All the world’s a stage.
Nothing is more exciting than breaking the fourth wall. Ask Kevin Spacey.
I was a movie buff, like all my friends. That’s a thing; all these film-crazy-maniacs always come in bunches. They have specific attributes too- they can remember character and actor names, not just the hero/heroines - Oh no! Those seemingly simple and/or unimportant folk who occupy screen space for like two minutes, even those. Then the incredible memory for faces. Every goddamn girl we saw – “Dude! She looks like that female…damn it! That so-and-so’s so-and-so in that so-and-so movie. Uncanny!” Pushing unceremoniously into queues to catch that first show on the release date or “… those annoying bastards would spill the suspense. Grrr!” (To put things in context, I read the entire ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series in about two weeks just because someone spoiled ‘The Red Wedding’ episode for me. I’m talking 4273 pages, but only GoT fans will understand the need).
So what about theatre?
Theatre? What about it… Uh… Theatre is like, huh, like… eh… Boring?
Fresher’s week in college changed everything. We were introduced to all the clubs and departments in college by our beloved seniors. The performing clubs- Dance, Drama, Mime and Music- put up performances welcoming talented newcomers to their gangs. There were a lot to choose from and they all demanded hard work and dedication in return.
I decided to take the plunge. Ever heard of talent being cheaper than table salt? A few rounds of inductions and brief intro/ragging sessions, and I was in the Dramatics Society of my college. So far, so brilliant- just top notch!
Theatre was something novel to me. I came from a relatively small city from a very orthodox family, which didn’t regard performing for an audience as a safe career option. Mom could hum a bit, and appreciate if I didn’t bawl out of tune at home. Dad could safely be categorised as anti-entertainment (he reads four papers a day, but I haven’t seen him praise a movie yet). So when I got inducted, I was elated. Not that I was a talent waiting to be launched or that I had rehearsed my Academy award winning speech since I was a toddler, but because of the fact that I would act. And that someone would actually come to watch me don a role was exciting, to be honest. It’s these simple narcissistic pleasures of life that drive me. *shrug* *grin*
However, I had grossly underestimated the amount of work that goes into bringing an idea to life. I had no clue about so many different forms of theatre – stage plays, street plays, one-act sketches, stand-up, physical drama, burlesques, musicals…. the list is too long.
Owing to a not-so-soft-a-voice that could be heard miles ahead if I put my throat into it, and an absence of a shame-gland; I found myself casted for street plays initially. For those who are new to the concept, traditionally street plays were used to educate, inform and inspire a change across society. I read about inspiring actors (long time afterwards though) - young students and teachers in fact - who used to go around villages and perform plays all night to educate the masses during the freedom struggle. They risked imprisonment and torture and their commitment shines through the fact that the medium still survives, almost seventy years later. Though the street art of the current day is not as dramatic and is less risky, it still holds an effervescent charm. An audience for street theatre, to be honest, would not come to ‘watch’ the play per-se. It just ‘happens’ to them. Our greatest strength lies in capturing their attention- often to their surprise. The plays are direct, loud, captivating and charming in their brevity. People dance to parodies of catchy tunes, make relatable references and force you to think- all at the same time. You can’t help but clap along to the beats of the dholak and watch in wonder.
I had always thought of stage drama as something unidirectional- you make up a few dialogues, make sure that they are hilariously funny (“thoda nan-vyeg jokes bhi daal dena”), make sure that everybody remembers when to say what, make sure to buy the right clothes, and then on the D-day, make sure to just be “natural”. Tada! But here, as aspiring theatre artists, we spent hours and hours honing our act. There were days of just script reading, analysing of characters and lines. I remember a particular session when we spent an entire afternoon deciding on how the inclusion of one particular phrase in a dialogue would change an entire storyline. I was beginning to see what passion meant.
It’s been three years till date, and I’ve learnt a lot and am still learning. I am not sure of what it holds for me in the future, but this is one of those instances where you don’t need a solid reason to back you up. When you turn up for a rehearsal and see that the room is full of people who think like you and love the stage as much or more than you, it’s like kick-starting a dynamo (excuse the engineer in me).
So next time you see a poster for a theatre production in the neighbourhood, do hop in and give them a moment. Who knows? It might change your life.
Photography By: Zubair Alam