Theatre and spoken-word enthusiast, Raina Bhattacharya experimenting with new-age forms of theatre, and creating immersive experiences. Her art mostly explores themes around gender, lgbtqia+, financial literacy for the rural poor and menstrual health. She was also one of the Top 60 youth leaders selected from all over the world for the World Forum for Democracy, organized by the council of Europe in France. This week, she talks about poetry, art and theatre and its impact on her life.
1. What are your artistic inspirations/influences specifically regarding how you approach your poetry?
My poetry, like my activism is intersectional; it draws on experiences I have had working with the rural poor as well as my experiences stemming from my identity as a woman. With my art, I hope to speak truth to power and tell compelling stories that I feel have a need to be expressed.
2. Which are some of the artists and art collectives you have collaborated with?
I am a part of a local art collective called East India Poets, and under their banner, I have been opportune enough to collaborate with some of the rising stars of spoken word poetry and theatre in the city of Guwahati and Assam. I have also collaborated with non-profits and social workers to create socially-relevant art for communities that they are working with.
3. How did you find yourself doing slam poetry and theatre?
Slam poetry and theatre have a lot in common: both these art forms aim to be subversive, speak truth to power and are accessible to everyone; they belong to the people. The idea behind art is to change society; while Slam poetry is driven by individual contribution, theatre is more collaborative. Both art forms demand that you question the status quo; and protest in the right way.
4. If you could share one suggestion in which our independent art scene could be made more solid or something you would like to change about it, what would that be?
In Assam, I feel the independent art scene needs more mentors and role models. We need a model of learning that is still absent: while everyone is experimenting and coming up with brilliant artwork, we need to grow and our art needs to be more mature. It is time some of the older and more experienced artists are roped in for mentoring, while keeping the space as equal and accessible as it is currently.
5. What are your opinions on the modern slam poetry and independent creative writing scene in the NE, some heads up about artists that people can follow?
I think the poetry and independent art scene is very new and consequently experimental; and that is one of the biggest advantages of being a part of this scene. There is scope for taking risks and there is space to grow as an artist, and chance of more visibility. I feel the scene will grow in the next few months; in terms of inclusivity, experimentation and visibility.
6. What is next for you?
In the future, I hope to experiment with new-age forms of theatre and create new performances which have been hitherto unexplored. Since we are moving into the online space with Covid-19, I would also like to see how I can create compelling and innovative performances in the online domain