Being Worthy of the Eternal Measure
Hamvas said that human life has meaning only if it has something worth sacrificing. Our nation has understood and felt it for centuries, and thus lived in such a manner. Today, in the chains of devaluated taste, piled with a loud cacophony given as anesthesia, many landmarks have been lost. As some earlier generations have already done so, it is time to impose the audience a higher criteria of observing things. Perhaps this sounds anachronous and as pamphleteering to some today, but things can be reduced to one simple question: is the vow my ancestors defended with their lives significant for me or not? Based on the answer, each one of us can measure their own self

By: Dejan Bulajić
Photo: Dragan Bosnić and guest’s archive

Art used to have the power of a cult. It carried the boldness of changes, gave a different character and signpost to times. Perhaps it’s because it belonged to the brave and talented ones, who certainly also exist today. One of them, actor, film director, professor, Nebojša Dugalić, is aware that contemporary art has in most part identified itself with the time; it imitates and follows it, without particular talent, because the actual era doesn’t really insist on talent. When it wakes up, it wishes to capriciously destroy borders and clash with old models.
– Novelties are presently imposed almost like an obligation, at any cost. It used to be more natural earlier, so maturing of art was more in harmony with the natural maturing of the human. Today it seems that we understand everything, that we have surpassed our heritage, so we can deal only with exploring new expressions. It just isn’t so. In order for a human to make a step forward, he needs to pass the entire road art has passed and seriously study all areas and ways art has expressed itself in, and only then see where he could go further. There is easiness, even thoughtlessness, which very easily transfers into superficial exhibitionism. I am convinced, however, that art is relentless and that all those unnatural digressions are short-winded.

All that often brings the audience into a state of confusion, because it finds it hard to orient itself between light entertainment and hermetic contents?
– The taste of the audience is devaluated by the multitude of contents we receive through the media. The system of light, entertaining, pastime is imposed, something that doesn’t invite to something serious, to contemplating and questioning ourselves. It’s a diversion used for anesthetically quieting down our constantly bad mood. When you have such a situation, real art looks for a way to answer and defend itself, so everything slowly turns into a vicious cycle. I think such resistance is proof of the essential strength of art and strength of the spirit. The spirit will stay alive for something more permanent as long as it can resist such pressures.

How long will we resist the media being imposed as an instant replacement of art?
– The people meter is usually mentioned as the criterion – ratings and similar things. It is important financially and represents a kind of an indicator. It seems to me, however, that it’s time to do what some previous generations have already done at their time: imposing criteria, imposing the spirit of something of higher quality and more serious. I am convinced everyone will accept it, because if you offer something better, it’ll be adopted. In substance, we are no worse than generations that matured in past times with outstanding cultural contents. The time has come to take an opposite way – not to monitor the highest ratings and push them, but to impose the audience a higher criterion of observing things.


Based on the stated impressions, can we speak about the essential features of the nation, or is it a subject which can, in the time such as ours, pull us into the risk of banal analyses?
– There are circumstances in which a nation surprises itself with its reactions, and then fails compared to its real potentials. In that aspect, we can always expect big oscillations. It’s more important that an individual as a being is made of great potential, which he or she needs to discover and be aware of them. What’s more important, those responsible for providing chances for everyone to express their best potentials have to enable the way and space for realizing such an objective. The problem is that there’s very little consideration of such things. Those leading this country must invest much more serious work in that field. This is a time of general crisis, people are obsessed with survival. Someone thinking about a slice of bread will hardly think about art. Those are issues for people who are not hungry. From that aspect, I understand the people’s need for the lightest contents, which will quickly make their mood better. However, we don’t question ourselves this way. I’m convinced that, if human beings would start asking questions about themselves, many things would change. Every move for the better takes place only when a human being changes something within. Then the worlds around us change as well. Before we start from there, other things will not be put together in the right way.

Questioning oneself would undoubtedly bring us to the dilemma how free we actually are, as individuals and as parts of a whole?
– When we say freedom, we first think about how unfree we are. Freedom is an unattainable dream of people, which will never be realized, because we’re blocked by unfreedoms, both from the inside and the outside. While we are classifying ourselves within those chains, our life passes and we don’t realize anything. Furthermore, an important aspect of freedom is our interpretation of reality. We can become free, in relation to it, only when we begin revealing reality and find the meaning of beauty and duration. When we find something we can love, in an environment surrounding us, only then we stop being in conflict with that environment and turn it into something creative, in which we can recognize ourselves. Our greatest unfreedom comes from the fact that a human being doesn’t find himself in what he’s in. He doesn’t see his place in it.


If, in an encounter with himself, a human being discovers longing for beauty, width and meaning of virtue, and a constant need to guard it – isn’t it an indication of his encounter with God?
– God constantly knocks on the door of the human heart, but when His seed will be conceived in our heart is a mystery of such size, that we should only be silent about it. However, even when the revelation takes place, it’s only the beginning of the journey. It’s a seed that needs to be cherished, it’s strenuous and hard work, because only then we understand how much we need to clean up within ourselves, so that something so magnificent would inhabit us permanently, representing the foundations of our being. That’s where the beauty lies, because it is the space of revealing and maturing of a human being, understanding the meaning and purpose of any being, including myself as I am. We find such revelations in our response to God. In our relation with God, through our relations with the world, we find different starting points of our lifetime in the world.

