Watch a Tibetan theatre performance on their non-violent freedom struggle in their language

19 March,2023 06:35 AM IST |  Mumbai  |  Sharanya Kumar

Pah-Lak, a critically acclaimed Tibetan theatre production, creates awareness about the suffering of Tibetans under Chinese occupation since 1959

Tibetan theatre

The Tibetan struggle for freedom is the only example of non-violent struggle in this world and if that is also lost some day, there will be no more examples of non-violence in this world, says Tibetan director Lhakpa Tsering. It is this message of non-violence that Pah-Lak (Tibetan for ‘Father*) aims to convey. Originally an English play developed by Indian theatre director and playwright Abhishek Majumdar through extensive research in Tibet, Pah-Lak was later realised as a Tibetan production by Lhakpa Tsering (who translated it to Tibetan) and German theatre director Harry Fuhrmann. And now, after its premiere at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts in October 2022, Pah-Lak is being hosted at the NCPA as part of its second tour across various urban cities and Tibetan settlements in India.

The play is set in a remote village in eastern Tibet and follows Deshar, a self-confident young woman who has chosen to live as a Buddhist nun. When her freedom is threatened by Chinese authorities, her sense of powerlessness in the face of permanent oppression leads down the path of ultimate non-violence. Featuring Tibetan actors and musicians, Pah-Lak is a collaboration between the NCPA, Tibet Theatre and the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA). It is the biggest theatre tour for a Tibetan play performed by an all-Tibetan cast, empowering Tibetans to tell their story in their own language, their own voice. The show also inspires audiences to engage with Tibetan culture and history, and actively support the community*s resistance against decades of oppression. We had a brief chat with director Lhakpa Tsering, whose passion for the play and the cause it represents shone through in all his responses.

Excerpts from an interview.

With an Indian playwright, and Tibetan and German directors - how did the multi-cultural background of the creative team form the production of the play?
We may be from different cultures and races, but we are all united in the cause of the Tibetan Struggle for Freedom. With the common goal of providing a platform for this issue, we all came together very easily.

Lhakpa Tsering

Did you have to make any changes to the play before presenting it before an Indian audience?
The show is exactly the same for all audiences. The Tibetan struggle is not only for Tibetans. It is also very important for the security of India. After all, before the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1959, there was no border between Tibet and India. The only thing that we do is add English subtitles so the audience can understand the text. But people have often told us they did not need it!

What has been your experience bringing the show to Mumbai?
Mumbai is one of the biggest theatre cities in India with an audience from all over the country. We have performed two housefull shows at the Prithvi Festival and the response was overwhelming. We believe this is a great platform to showcase our art and raise awareness about our cause.

Watching a foreign-language play with subtitles is still a relatively new experience in India. Do you see this as a hurdle?
I believe that art doesn*t have a specific language. You can understand half the play through the expressions of the artists, and the other half through the subtitles. In my experience so far, our message reaches the audience very easily.

Pah-lak will be followed by an open-ended audience interaction, which will offer Tibetans a platform to make their experiences and demands heard. The region is currently facing human rights violations, ecological disasters and Chinese attempts to force Tibetans to assimilate by extinguishing their unique culture, language and religion. In this world that is becoming increasingly volatile, Pah-lak*s emphasis on non-violence is more meaningful than ever. Do catch the play this week and open up your heart to the Tibetan cause.

When: On March 25, 7 PM
Where: Experimental Theatre, NCPA
Price: Rs 450 onwards (Members); Rs 500 onwards (Public)
To book: NCPA Box Office or BookMyShow

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