Theatre person Manoj Nair on why it’s the art form that matters
“I’m a very private person. This is all very unorthodox for me,” says Manoj Nair in his oh so pro-pah British accent, at the start of the interview. As we quickly find out, though, he’s at his gregarious best when he’s talking about his love for theatre. Manoj, who is based in London, is a well-known theatre performer and educationist. He develops and leads the curriculum for performing arts at Longbean School in Hemel Hempstead and is a visiting lecturer at the London College of Music where he runs master classes in acting, voice, musical theatre and so on.
Of late, he’s also an examiner for the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (LAMDA). “It’s been an incredible journey because every day is a new experience. I’ve come to realise that my involvement in theatre was never about fame or the fortune. As long as I am immersed in creativity, the art form is all that matters,” he says. Manoj was in the city, his mother’s hometown, to mentor a few theatre workshops for the Divine Comedy Theatre Company, a new organisation involved in promoting English plays in the city.
Theatre beckoned Manoj while he was studying engineering in Chennai. “When I was done with the degree, coincidentally, I was offered an opportunity to work in amateur theatre. I loved the whole creative atmosphere. I was so drawn to it that I couldn’t imagine myself in any other world but theatre,” recalls Manoj, who went on to complete his masters in performing arts from the Central School of Speech and Drama in London. Following this he worked as a performer in London’s West End and in between jobs also taught master classes in acting at his alma mater.
“My calling towards teaching hit me like a wave. When I went to London, I had never even thought about teaching performing arts as a career. In fact, initially, I used to laugh it off when people suggested that I should teach. I tried it and loved it. And at some point I progressed from being a performer to a performance trainer. To cut a long story short, I’m a classic example of the power of drama, in terms of how it moulds persona, how it moulds language, how it moulds a sense of self, and so on. I’m certainly not the person I was 10 years ago. My sensibilities have changed; my awareness has changed; so many things have changed,” says Manoj. He started off by teaching drama to adults and professionals and soon found himself “gravitating” towards teaching children. And herein he found his calling, a role that he has been successfully playing for some eight years now.
“Children are like sponges. They are very accepting of the differences in the world around them. As a teacher my status as a role model is set in stone. There is always a question of how I mould them. One of the highlights of the United Kingdom’s educational system is grooming children into independent thinkers, reflective thinkers, collaborators, so on and so forth. So just watching the children progress in learning is very satisfying,” says Manoj. Drama is a core part of the school curriculum in England. “As a subject it’s about the wholesome development of the child rather than just its academic value. It has all the values that the workshop here is trying to achieve – in terms of communication skills, collaboration, team building and so on.”
He adds that he doesn’t have a blanket approach to teaching. “What I normally do is based on what each person brings to the table. My approach thus is very individualistic, very personalised,” says Manoj.