Nautanki – Drama in Politics

Nautanki – this is how we associate politics. Nautanki meaning Folk Theatres. Names and words encapsulates thoughts. Like Gandhi or Hitler are not only significant names, they are storehouse of thoughts. So when we associate Nautanki with Politics, we show our regard, rather disregard, for politics or Nautanki or both.

We look down upon Nautanki and have scant regard for politics. Yet, both are charismatic. Try any reason, still you cannot take away the glamour out of these two professions. You can deride it, you can ignore it but you cannot be unaffected by it. It is a part of your life like washing your face in the morning.

One feels, Nautanki (Folk Theatre) has faded away. Actually Nautanki has married Politics. Both are compatible partners. Both crave live audience. Together they reap good rewards. Significant achievements in Politics can be attributed to this alliance. The powers of Nautanki and Politics have merged into a formidable force.

Attributes of Nautanki are found in Politics. Spontaneity is number one. The art of contending in many tongues and many situations is an attribute of Nautanki. Nautanki teaches politics to script and enact well. It also brings into politics an art of elliptical path. Only a fool confesses he wants to be a Prime Minister. Nautanki Politicians know how to drop hints and pick-up gains. Politics needs self-advertisement. Theatre provides the ingredients.

Speech is Nautanki’s best gift to politics. Demosthenes, the Greek Orator, infused Politics into Greek population by swaying the crowd with his speech. Shakespeare’s words – “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears” is a legend. It’s an example of the use of theater which changes the course of politics.

Hitler’s speech and nautanki are well known. Though we are taught to hate him, in his time, he was an adulated actor. His Nautanki was his body language, his demeanor, his mustaches. He swayed politics, conquered all of Europe (well almost) with a show-manship unparalleled in history. Hitler was not an idiot. Under his grand display lay hidden a futuristic man who innovated missiles and jet engines. Had the Allied delayed attack, we would be flying Luftwaffe today.

Gandhi was a Nautanki-Baaz (Master of Theatre). He humbled Great Britain by sipping water, making salt and burning “Peter-England” shirts. He rabble-roused and created ruckus which was enough drama to fill the English News-reels with his cause. Gandhi realised that One man with courage makes a corpse. His Nautanki created a following of a Mob. Gandhi’s Drama sent signals to the British that only an Independent Indian will wear “Peter-England” shirts. Thus he shifted the motivation. The British were compelled to see more business sense in an Independent India.

One extreme we have a Shrieking demagogue (Hitler) and the other end we have a man (Gandhi) who spoke without raising his voice. Both actors. Both effective. They are extreme examples on how stagecraft can be used for statecraft. To their adversaries, what they did was drama. To their followers, they were heroes.

So, next time when you see Rahul Gandhi sneaking into a village to project an atrocity or Mamata Baneerjee displaying her antics, you know what they are doing. They are “Playing” Politics. They are highlighting a cause with a show of exaggeration and make belief. It the nature of the game – Take it or leave it.