Ghumantu Kalakar (Vipul Singh) – Theatre artist

by Osheen Tickoo
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Traversing India on foot

Vipul Singh, a college dropout, travels across the country in order to form street plays so that he can bring about a change in the lives of the people around him. He has staged 681 Street Plays based on topical issues. He is a one-Man troupe who does from script writing to acting.
Why did you take up street play as an individual performer and not being part of any street theatre group?
I would like to tell you that the type of life I have selected for myself or the way I want to work like keep travelling and performing no one would like to join me but that all they do out of selfish reasons so that they can travel with me across the nation and get covered by media so that they become famous and get featured in articles but then it does not last long. They leave after a while because it’s just not pleasure it is responsibility as well. They at times themselves say in initial stage only that they want to do just for a week or so, so then I feel when I have to complete my journey individually then why not groom myself it that way only from starting. Though I even perform street play in group as well, when I am in my own city or have to perform for some college competition but when I have to travel I prefer it independently.
Do you believe as a street play artist that you can pull out your performance with same energy as a team of 20 do?
I know how this phenomenon works, yes people do perform in a group of 20 people but when I perform, I perform with energy of 40 people. It’s my passion so the thing of being tired and giving mediocre performance is never on my list. I know if I want people to remember me I have to make sure my work speaks for myself so that people remember me for my passionate work and whenever they speak for me they say he performed as if it was his last performance; I want it that memorable.
Why did you decide to be a street theatre activist, you could have chosen to do theatre in any other form as well?
I wanted to do all 3 acting, writing and travelling. If I would have doe theatre so I would only end up doing plays or writing that also if I would have ever got a chance to do so which could have been very rare because theatre has their own script writers who are thorough professionals. I was passionate for all 3 equally and I couldn’t have imagined of dropping any of them. So when I thought about it I summed it up and planned to become ghumantu kalakar in which I could do all especially acting because it was very important for me.
What importance does nukkad natak hold in today’s time in India?
Well if I have to say so then I believe there is still no importance of nukkad natak in cities. They do appreciate it they stand their watch it and then silently go back but in villages it still holds importance. It all started 60-70 years ago at time of independence. People use to do street plays for creating awareness of wars, dharnas etc and somehow it had lost its importance in between but I am glad people have again started to feel connected to this art form. When they see that young people from cities are coming there to perform and create awareness, it does affect them.
What do you think is approach of audience when you perform?
It is always different as there is no particular type of audience. If I perform well I get a good response, people appreciate my work and if it does not go well or they don’t connect with the issue then you can always feel how the react. One thing which I can mention is maybe it is because of god’s grace or what we say in Hindi “vardan mila hai” that I have always been able to gather audience. As we all know how difficult it is in today’s to keep the audience attached to your performance when they are not paying for it. And if people change after seeing my performance in villages or in slums then I believe they have a very positive approach towards my work.
If you get a chance will you build up a team of ghumantu kalakars and work as a team?
If even two people come to me today and assure me that they want to work with me in the same way for lifetime I will build up my team with them then and there. I don’t have a problem in making a team but the possibility of this will be 1 out of 10 , 9 times I will definitely say no because I am scared of making a team and try to stay away from all this because honestly I am unable to work to my perfection when I am surrounded with people. One of the reason can be I am very blunt, this might be hampering my approach towards people but then I like to stick to reality though this kind of attitude can never work in favour of a team , then it becomes difficult to keep the team united. When I work alone one thing a person cannot deny is that people can fool everyone but is always true to himself because one would definitely not line to hamper your own self.
Where would you be performing next and what issues are you going to take up?
My next journey is a very exciting one. I will be starting on a road trip on 15 August, 2016 from Bhopal to Jammu. The twist in this trip is that my whole journey will be on foot and will keep on performing wherever I stop. Though this is more of a trip I will still be doing at least 15-20 street plays picking up different issues every time like health, women safety, sex education, marital rape, hygiene etc. when I go to new place I try to find out local public issues and perform street plays. I earn for my food through these plays…

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