Immersed in the medium for two decades, Sukhita Aiyar speaks of the march of theatre in Bangalore
I turn 20 this year.
2011 marks 20 years in Theatre. Enforced emotions mark the passage of these years, but ‘enforced' in this context doesn't carry with it the usual negative connotation. Because, nowhere else do I actually feel alive; all six senses tingling and wired to receive and return. There is an immediacy to this medium, an urgency that cannot be replicated or duplicated, and therein lies the attraction — fatal or otherwise.
I've just completed a run of Anita Nair's Nine Faces of Being, the adaptation of her novel Mistress, at Jagriti in Whitefield. The withdrawals are powerful this time round, because somewhere during these shows, I stopped putting on ‘Radha'; there was, instead, a steady blurring of lines. We are one now, simultaneously generating feelings exhilarating and frightening. Radha-Sukhi is the result of an intensely moving script, osmotic trades between director-playwright-actors, and the luxury of being able to rehearse in a brand-new yet energy-charged space. And for twelve heart-stopping shows!
Theatre's really come a long way in the city. From adopted, adapted Americana, to lush, home-grown heft. We might have cut our teeth on Albee, Simon, Miller and Williams, but it's Karnad, Dattani, Raja and Kamatham that burn bright. We're slowly but steadily moving towards sustainability. Just look around you. More and more people are plunging in, full time. And I don't mean just actors. StudioSky, for example, is a design house that subsidises design for theatre. There are schools dedicated to teaching the craft. The audience is growing. There are spaces now actually devoted to the good god Thespis, and their focus, geographically and otherwise, is about fostering the community to which they belong. Consider Bengaluru Habba, Ranga Shankara, and now Jagriti. Places and spaces that invest in you, if you answer to actor, audience, adult, child, dancer, dramaturg, poet, playwright, muse, mime....
Because theatre (if I must spell it out in an oft-repeated, well-worn cliché), feeds the soul. Sure, in theatre there's no equity, no Actors' Guild, no guaranteed work, no steady source of income. The cliques and clans still turn up their noses and mutter about the Joneses. Our production values, for a large part, are best left not discussed.
But is there progress? Yes. And does the community band together when it's really needed? They do. Why would I trade this for anything else in this world, this lifetime?
(Sukhita's foray into theatre started in Standard 6, with the title role of Cinderella in Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes. She spent considerable time trying to fool herself by joining the corporate world, and finally gave in to her first and enduring passion: drama. She is education and training coordinator for Jagriti.)