THE WORLD IS YOUR OYSTER
Why do you do theatre, I ask?
He simply answered, “storytelling”.
What about theatre do you like the most, I ask?
“Every performance is different. It is always unique.”
This 20 year old, young lean boy had a perspective about theatre, that was extremely
fascinating. Adi Shastri, lighting designer, sound operator, an aspiring actor and director thinks this world is his oyster, and he sure is damn right! Born and brought up in Mumbai, Adi was introduced to theatre by accident, but he stayed by choice. At 15, he was bored at home, and wanted to do something worthwhile in life, who knew it would lead him to theatre, and he would find his calling.
Adi started lighting only 2 years back, but in his light designing career, he has already designed lights for 10 productions and it’s only the beginning. His first play, ‘Lihaaf’ by Tricycle Productions, received acclaim for the lights. He has the ability to create characters through his lights.
Having seen Adi develop as a lighting designer, I wonder how he sees his growth curve. Surprisingly, what follows is not what I was expecting. As he continues to light more and more, he finds it more difficult to design. He explains, “When I started off, it was difficult for me to translate my thoughts on paper, but now, as I have learnt more techniques and have gained more experience, that comes naturally to me. The problem is, I can’t stop experimenting with lights. And, of course I overthink it!”
While we both laugh at the universal problem of overthinking, I realize what he means. Adi brings a level of maturity through his lighting, and you would never guess a 20 year old has lit the plays he has. From The Company Theatre’s “This is all there is, when there is all this” to the plays like, “Dead Poets Society”, “The Show”, Adi has a variety of plays under his belt. The calmness and the warmth that he brings to the stage is absolutely the opposite of what he is, if you ever bump into him backstage before a show! But, I am sure it is nerve-wrecking to be the youngest in the team.
What I love most about this young light designer though, is the balance he strives to achieve between work and play. While, this bubbly, energetic kid brings life into any room or party he walks into, he is the same kid that isolates himself, brings clarity and reason in a rehearsal room. As he points out about the stage and the rehearsal rooms –
“You can’t lie here. Being true to yourself is the only thing that will keep you going.”
It is inspiring to see such an enthu-cutlet, aiming for the stars. “I want to do everything I can”, he exclaims. And he very well is on his way to achieve that, already at his age. In his 6 years of theatre life (Yes, envious right?), he has tried his hands at acting, has trained children in basics of lighting, aspires to become a director and wants to try his hand at sound designing too!
Theatre sahi cheez hai, he thinks aloud. Sahi toh hai, and people like Adi are making theatre cool. Can’t wait to watch his next production!
– Srishti Ray
NIRMITI CHA JAADU!
Amol Salve, Monica Bankar, Pramod Kasbe and Vinod Garud found their passion as they created the theatre group – Nirmiti Rangmanch.
I have always been a sucker for the heartwarming, feel-good kind of stories. The kind that reaffirms your belief in the triumph of effort and sincerity. Especially when they are real life stories. So of course I had to find out all about the exceptional group of young theatre makers whose work moved the audience of Thespo 19 to happy tears and thunderous rounds of applause. The group whose play ‘Khataara’ went beyond any language and struck a chord among all our hearts with its genuine emotions.
Their journey is inspiring and their passion for their art is evident.
“The four of us met at a play we were working on together. We had all been doing theatre for a bit by then. But something was missing, that feeling of contentment when doing our own work, exploring our own questions and discovering the answers for ourselves. That’s when we started Nirmiti Rangmanch four years back.”
Today, with twelve productions under its belt, Nirmiti is creating waves. “All our productions so far are original pieces. Something we had observed was that when depicting rural life, most existing plays found it hard to let go of stereotypes. The father would be a drunkard, beating his wife and children, the women would have no voice and so on and so forth. But that isn’t the only reality. We wanted our work to showcase the life we have observed around us growing up.”
Just as organic as the stories they wish to tell, is the process with which they work. “Among the many activities we do is something as simple as a circle we gather around in and pitch in ideas. Every one of us contributes the things or incidents that have piqued our interest and get the ball rolling from there. These are usually socially or politically relevant subjects that we see around us or read about. Once one of us begins writing it, everyone offers bits that relate to them individually: memories and experiences. So more often than not the end product maybe the words of one, but is really a figment of each one of us.”
And the members are more than just collaborators. Anyone who has had a chance to interact with them can vouch for the fact that Nirmiti is everything a good team should be. “We are all like one big family. Theatre is our blood relation. There is rarely a day that goes by when all of us don’t hang out together.”
I wonder if this close bond ever comes in the way of their professional relationship. What is the group dynamic like? “Of course we are sometimes plagued with the emotional versus practical aspects of tough decisions but we have to eventually do what is best for the team. We have a strong democracy and each opinion is given due consideration but sometimes a few of us have to take the tough call. However the pros of our relationship outweigh the cons any day.”
One thing that doesn’t fail to stand out about Nirmiti is their strong connection to their roots, the conviction with which they stay true to who they are and where they come from.
“Back home the theatre scene is not particularly developed. Beyond competitions at college and district level, there is rarely a theatre event or a show put up. The concept of doing a theatre production as its own entity only barely exists. One of the things we are really working towards is developing a more active theatre going audience here. And to get people to begin appreciating theatre irrespective of any star presence, our best bet is continue to do quality work.”
