Print Edition - 2015-05-26  |  Earthquake Relief

Helping the people heal through theatre

Helping the people heal through theatre

May 25, 2015-

Dayahang Rai is a well-known film actor in the Nepali film industry. In the three years that he has been in the industry, he has already acted in over two dozen films. Besides being an actor on the screen, Rai is also a popular theatre artist. Rai, who started his career as a theatre artist, is now one of the founders of Mandala Theatre in Anamnagar. The theatre was established three years ago. The Post’s Anup Ojha talked with Rai about the quake’s effects on Nepali theatre and how Nepali theatre will recover. Excerpts:

Where were you when the April 25 quake rattled the country and how did you live though it?

I was having lunch at poet Upendra Subba’s house in Talchikhel in Lalitpur. The Kabaddi film director, Ram Babu Gurung, was also with us. We were indoors, when suddenly the house started to shake.  We could hear the sounds of the utensils in the kitchen clattering to the ground. Then, as the earth continued to shake, I started thinking of my family members—my two-and-a-half-year-old son Samdung, my wife, Benuka, and my sister, who were all back in our home in Anamnagar.

Once the quake stopped, we ventured outside. The road was filled with people.  I could see broken flower pots inside the compound of the house. We could feel the aftershocks even after the first big jolt. Someone said that the Dharahara had collapsed. I found myself worrying about Ason. Luckily, nothing had happened to that neighbourhood, I learned. I tried to my call my wife, but my phone wasn’t working. I texted her saying that I was safe. I got a reply from her saying everyone was safe at home.

How did your village, in Bhojpur district, fare?  Have any of your relatives been affected by the quake?

As far as I know, all my family members and relatives back in the village are fine. But the Great Quake and its subsequent aftershocks killed two people and destroyed 3,000 houses there. That might not seem like a huge loss in comparison to those in other affected districts, but any loss is a great loss.    

What did you do next?

I came to know that my wife, son and sister were taking shelter at Occidental Public School in Anamnagar. I was relieved to hear that and we decided to go meet them. Upon reaching the school, I shifted my family to Mandala Theatre because I knew it had sufficient space and that it was the safest place to shelter in.

How many people have come to take shelter at your theatre? What was the situation like over there?

Every day over three hundred people would come to take shelter there.  We didn’t have tents or tarpaulin sheets right after the quake. But we felt it was our responsibility to save the people from the rain.  We used our drama’s flex as a roof, and people slept under it.  We also asked some of the people to move inside our theatre hall itself, because we knew it was safe in there.  All of us from the Mandala Theatre family slept inside the theatre hall and some of our friends still live there. Apart from this, for four days, we provided free meals for over 70 people who had come to take shelter. We all shared the same kitchen. That experience of living together brought us all closer and we learned to help each other.

How has the quake affected theatre artists?

Mandala Theatre has 15 core members, out of whom seven members have lost their houses to the quake. Luckily, their family members are all fine. Our artists have all gone to their villages to rebuild their houses.

Obviously, the April 25 quake and its aftermath had a great impact on the five recently established theatre halls in Kathmandu. What do think will be the quake’s long-term impact on film and drama production?

Personally, I feel that this quake is going change our history. I don’t know whether our generation is luck or unlucky. We have seen many changes in a very short span of time. First, we got the multiparty democracy system in 1990; then came the 10-year-long civil war (1996 to 2006); in between, we lived through the royal massacre, in 2001; we also abolished constitutional monarchy in the country; then we have failed to write the constitution; and now we have to live with the aftermaths of this devastating earthquake.   

All these incidents have impacted the film and theatre industry in Nepal. But I believe that this quake will perhaps have the largest impact. For now, we will have to discontinue producing films and drama the way we used to. Our main responsibility is to heal the people through our work. I am very confident that music, art, drama and film are great mediums for healing people—to help them deal with and live through the traumatic times we are going through.  

Have you and your colleagues come up with a road map for the times ahead? Do you have plans to help the quake victims?

Just four days before the second quake on May 12, all the theatre owners and artists held a meeting to talk about how we should proceed. We talked about how we needed to reach out to the public more effectively. We have decided to resume our work 45 days from the date of the Great quake. Many theatre artists have also gone to the quake-affected areas and are helping out with relief work. Our own group is also engaged with relief distribution in the affected areas.

Theatre Mall, for example, has been helping quake survivors deal with their trauma through storytelling programmes, and recently, Shilpee Theatre organised a poetry-recitation programme to raise funds for the quake victims.  Sarwanam has been collecting clothes for the quake victims, and Mandala has now scrapped all old projects, and we are working on producing plays that will help the people come to terms with the quake.    

How do you think we can prepare for earthquakes?

I don’t think we had prepared well for the recent one.  We were well aware of the risk of being hit by the big one, but were not prepared in any way. There were public service announcements on the television, radio and in newspapers to be prepared for a devastating quake like this, but I don’t think we took the warnings seriously. We Nepalis forget things easily, but we must not forget this earthquake. And we must learn to build earthquake-resistant buildings in the future.

Published: 26-05-2015 07:07

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