Why I Do 'Theatre'
I've been part of the theatre scene for 9 years running now. Its all I do. However a lot of people still do not fully understand what I do for a living, namely , 80% of the people in my building and 92% of my relatives (statistics are my strong point, even though I flunked maths). They don't ever watch plays and I’m sure as hell that when I’ve told them what I do in life they must be thinking:- “oh, theatre ?? as in ‘Fame Adlabs’ theatre ???
So one night, at the start of this year, I wondered why I do theatre. When so many people are clueless about what I do, or imagine me serving popcorn or cleaning urinals at multiplexes, why am I still here??? I thought really hard, and fleshed out these five reasons :-
One:- 2002, while still in the middle of my acting course, I perform for an Inter-Collegiate drama competition. The play was, ‘The Man Who Wouldn’t Go To Heaven’, and completely against my wishes I was playing an angel sitting at the gates of heaven. White robe, plastic wings, metallic halo, the works (No, nobody took photographs, ha-ha !! ) At the awards ceremony, came a shock to the entire team, I win Third Best Actor. No one, not even me, understood how and why, it was the first time in my life where ‘someone’ thought I was good at something. Undoubtedly the first happy memory I have with regards to theatre, immediately followed by multiple hugs and kisses from my Mum and a celebratory dinner at Modern Lunch Home (Parel).
Two:- 2003, my play for Thespo ‘The Trial’, a week before our Thespo show we held a performance at my college auditorium, I am performing with a broken leg, walking stick in hand and lack of confidence in heart. Show happens, curtain call time, our Director calls out names of each individual actor…. When my name is called out and just as I’m about to bow to the crowd, thunderous applause, girls whistling, people screaming out my last name….. To make it clear, I’d spent an entire year in the Literature Department being meek and keeping to myself, the teachers bullied me, the syllabus raped me, my classmates ….. oh wait, they were nice to me. But no one really saw me as courageous enough to be an actor on stage, but there I was, hopping around (literally, broken foot remember?) playing multiple parts and just having fun. Everyone, even my Mum wondered where this confidence was coming from. And then, the one Lady Professor who was nice and genuinely fond of me walked upto my Mum and told her, “your son has found his calling, please make sure you support him wholeheartedly in this. I have never seen him so confident before. The stage seems to bring out the best in him”. Thank you ma’am.
Three:- 2006, the first baby of Le Chayim, ‘Confessions’ travels to Bangalore for our opening show at Thespo. At the awards ceremony we win 2 acting awards and ofcourse ‘Best Play’. Oh god !!! the shock, the amazement, the screaming ! Amidst the group hugs and tears someone yells “how did this happen” ??? (still don’t know who said that) really, how did that happen? We never set out to actually win anything, we were just trying to put up a good show, I mean look at who we were; an engineering student struggling with his exams, a Thane resident struggling through the crowd at Kunjvihar vada pav stall, a storyboard artist struggling to get a room with the light girl, a light girl struggling to break all the rules pinned up in our room at the Aurobindo Ashram, a former Restaurant manager struggling to make the light girl behave, and me….. struggling with life in general. But we won ! And we’ll always be proud of that moment.
Four:- 2009, my bestest friend in the world comes to see me perform in ‘A Special Bond -2’, where I’m playing Suraj, a 9yr old sardar kid living in the hills who is constantly hungry, fails in his exams, and is a full-on coward. In her feedback to me, my bestest friend and her husband tell me that I am a pleasure to watch on stage, and even though there is hardly any acting involved when I’m playing a kid, its great to see me so confident and having fun. I am reminded of what my Lit Professor told my Mum six years earlier, and it makes me smile. It feels good to know that I’m still good at it, and perhaps even getting better at it. The passion hasn’t died, thankfully.
Five:- 6th July 2010, Thespo at Prithvi, ‘Confessions’ 9pm show. The show has just gotten over, a semi decent house, the actors are backstage breathing heavily looking at me and wondering how the show went. Then, into backstage walks an elderly gentleman, he is gleaming and looks a little stunned. He walks right up to us, congratulates us, shakes our hands tightly, calls his wife and two daughters backstage and introduces them to us and proceeds to tell us, “why do we spend 300-400 rupees on rubbish bollywood movies when we have people like you? Giving us so much more for only 80/- ?? “ And with a final handshake and a broad smile, him and his family say goodbye and leave. My team and I are still standing there, looking at each other, smiling nervously, perhaps too afraid to accept the compliment, because its too good to be true.
Well, that’s it. I guess, as long as I know that what I'm doing is leaving an impact on 'someone' and as long as I'm aware that I 'am' good at something, why 'shouldn't' I do what I do eh?? I guess I'll just have to leave my building people with the hope that one day, when they go to see Prakash Jha's latest 'gem', I'll be the one ushering them to their seats.