With only competitions as their basis to learn, members of the team would travel to nearby cities like Pune to catch shows of commercial theatre groups. “We soon realised there was a whole world of technicalities waiting for us to explore. We are still a far cry from understanding the nuances of lights, set design, etc.” Luckily for them, Nirmiti has always had a support system in the form of individuals who believe in the power of theatre and specially in the work that they do. “In addition to the lovely people who have nudged us along the way with their practical support, there are also a few theatre professionals, originally from Ahmednagar, who often help us and guide us with their experience. Simple things like conducting workshops to train our members and introducing us to seminal playwrights and pieces of literature have gone a long way towards opening our minds to endless possibilities.”
There are certainly exciting times ahead for Nirmiti Rangmanch. “One of our biggest goals is to create a sustainable theatre ecosystem. Our success so far has been hugely gratifying but we are not here to be a one hit wonder. When we started out we didn’t have the access to the right platform or even resources. We want to ensure that Nirmiti satisfies that very requirement for the coming generations of theatre talent in this town.”
There is a lot we can all learn from Nirmiti Rangmanch. Perseverance, humility and sincerity being just a few of those things. But what is it that keeps them going on their path? “We once had a show in Akola. Among the audience were ten blind people. What was incredible was their effortless engagement with the show. Despite not having what we thought was the primary sensory requirement for enjoying theatre, these people seemed to be grasping the very essence of the performance.
This was just one of the instances where we had realised the immense power of theatre and how much bigger it is than anyone of us. This is why we do what we do and will continue to do so.”
– Esha Patil
NAMASKAAR, SASRIAKAAL , ADAB
Theatre has always prided itself in being a medium that makes a difference, that is unafraid to speak the truth. And Delhi’s Sri Venkateswara College’s theatre group Anubhuti is no stranger to this concept. Focusing largely on street play, Anubhuti has achieved success in both providing entertainment through theatre, and making a social impact. We spoke with the President of Anubhuti, Anish Bhat, who told us more about the art of street play, the challenges that his group has faced during the year, and their well-acclaimed play, ‘A,’ that has bagged many accolades and fame since the year began.
SVC’s Anubhuti has made quite a name for itself this year and last, seamlessly winning 80% of the competitions in which they have participated, and placing in the remaining 20%. Anish Bhat, now in his third year at SVC, proudly told us that Anubhuti was revived in college when he was in his first year. This means that within a mere span of two years, the dramatics society has reached the level of veteran theatre societies, garnering recognition and respect for themselves everywhere they went.
‘A’, Anubhati’s well-acclaimed street play that has received lots of appreciation and prizes in 2017, is one that makes people question the rigorous categorisation of sexuality and gender. Anubhuti displays the socialisation of a human being right from birth, by their family, school, society etc, all of which pressurise the once innocent child to become, in Bhat’s words, a “kattarwadi insaan”. They are later challenged by a narrator, who also provokes the audience to break free from the shackles of heteronormativity.
Bhat told us that the ideation of ‘A’ was no easy process Their brainstorming session began in July 2016, during which each of the 25 member society had to bring their own ideas to the discussion. Each idea was discussed in detail, before narrowing it down to Sex Ed, and then finally broadening the topic to Sexuality. The brainstorming, researching and writing period lasted for two months — and Anubhuti was ready with the play by mid-September. Ultimately, it was strong communication and coordination within their society that induced teamwork, guaranteeing all-round success.
When asked what it was about the form of the street play that inspired them to speak up about sexuality, Bhat said it is one of the most direct artforms that reaches people. The taboos around sexuality interact with and obstruct people’s daily lives, and ‘A’ mirrors this reality by bringing drama onto the streets. The street play is a useful medium to speak up, be heard, and acknowledged. Bhat stressed that contrary to the stage play, in a street play, the performers go to the people. Anubhuti has performed at colleges, on the streets, at NGOs, in urban as well as rural areas. People of all classes, sexes, ages, and races are therefore audience to this play
Street plays reach a wider range of people, people who do not necessarily have the means to attend a stage play. Information about the violence committed by tabooing and restricting sexuality reaches all people, and enables them to think and question.
However, Anubhuti has interacted with the curse of censorship, which Bhat claims to be a challenge to the form and content of street plays. While street plays are meant to be explicit, and blatantly honest they are often obstructed by various organisations, political groups, and even college authorities. Anubhuti has also been stopped in the middle of performing ‘A’, simply because certain groups objected to the content. Yet, they remain unfazed. Bhat holds that it is most important to speak the truth, to continue conveying the message they intend to.
Anubhuti did not fear of censorship, and so far, have won most of the competitions in which they participated.
While winning competitions is important, Bhat says that it is more gratifying when the social message they are conveying is heard, and responded to positively. ‘A’ portrays homosexuals, transgenders, and others who have been victim to the taboos that govern society. Bhat told us that Anubhuti received personal messages from transgenders and homosexuals who watched the play and connected with some of the scenes.
“They were just happy that someone was talking about this” says Bhat. For Anubhuti, this is what motivates them to fight obstruction and continue doing what they do. For the rest of the year, Anubhuti is ready to explore more territories in theatre through two productions — one stage play, and one street. Bhat says they are excited to continue doing what they do: spread positive social messages through entertainment. It is satisfying to know that youth theatre today remains professional, well-intentional, and unafraid to speak up.