Creating magic on stage

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world theater day
A scene from Bhanvar, co-written and directed by Virajas Kulkarni

Every moment you spend in any artistic creation is a celebration for an artist. This day, March 27, is celebrated as World Theater Day. Here are young theater artists, who want to evolve as an artist with the ever-growing performing art form of theater.

On World Theater Day today, we talk to young theater artists  

Right from conceptualizing an idea or a story; living an extraordinary character for the time being; complementing the visual delight unfolding on stage with music and varied hues of lights- every nuance of theater an artist holds close to his or her heart.

world theater day

While some enjoy an old school drama, with a story that unfolds in a linear fashion, there are others who like to break all such conventional parameters. There are theater artists, young and old alike, whose hearts burn with a phenomenal idea, which they shape up in their own style. They are the ones, who want to explore and enjoy the growing theatrical dimensions. They put their heart and soul in experiencing their muse, the stage.

Giving us a peek into their theatrical world are four young theater artists, some of whom are now treading their path into cinema too. Theater actors Abhay Mahajan, Ipshita Chakraborty-Singh, Sayalee Phatak, and Virajas Kulkarni, who is also a theater director and writer, have all made a mark with their interesting body of work. They have been a part of renowned theater groups and have performed not just in the country but abroad too.

On the occasion of World Theater Day, they tell us about the thrill of experimenting in theater, making theater more of an experience, breaking free of the age-old traditions, among other aspects.

Oscar Wilde’s this quote makes so much sense, “I regard the theater as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.” 

Ideas work wonders

Over the years, theater has evolved into an array of theater forms. Today, there is something like physical theater, which is primarily a silent play depicted through body movements and gestures.

world theater day
Abhay Mahajan in Khwaab-Sa

So what is it that interests these young artists? Abhay Mahajan, who has been a part of remarkable plays such as ‘Khwaab-Sa’, ‘A Friend’s Story’, ‘Bin Kamache Sanvad’, among others, says, “I want to be a part of a project that would excite me as a viewer. I believe a playwright comes up with a new idea or concept and not a thought. Right now what is happening is that most people are coming up with many thoughts. However, a writer’s job is to come up with ideas because, ideas are much bigger. So, that’s the kind of plays which challenge my ideas about world; they excite me.”

Experiment to explore

These youngsters uphold that it’s the content that matters to them and the novelty in its treatment.

world theater day
Ipshita Chakraborty Singh

Ipshita Chakraborty has worked in director Mohit Takalkar’s plays ‘Mein Huun Yusuf aur Ye Hai Mera Bhai’ and recently ‘Mathemagician’, a solo act, and director Abhishek Majumdar’s ‘Muktidham’. She mentions that these directors are one of those who are regularly doing experiments in theater, based on good text.

world theater day
Chakraborty in Muktidham

Chakraborty says, “An actor always wants to explore his or her capacity to the extreme. In ‘Mathemagician’ I play a male character. Directors like Mohit and Abhishek want to work with performers actually. So, for Abhishek it does not matter if Kumud Mishra plays a female character in ‘Muktidham’; or to Mohit if Geetanjali Kulkarni plays an elephant’s character in ‘Gajab Kahani’.”

Virajas Kulkarni, along with a few others started the theater group, Theatron Entertainment, seven years ago. With the intention to bring out stage productions that suited their taste, the young artists came up with phenomenal plays such as ‘Anathema’,  ‘Bhanvar’, etc. Kulkarni admits that he is inclined to giving a touch of cinematic quality to his plays.

Pune-based theater groups like Natak Company are known for their experimental plays. Sayalee Phatak has been a part of Natak Company’s plays like ‘Sindhu Sudhakar Rum ani Itar’, recent production ‘Mahanirvan’ and ‘A Friend’s Story’, directed by Akash Khurana. Talking about what she looks for in a play, Phatak says, “Experiential stuff, be it about traveling, simply growing up that involves relationships, socio-political issues, and such ideas excite me. These are the aspects that are related to the kind of life we live today.”

world theater day
Sayalee Phatak

Staying true to oneself

All the four suggested that there is still a large number of audience who hasn’t developed a taste for experimental theater. However, that does not deter them to explore unique ideas on stage.

world theater day
Abhay Mahajan

Mahajan, who has been a part of plays where nothing was spoon-fed to the audience, cites that some of the audiences have made remarks like ‘kya dekha kuch pata hi nahi chala’ (we did not understand what we saw), after watching such plays. He remarks, “The whole point of art is to help strike a conversation. With experimental plays I have realized that most people don’t want to watch stuff that makes them think.”

Echoing his sentiment is Phatak, who believes that you don’t have to have an answer to something that you watch or read. This adds to the fun and the beauty of that art form. Supporting her point, she says, “You can have your own understanding of what you see. To create something which will leave different people thinking in different directions is the success of that production or creation. You can interpret things you saw the way you want; see if you resonate with that idea or not; and look for its relevance.”

world theater day
A scene from A Friend’s Story

Catering to all

Kulkarni and Chakraborty state that the audience is willing to watch all kinds of content as long as it’s done well.

world theater day
Virajas Kulkarni

“Pune is considered the birthplace of experimental theater. You have people here who watch any stage production in huge numbers. So, that shows that the audience is looking for something different,” beams Kulkarni. He cites two recent stage productions, ‘Bhumika’ by S. P. College and Natak Company’s ‘Mahanirvan’, written and directed by Satish Alekar. He says that both are different in their treatments and are still getting a good response.

In a place like Jaipur in Rajasthan, where Chakraborty lives and has her theater group, the young want to experiment but do not have the means to do so in theater. She admits that there’s still a large number of population who doesn’t understand the kind of experimental theater directors like Takalkar and Majumdar do. She explains, “It’s not only the brain that is working in their plays; it’s the emotions too. Their basis of doing every project is realistic. Back home in Jaipur, when the budding artists watch something like ‘Mathemagician’ they want to work with such texts. But the circumstances hold them back. So, for them it’s like we can see such experimental plays, try doing such plays, but are comfortable with old school.”

world theater day
Ipshita Chakraborty in the solo act Mathemagician

Drawing inspiration

Mahajan, who has worked with the brilliant director Atul Kumar, asserts that it’s important that theater artists expose themselves to different kinds of work. He also suggests that one should get together with like-minded people and just keep working.

world theater day
Sayalee Phatak in a scene from A Friend’s Story.

These successful young artists are always looking for ways to broaden their horizon. Phatak, for example, wishes to explore theater spaces that are not typically theater like a proscenium. “I would like if we have more spaces like Atul Kumar’s repertory in Kamshet, where we go out to do a performance to different audiences. When it comes to set designing, I find box set concept outdated. Minimalist set is something that fascinates me,” emphasizes Phatak.

These youngsters have big dreams. And they are slowly working towards each of their dreams. Kulkarni shares his dream, “I want to do a full-fledged Broadway musical. Let’s see if that becomes logistically possible. I like to mislead the audiences, with anything that surprises them. That’s the direction I would like to go in.”

We wish all these phenomenal young theater artists the strength and determination to explore their potential and the thrill of stage to the fullest!

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