He then decided to tread a more conventional path and took up a job at Trump It - an events and marketing company. It was a short stint however that lasted all of ten months. “I got fired because I spent more time at rehearsals than at work,” he says. So he went ahead and started his own entertainment company, Harlequin entertainment along with a partner.
For two years he produced a number of plays and provided production support for other theatre houses before moving out. “I knew that we needed to get to another level but I didn’t know how to get there. It is one of my greatest regrets.”
He again took a hiatus from theatre and rejoined his previous employer, first in their hospitality division and then their online radio station. Gina Braganza, co-founder of the company became his mentor and he thrived there. “It was a great experience,” he says. “There is this misconception that people who are creative cannot be systematic. This taught me how to work with finances, deal with people, and understand systems and processes. It turned me from an immature brat to who I am today.”
But the lure of the stage never did go away and when Gina died in a horrific accident, his interest began to dwindle. He soon left and joined Jagriti theatre where he now handles operations, publicity, marketing and also assists in programming, “Theatre is a drug, really — a much safer one than most others. It is and has been the one constant thing in my life, ” he says.
The stage remains his first love, but that hasn’t prevented Vivek from experimenting in new spaces.
He has also acted in a Kannada serial which he admits was a lot more challenging than he thought it to be. “I have a healthy respect for actors who act from behind a camera. I’m not sure I can do it consistently and well.”
Yet he did enjoy it. “I made a lot of new friends — people whose social life, political leanings and work ethics are vastly different from my own,” he says. “I guess I like doing things that teach me stuff I may never use. I like acquiring knowledge and storing it in the recesses of my head.”
Ultimately however, everything he does gets channelled back into theatre. “The more work you do, the more crazy experiences you subject yourself to the better you become. Today, I just know what to do although I don’t know how I do it. I believe that within a context, script and director’s vision, there is only one right way to say a line. If it seems off or sounds amiss, the illusion is destroyed completely.”
And therein lies the wonder of it. “It is a perfect art form,” says Vivek. It is brilliant to watch an actor come to the stage and manipulate an audience. There is so much that one can learn from theatre — it gives you soft skills, teaches you how to think creatively and improves your body language.”
Yet he rues that it is not easy to be an actor in India. “In the west, things are a lot more systematic, the government gives grants and actors do make money. I do agree that there is barely any support and funding here but there is not point simply talking about it. There is a market for off-beat careers today and we need to make them happen.”
And Vivek has constantly tried to do that. His most pressing goal right now is to make Jagriti a top-notch theatre space and he has introduced a series of initiatives to further that cause. One such initiative is an event called Curtain Raiser, a theatre festival that supports upcoming theatre artists by providing infrastructural support, and they stage premiers of their plays in the Jagriti theatre premises. For Vivek it has always been about theatre as a whole and not just acting. “Ever since I quit college, I have wanted to contribute to Indian theatre. I want to make it a viable career option for the people who come after me. I am fairly confident it will get there in a bit. We are a crazy bunch of people with plenty of stories to tell.”
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