SWADESH DEEPAK liked to stay away from limelight. A foundation in his memory keeps it that way. It does not promote his work, but his ideas — his appreciation of other arts, his warmth towards his contemporaries, his promotion of younger artistes.
Elsewhere Foundation takes its name from an essay that the playwright’s son, Sukant, had written in a book of essays on living with someone with a mental illness or infirmity. Swadesh Deepak battled bipolar disorder for long and 16 years ago, left home one day and never returned.
“Choosing to bring his plays to the city would have been the easy way out. He wouldn’t have appreciated it. He never liked to promote his work. He was indifferent towards the fame that came his way,” says Ambala-based Sukant, who has co-founded Elsewhere along with Chandigarh-based Nagina Bains, his sister Parul actively engaged with the foundation, too.
Swadesh Deepak never left Ambala. Not during the peak of his writing career, not when ‘Court Martial’ was running full house — it is said to have had more than 5,000 shows across the country. Not when ‘Sabse Udaas Kavita’ was making waves in the literary world.
“I would so often tell him to shift to Delhi, where we owned a flat. He needed to be in the thick of action, I would tell him. But he felt that directors who wanted to work on his plays could always board a bus and come to Ambala,” Sukant recalls. Even if he would go to shows, he was more interested in the artistes backstage, asking young actors what they were reading, telling those who had been doing ‘Court Martial’ for years to explore newer stuff.
But he would often take the children to musical concerts, museums, art shows and once a performance art show in Delhi. He wanted them to have a worldview. And it is this idea that has shaped the course of the foundation. On cards, thus, are musical evenings, poetry recitations, book readings, interactions with authors, theatrepersons and filmmakers and heritage walks, etc. Sukant says the idea is to make these events not mere events, but interactive sessions where public gains from intellectuals in an informal gathering. Nagina says the idea is also to encourage talent known as well as new and give it a pedestal to hone it further and exhibit.
The foundation held its first event, a dastangoi performance, at Chandigarh last week. It explored the life of Karna from the Mahabharata. Up next is a classical music concert in Chandigarh. However, the founders insist that the foundation is not geographically constrained but aims to bring arts from various parts of India to Chandigarh and take arts from the region elsewhere.
Nagina says Swadesh Deepak lives in our memory in his multiple shades. Celebrating different arts, artists and collaborations between them is something he would have found very exciting. She says: “It would have been very easy for us to get ‘Court Martial’ by a stellar director to the city as our first production, but we did not want to take the easy way out. After all, his works are all about paths that can bleed out the toughest. We are sure, wherever he is, he will see, with an unfiltered cigarette in his hand, the works we bring forward: sometimes with a smile, sometimes with an evil chuckle.”
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