Jehan Manekshaw whose The Drama School, Mumbai, is all set to take off this July
Noted actor Kabir Bedi once said, “I love the stage, I love the process of acting in theatre, but unfortunately, it doesn’t pay the bills,”
But Jehan Manekshaw, co-founder and director of Theatre Professionals, which is all set to launch The Drama School, Mumbai, an institution that formally trains acting hopefuls and equips them for a professional career in theatre, disagrees. “It may be hard but it is possible for theatre to be a sustainable career option. It is possible to produce plays and live off the box office. In fact, many vernacular theatre groups today earn enough to make a living of it.”
Jehan, who holds a bachelor of arts in theatre from Wesleyan University, USA and a masters in fine arts in theatre direction from the University of London has conducted numerous workshops for professional actors, children, and corporates. “The reason we feel confident about starting the drama school now is that there are enough people who wake up and want to do theatre. Unfortunately there are not enough professional formal options in the country; that is what we offer.”
He recalls the genesis of Theatre Professionals back in 2008 — the organisation he founded with Tasneem Fatehi. “Tasneem and I were sitting across the coffee table and we decided to do a workshop for actors in Bombay. And she agreed to help me out. People told me I was mad and no one would pay or show up but we found that if we built it right, people came,” he says.
Theatre Professionals went on to conduct 50 more similar workshops but over time they realised that this was not exhaustive enough. “Either the trainer or participant would come up to us, after the workshop, saying that there was so much more to share. So we created the Intensive Drama Program. The first one was madness — 48 students in four weeks from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. trying to work pedagogically in a collaborative manner. We had our hearts in our mouths all through that but again there was a coming together of theatre knowledge and practices across the country.”
The Drama School, Mumbai to be launched on July 1 attempts to do exactly this on a much larger scale. Located at the Mumbai Marathi Sahitya Sangh in Girgaum, this school offers a year-long course in acting and theatre-making, structured on the best practices that exist in drama schools across the world. “The school seeks to create the actor/ creator/ entrepreneur,” says Jehan. “Anybody who graduates from this school will have to have an entrepreneurial bend. We teach them what to do on stage, and we also teach them all the skills associated with being a drama practitioner.”
The faculty for the school consists a number of theatre veterans and performing art practitioners from the country. “There is a critical mass of practitioners who have started to appear from other parts of the country and other parts of the world — all have some amount of international-level training and they now live in Bombay. We also have enough confidence now to create a pedagogical framework that allows completely different styles and forms to work towards the same purpose,” he says, adding,
“Every form is essentially used to teach the fundamental need of any performer— presence, watchability and immediacy. People who go to drama school are trained to cultivate that, and that is what makes them interesting.”
The application process is on. The deadline for applying is May 15. Visit thedramaschoolmumbai.in or call +91 9619336336.