> Q's Countdown

10 Trained Actors
When I had just started out in theatre in Bombay, I was consistently told by many that there is no point going out and getting formal theatre training. “The level of knowledge is so advanced, you will find no practical application back home. Yes the theatre people might like it, but it will never pay the bills, nor will it pay for the cost of the course.” I sulked.

My how times have changed. Today ‘training in theatre’ is the new catch phrase. Theatre Professionals’ Intensive Drama Programme each summer has been a lifeline to many. So has the Adishakti programme which people have termed as ‘Life changing’. And then the other day I met the incredibly talented Daniel D’Souza who gleefully informed me that he had been accepted into the London School of Music & Dramatic Arts (LAMDA). How wonderful, I thought, and an incredible turn around from 15 years ago. 

Now Bombay has been a magnet for trained actors from all over the country and world. Every second NSD graduate graduates to Bombay for work, and more recently actors like Tariq Vasudeva and Kalliroi Tziafeta, etc. have made Bombay their home after arming themselves with training. But very few Bombay people have gone away, received training and come back to apply it back to Bombay theatre. Many have gone and applied their training elsewhere like Farah Bala and Karl Alphonso. 

So this month, I countdown ten theatre people originally from Bombay and then returned armed with theatre training. Here goes:

1.    Sorab Ardeshir:
Probably the first of his generation of actors to head out and seek training elsewhere. His stint at New York’s prestigious Lee Strasberg Institute refined his skills, and even today he brings diligence and craft to any role he plays. While he did get work in New York, he eventually returned and has been very popular on the Bombay theatre circuit.

2.    Rehaan Engineer:
Rehaan was the unofficial poster boy for theatre training. Him going prompted many others to follow in his place. While he trained at Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA) in London as an actor, his mark on theatre landscape has been as a director with stark productions that have always pushed boundaries. And although he now is in self imposed retirement from theatre…we refuse to believe it.

3.    Delna Mody:
Canada was Delna’s port of call. And she went for the more unique voice training. Now as a trained singer, even in opera, she returned a few years ago. Her presence back in Bombay has immediately thrown up numerous musical parts. Sound of Music, Best of Broadway, and many others have become big hits thanks to her gloriously trained voice.

4.    Yuki Ellias:
Yuki’s journey has been quite remarkable. She was first noticed as a powerful, soulful text based actress. A short stint with Atul Kumar unlocked her penchant for physical theatre. So, off she went to the premiere movement school in the world, Lecoq. After two years there, learning how to ‘melt like butter’ and other such detailed trainings, she worked in Midsummer Night’s Dream. Her thirst for further training allowed her to gain admission in another premiere movement school, LISPA. After returning to our shores, she hasn’t done too much work yet. However her workshops have been an absolute rage. We wait with baited breath to see her walk the boards.

5.    Yael Crishna:
This is one for the technical department. Yael made the strange and uncharted journey down under for her theatre education. At National Institute for the Dramatic Arts in Sydney, she learned lighting and sound and other technical and stage managerial jobs. Today she is busy designing and lighting numerous shows in Bombay…and still has a fascination for various kinds of tapes!

6.    Jehan Maneckshaw:
Jehan’s training has been long and vast. First in America for his undergraduate. He had a short stint in Bombay after as a director and designer, and then went in pursuit of a MFA in Direction to the UK. He worked there shortly and now has returned having reaped the benefits of a formalised theatre education. He has been instrumental in getting actors in Bombay to think seriously about training and riyaz.

7.    Rohit Bagai:
It seemed the unlikeliest of moves at the time. Rohit was a few plays old, and felt the need to study further. He upped and spent 3 years at London’s Guildhall. He has been back a few years, but has resisted the temptation to get onto stage. But surely that moment can’t be too far away…

8.    Scherezade Kaikobad:
She surprised everyone when she received admission into NSD. It was truly a break from the NSD tradition, taking an actor who’s resume of work was primarily in the English theatre. But after three years at India’s premiere acting programme she is back this month. Watch out Bombay!

9.    Sanjukta Wagh:
Sanjukta is a classically trained dancer. But after working with the late great Chetan Datar, she began to explore movement in theatre. A few interesting productions and experiments led her to study further. She has just returned after a year in England exploring this relationship between movement and theatre. While so far only one workshop on movement improvisation has been conducted, her next devised performance piece promises to be very exciting.
10. Shernaz Patel
Shernaz was already an accomplished actress when she went off to Glasgow for a year of formalised training. Once finished, she perhaps could have worked in the UK quite easily. But instead, and thankfully for us, she chose to return home. Her endless drive has allowed the managing of RAGE into the most prolific theatre outfit, but it is her performances that make her among Bombay’s best loved actresses.

There are also many who are still persevering to receive a formalised theatre education. Whether they decide to settle abroad or back in Bombay is anybody’s guess. But people like Daniel, Shanaya Rafaat, Rachel D’souza, Puja Sarup, Niloufer Sagar are all poised to make an impact if they return. Perhaps, one day, it will be hard to get into a play or theatre company if you don’t have a theatre degree!!!