BWW Interview: KAMAL PRUTHI POPULARLY KNOWN AS KABULIWALA on his Europe Performance tour
Kamal Pruthi popularly known as Kabuliwala is an actor, director, lyricist, literary translator and a renowned Performance Storyteller of India. He is the creator of Kabuliwala folk format of performance storytelling and became the pied piper for children. Kamal is a vagabond of sorts who flies on a magical carpet and carries a long bag of stories on his shoulder. He is a true polyglot who performs in 7 languages and changes characters with a wink of an eye. He has represented India Internationally in Germany, Poland, Bangladesh, Hungary and other countries through 9 international scholarships and 3 international awards including the Rex Karmaveer Chakra Award.
A wanderer Kabuliwala has so far travelled 9 countries and 13 states of India with more than 300 power packed theatrical performances and joyful workshops. The performer was recently on a Europe tour and talks to BWW about the his recent Europe tour of live Performances and Workshops. He represented India as German Hindi Literary Translator for the 2nd time in Germany.
Excerpts from the interview
After Kabuliwala and Bahrupiya, your new name seems to be a Suitcase Performer. How difficult is it to be a suitcase performer?
Unlike in India, where the biggest risk for me as a performer at the airport is the size of my suitcase that bears the weight of props, costumes, musical instruments, turbans, regular clothes, gifts, wines etc., internationally, one is allowed to carry two suitcases as check-in baggage. I got to know this fact at the airport and though I had travelled with one suitcase to Budapest, I arrived back with two. In the haste of packing stuff, I actually forgot to pack a few key props and an important turban in my suitcase. But God was by my side when my Iranian theatre friend Samira Sinai, daughter of the renowned film maker from Iran, came to my rescue. She opened all her closets and I got the choice to choose some interesting new props, a turban and musical instruments. While travelling from the beautiful city of Berlin to Budapest, I soon found a company of my Iranian artist friend in Budapest, who read my Facebook post about my current location, and offered me become her Airbnb guest. Since I don't do too many prior bookings, I ended up spending 4 days at her place as her guest. In the serenity of her artistic house I got the favorable environment that I was looking for and devoted the best of my creative energies to my work.
Any interesting experiences you would like to share from your Performance tours of Europe?
Last time I slept on a bench for a night in Belgium. This time, my first night in Germany, I slept at the Hamburg Airport. All this happens unintentionally and that's why I say I'm always blessed with interesting stories to narrate. Any experience, any problematic situation for me is an interesting story and I accept it with a smile and open arms.While I got to experience Moscow's Popular airline Aeroflot for the first time, they did not send my suitcase to Hamburg. If this was not all, my Airbnb host turned out to be a fraud. They never sent me their address even though the money was already transferred into their account. With the savings I had with me, I could manage to find a reasonable hotel stay for a night and gather a real story for a lifetime. My mobile phone also stopped functioning soon after I landed. However, the unavailability of mobile phone was one of the most beautiful things that happened during this tour. It enabled me to lead a journey into my own self and expose my most creative side to the outside world. However, in Hungary, where it is impossible to learn the names of the streets and one must use GPS to navigate around the streets, it often became a challenge to move around without the mobile phone. But like always, I embraced this challenge with open arms. All the communication related to the performances, artistic meetings and workshops used to happen through laptop late at night after returning from the city. Another alternative of accessing internet was in the Flixbus while travelling from one city to the other.
Do you get governmental support to travel abroad for performances and workshops?
Though in the last 20 years I have neither applied nor received any kind of governmental support, it would be nice if I could get support from Indian government for my work. I was made an artist primarily by my audiences, who keep spreading the good word of my work. The credibility of my shows is proven through my loving and cheerful audience and the constant and unconditional media support.
What kind of support are you looking for to organize such performance tours in Europe?
Friends who live abroad must unite and keep organizing and inviting Indian artists every now and then. This way not only will they be able to substantially contribute in promoting Indian art forms at the world forum but also help the fellow upcoming artists.
Tell us about the performance-based workshops you conducted.
The actual outcome of the workshop was such that the participants were so engrossed in the workshop activities that they didn't realize when the time got over and when I slipped out of the workshop and headed for the next one. This, in my opinion, is the desired outcome, that people make the workshop activities part of their everyday lives. The games that we play, the discussions we do, every single activity, which is undertaken in the workshop plays a pivotal role in touching the lives of the artists in its special and preparing them for their next performance. This workshop was the 3rd workshop in Budapest and we organized it on the spot. The main challenge was that due to short notice only 6 participants turned up. Nevertheless, we had great fun.
Houseful workshop I was initially concerned to see 2-3 bulky middle-aged ladies entering the workshop hall. My concern grew higher when one of them asked me if she can take a chair and sit on one side, which I usually don't allow in any of my workshops. All my workshops are activities oriented and there is no requirement of a formal seating arrangement. The constellation of the workshop hall keeps changing every 10 minutes depending on the activity. Towards the end of the workshop, the whole group turned out to be highly energetic. No one wanted to sit!
Which was your best workshop out of all these workshops?
By the end of this, you'll get the answer of this question not in straight terms though.
While the term workshop is very fancy and sounds like bizarre activities happen in there. But it's much deeper for me. It is all about delivering and changing the thought process, making people uncomfortable with fun, so that they are adaptable to learn new stuff. When a learner enters the workshop hall or the class room, he must be more excited to meet up the trainer than do the actual learning, because the real source of the learning is the Guru and that makes all the difference. Source of cooking is the gas stove, if it is not switched on, how will one cook? The trainer-trainee relationship is something like that and plays a very important role in the learning process. I switch on that burner and build that trust in a few minutes and that fire, that trust stays there for the whole life! The intention of the Guru to teach his/her shishya is also questionable. You know the story of Guru Dronacharya and Eklavya already. I don't have to repeat it for you.