HAPPENINGS @ FLAME

The latest happenings in the FLAME Community

Swati Simha has been bringing to light the stagnant loopholes of society through her talents as a theatre artist. Her journey from being a FLAME alumna to becoming a self-reflective theatre professional leaves us wanting to know more about this maverick expert.

Swati Simha majored in Theatre after joining the undergraduate program at FLAME. She believed that the subjects of literature and cultural studies, history, political science, and psychology had their impact and strengths. However, Theatre could bring them all full circle and center-stage to effectively influence the masses. To put it simply, Theatre engaged with the aspects of all these streams that were separated on a disciplinary level.

As she wrote, directed, and performed in Santawanam at FLAME, she reproduced and summarized what was taught in the course. It was a learning experience that one could say was rather a push in some direction instead of nothing at all. With a tingle to the senses of thought, Swati performed in the play with only one instruction – "Make Something. Anything.’

From there onward, she went on to pursue her Master’s in Intercultural Communication Studies at the Shanghai Theatre Academy. It was a group of a diverse set of people, which led Swati to simply learn from being with each other. As the program was itself intercultural, there were unstructured learning opportunities throughout, which also helped shape her journey ahead in Theatre.

Swati is at present pursuing her PhD, working on dissertation topics aimed at understanding identity formation in the Kannada public sphere. Her shift to this domain was rather gradual as she attempted to understand and examine the events happening around her. When she noticed how caste was never part of discussions, or other such topics of inquiry, Swati took them to showcase in her plays. At the moment, she is in the process of learning from several anti-caste intellectuals and the erasures are coming into effect to penetrate the way language, community, or nationality is dominantly understood. At times, managing these disciplines helps her unpack some things.

Her stints at the Royal Court Theatre, London, and the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, were more structured. It helped her to become more self-reflective in the way she approached her form of artistic performance. With the way things took a turn here, Swati started to better comprehend the principles that she had learnt so mechanically in the past. For instance, learning about Brecht or the history of theatre, which initially seemed like dull theory, started to make sense.

Her award-winning performance in the play "Echoing Chamber" won her the Toto Award in 2018. It was about how history comes forth to acquire a coherent narrative. She candidly reminisces and explains the core of the play, "In the play, a broken up and dispersed set of half-remembered utterances are spoken against a coherent narrative that is constructed and echoed back for people to memorize. The play refers to events that transpired leading up to and in the aftermath of the partition, but in south India. The Nizam had not conceded Hyderabad to the Indian state at the time, and in 1948 it was annexed through what was called "police action". It was followed by widespread violence in what are today parts of Andhra, Telangana, and Karnataka. The play is about memory and the way nationalism relies on certain kinds of memorization. "

As Swati moves on to greater strides in her journey of Theatre, she delves into the true realms of society. She has been named the Youth Ambassador for Cultural Diplomacy by the South-South Cooperation Council in coordination with UNESCO-International Theatre Institute. She talks about the significance of the initiative and the team that is working on making it operational. She is hoping to initiate and encourage some activities in India. This includes getting artists together on the same platform from different parts of the world in an increasingly polarized international scenario. She is also working on ways to encourage artists who do not hesitate to challenge what is often represented in these international forums.

Swati believes that Theatre is deeply humanizing, something that is lost in the practice of several jobs. Where most people believe that "it’s just a job" is in reality an exchange between people, no matter how many times removed. We hope to see Swati reach those great heights which only a few have dreamed of conquering.