Can that make us review the measure of our identity, the awareness of the roots we belong to and how deep the roots are planted in the honorable cross and golden freedom?
– It is the crucial dictation of our being, which our nation has spontaneously felt for centuries, implying that we shouldn’t be detached from our connection with holiness; that no one should be unworthy of such a measure, that, if necessary, they should sacrifice their life for it. When we say this in a time of general relativisms, such as ours, when everything can be both this and that, it seems anachronous, almost as a political pamphlet. The thing is actually whether that vow, built by my ancestors with blood, has significance for me or not? Am I respecting it? Even if they were wrong, someone risked their life for that value, and now someone else, corresponding to the measures of contemporary age, brings it into question. Bela Hamvas said that human life has meaning only if it has something worth sacrificing it. The measure of our lives must be a measure which goes beyond life. Of course, we can also live differently. However, if we completely renounce such a longing, we’ll never reach the answer about the meaning of our existence.

Did the signpost, which led you towards art through painting, music and literature, justify your expectations?
– Expectations never correspond with what happens on the journey. I felt a wish to do it, but I never anticipated what I would confront. There were both wonderful and not so nice surprises. Some revelations failed compared to what I expected, while others helped me perceive further and more brilliant spaces. That’s good, however, because one defines their criteria in the variety of good and bad, and learns to make a difference between seemingly same things.


In your twenty-six year long career, you had many supreme acting achievements?
– In an ocean of different experiences, it’s difficult to single out the special ones. However, some of the plays were especially important for me. First of all, Life Is a Dream and Masque, directed by Nikita Milivojević, because they were important beginnings with big roles. Then followed Idiot, directed by Stevo Žigon, and the role of Prince Mishkin. The experience of working with Stevo is outstanding. He was an incredible artist and human being. People with a feeling for acting and directing, such as his was, are very rare. Damned Yard was a step forward compared to what I have done previously.Very dear to me was also the play which attracted lessattention than it deserved – Beast on the Moon, directed by Nebojša Bradić – a touching story about the suffering of Armenians from the Turks, starring late Đuza Stojiljković and Paolina Manov. I remember that the audience applauded with restraint at the end of the play, strongly impressed bythe story. As if they thought applauding was inappropriate. Very important to me is the Confession of Dmitry Karamazov, my final, graduate exam, which was part of the”Golden Night” festival in Moscow, now still performed in ”Madlenianum”. I should certainly also mention musicals I like to play. Currently actual are Les Miserables, Producers and Zona Zamfirova. It’s one of the most difficult challenges, because the actor has to dance, sing and speak on stage, and do all that on a high level, without burdens, with pleasure and easiness, which really isn’t easy at all.

You also have a rich directing career behind you?
– Yes, I had such projects, which I’m really proud of, because directing confronted me with works of drama masters such as Czechov, Ibzen, Andrić, Stanković. I experienced them as an actor in a long period of time. Directing imposes responsibility for everything seen on stage. The point is in perceiving the same thing from several different angles, and yet again achieving the wholeness of the script. I reached the maximum of my abilities there. Višnjik, Per Gint, Pavilion no. 6, Omer Pasha Latas – these are plays I’d single out for their significance, sign them and fit entirely into that signature.


Born in 1970 in Kraljevo. Graduated at the Faculty of Drama in Belgrade in 1994, in the class of Professor Vladimir Jevtović. Played in the National Theater, Belgrade Drama and Yugoslav Drama theaters, Atelje 212, Bitef Theater, Madlenianum, Kraljevo theater… He had numerous TV, radio and film roles. Chief of acting class at the Faculty of Drama in Belgrade since 1998, associate professor since 2001 and full-time professor since 2007.
Member of the Association of Drama Artists of Serbia. Winner of numerous reputable acting and directing awards (four ”Golden Knights” in Moscow, from 2006 to 2012, several ”Zoran Radmilović”, ”Zoranov brk”, ”Miloš Žutić” awards, annual awards of the National Theater and Yugoslav Drama Theater, annual award of Belgrade in 2013. (...)
Married to actress Dragana Dugalić, father of five children.


Solitude and Loneliness
– Solitude is an important area, but it’s also important how we determine ourselves towards it. If solitude is running away and closing the window before ourselves, then it’s the same whether we’re alone or not. In order for a human being to be able to concentrate on another human being, they must first have time for charging with their own selves, for internal building, for maturing with which they will stand before the other. We form ourselves only through others. Today’s question of solitude is more a question of loneliness, because people don’t recognize the architectural and nutritional in the exchange with others. Solitude is necessary and loneliness is painful.


– Fortunately, there are still investments in theater, because otherwise it couldn’t survive. Compared to movies, for example, the situation is somewhat more comfortable. Plays are still performed, there is still enthusiasm to make something serious, thorough, new, fresh, correct. There is a need of people to walk deeply through the spaces of their testimonies.


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