Wednesday, 22 June 2016

The Drama School, Mumbai and the Theory of Acceptance

For a long time I have believed that a lot of us do Theatre for a sense of acceptance. Now really, the term 'acceptance' in itself is ambiguous for acceptance can be just as much of one's ideas as of one's personality. I joined the Drama Team at Mithibai sheerly because it sounded cool but I know I stayed on because I was accepted there the way I was. My bipolar, whimsical self and a perverted sense of interpretation of knowledge wouldn't have taken shape but for there.
And that is probably why the Drama School Mumbai (DSM) occupies a big part of my heart now.

10th June, the talents of DSM graduated from the space that's been their home. They put up 9 performances to showcase their learnings to the world. It was a big moment. Here were some fine self-concieved pieces presented by youngsters very sure of themselves. Just two months ago, these people were collectively struggling to unlearn a lot of what they had learned as performers and balance the enormous load of knowledge unleashed on them.

Acceptance incidentally seemed to become a common theme through the performances. The motherly Nitika, known for her love of canines became so childlike in front of a dog on stage that I had goosebumps. Gaurangi - awkward, stiff, goofy - rebuilt herself from scratch, stripped to bare essentials (literally and figuratively) and put her pieces together so efficiently, it was unbelievable. Confident lads Vivaan and Rushab transformed as one put on a 'loser' act for most moments and the other became a helpless farmer in the drought-stricken Maharashtra. Ram did what he does best, an intense scene with a touch of humour. Given how good they were, I thought it was important that when I write a blog as a new theatre-waala, I talk about my peers too.

From the moment I have met Vaishnavi RP, she has been a sharp, headstrong girl with a don't-care attitude flaked with some wilful moments. But today on stage, she shone in a delicate, graceful piece that turned the character of Draupadi as we know it on it's head and presented a woman completely unapologetic about her sexuality. When Trinetra Tiwari portrayed Benvolio in the DSM version of Romeo And Juliet, it wasn't devoid of his Ajmeri accent. But this Trinetra jumped from playing an old man to a young one, from a brittle English poem to Urdu couplets and the only thing missing was his accent. Sagar Patil may helm from a small village in Maharashtra, but he's had an incredible journey of evolving as an actor and a person and then returning to his roots as he attempted to speak about the issue of farmer's suicide.

Someone I always believed was the kid of the lot, Dheer Hira would potrayal the elderly Friar Laurence in 'Juliet..' to the T. One of my favorites, this actor shone in two different pieces and made me gasp with his extremely realistic performances quite a few times. His own graduation piece, a take on homosexuality was also one that left me amazed. Dheer displays not just a knack for acting but also creating good theatre effortlessly.

Another star of the lot, Shubhankar did his bit in almost everything on the brochure. He sang, gave vocals, created music and even did his cameos, but when he came on stage as Dheer's shadow, jumping, dancing and providing a lot of feels to the audience, I was left wanting to see more. His directorial piece was no different - minimum words but fabulous enactment; in Shubhankar again is not just a great actor but the theatremaker that DSM aims to create.

My bias however remains with Niharika Lyra Dutta. DSM's Juliet shines throughly in every moment that she's on stage. Her piece about life in a technological dystopia was among the most effective creations of the evening. As she sat in silence at the climax of another piece, her priceless expressions stole the show. Lyra is already working in a play and I can see her jumping from one project to another, excelling in all.

The 'apparent rockstar' Kaustav emceed, sadly not performing for logistical reasons. But this is a guy that stepped in within 3 days when Romeo broke his foot. I've seen the kind of passion his self contains and I am impatient to see him on a bigger stage soon.

I was lucky to have been a part of this journey of the students when I was hired to operate sound for their mid-year production. In the matter of ten days before the opening night of the show, the team had become like family to me. Over the course of the next two months that I travelled with them, I discovered monuments that these people were, full of talent. Of course I was dead tired of them by the end of those two months like anyone would be, but they stayed put in my heart and thoughts.

The alumnus that I have met from DSM curiously also displays a similar warmth. I don't know if it's the school or it's the plain existence of 13 theatre people in one room for a year. If the latter is true, it would be a step forward towards proving my hypothesis of acceptance a theory. DSM has opened admissions for the next batch of students, for the a new year that will soon kickstart. Meanwhile these 12 brilliant individuals will be stepping out in the theatre world that I hope accepts them just as quickly and warmly as they accepted me.
I can't wait.

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