, etc. where the performance is not announced beforehand but audience is gathered by singing or drumming, thus grabbing their attention. The act goes on for not more than 40 minutes where people can find a combination of theatre and activism in the form of satire. It also allows the audience to participate and engage themselves in discussions over controversial issues that take place in society. Apart from street theatre, other notable forms are “Experimental Theatre” and “Agitprop”. In the words of Bertolt Brecht, it can be summed up that, “Oil, inflation, war, social struggle, the family, religion, the meat market, all became subjects for theatrical representation. Choruses enlightened the spectator about facts unknown to him, right and wrong courses of action were shown. People were shown who knew what they were doing, and others who did not. The theatre became an affair for philosophers, but only for such philosophers as wished not just to explain the world but also to change it. So, we had philosophy, we had instruction” (Mukhopadhyay, 1999).

When group of people are summoned to march for rallies or meet at a designated point to show their disagreement, “Protest” is the term we shall use. Protest is a communicating bridge between the citizens of a nation and their Government. It is a way by which the voices of citizens can be heard. The US Suffrage Parade in 1913, when 5,000 marched in the streets of Washington to push for women’s right to vote, is an example of how the courage of people can influence the actions of a nation. News of the movement spread throughout the country, and finally, under constant pressure from the people, the US government passed the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote.

Thus, Protest is a democratic right of citizens but violence involved in it is a crime. And so political protests should neither be encouraged nor entertained. It is political in the sense of a perceived collective action; it is violent in the degree of using physical force; it is political violence in the way that it uses violence to impose political goals. India has seen such type of violent protests since its independence namely: communal, electoral and entitlements. These can be traced back to the early expressions of violence of a communal nature — Hatia Ranchi saw 183 dead in 1967, Ahmedabad witnessed 512 deaths in 1969, Jalgaon lost 100 lives in 1970. The worst communal riots occurred in 1984, when 2,733 Sikhs were killed; Nellie saw 1,819 die a year earlier, Moradabad 1,500 in 1980; and Gujarat 1,267 in 2002.

The very recent example for violent protest can be the students of Jawaharlal Nehru University to those in Jamia Millia Islamia, where the non-students also took part to destroy public properties when the ‘movement’ gathered momentum, New Delhi’s Seelampur became the hub of violence, with 21 people, including 12 policemen and six civilians injured. While none of the 10 arrested are Jamia students, police is not ruling out their arrests if investigations reveal their participation; 80 students are undergoing treatment in a hospital. Not only the damaged was caused to the lives of people but also to the public properties, where people in their “fury for justice” damaged buses, blocked rails and roads, looted markets, etc. The cost of this damage is invisible because in a resource starved nation like India, every such destruction has a direct bearing on the way economic resources have to be remobilised through taxes. With most of India not paying direct taxes, the economic implication of such a destruction seems like an entitlement.

The relevance of theatre as an important medium of informing the masses was brought to the fore when this medium was utilized in states like Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar to apprise the rural population of the Kargil conflict .India is a diverse society, it is a collection of different classes, tribes, castes, etc. where people have developed their own traditional folk theatre with their regional languages, songs, dance, emotions, gestures, etc. So, for urban and semi urban people, theatre has become a way to express their political agitations. Not only that, but a country with low literacy rate and high population better understands the performers as they share same lifestyle and feel a part of the performance. They may even apply lessons that they might have learned from the performance in to their real lives. Thus, NGOs, social activists, theatre personalities and grassroots volunteers all over the country increasingly use theatre as a means of social change

So, what I may conclude is that many a times people’s efforts seem worthless as Government pay no attention to them despite of their violent activities or non- violent activities, what they do is create unrest in the society. But drama is not just an entertaining tool, it helps in educating people and making any situation or disagreement simple to the people. Thus, the effectiveness of drama and theatrical art is more than any political protest.

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Can Drama Be More Effective Than Protests?. (2021, Apr 06). Retrieved October 1, 2022 , from
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