Art

Zen and the art of acting

“Arasiyalil ithellam sadharanam appa (This is all commonplace in politics),” says Gil Alon with a dramatic flourish, when his actor requests him to deliver his favourite Tamil punchline. With his smooth pate and a playful twinkle in his eyes, he could be easily mistaken for a suave villain in a Tamil noir film. At Koothu-P-Pattarai, the Israeli theatre artiste is enjoying a cup of coffee after the rehearsals of his latest production, Life of An Actor. “Tamil konjam theriyum. I love languages. As an actor, I feel connected this way. When you go to another country, at least make the effort to understand the language. For me it is not an effort, it is joy.”

Inspired by India

He travels across the globe hosting workshops. The association with India was so strong that he has kept coming back since 2000. It was love at first sight, says Alon about his first visit. “I came here to study Zen Buddhism, as part of my course in Israel. My master had asked me to visit five Asian countries, and in India, he wanted me to experience the Osho ashram and study yoga in Rishikesh.” The first thing he did in Mumbai was hold workshops for actors. “When I arrived, it was the morning of Deepavali. I had to pass through slums on my journey from Mumbai airport to where I stayed.” This dismal sight was accompanied with the sounds of fire crackers and festive celebrations. “There is no logic to it. That was the moment, I fell in love.” He has toured quite a bit with his workshops; some of the places being Dharamshala, Pune, New Delhi and Chennai.

Alon also globe-trots to create plays with local actors of that region. And, he ensures he stays at least for three months in that particular country. “I need that time so that I can work without stress. I believe in a long-drawn process which is relaxed. I do not want to put pressure on anyone. That stifles creativity.”

His first work in Chennai was Prahlada Charitram, a contemporary take on the mythological tale, scripted by Na Muthuswamy, the founder of Koothu-P-Pattarai. So, rock guitar music found its way into the play. “The playwright also gave it a modern twist, by adding his share of sarcasm, criticism and revelations of untold truths. It was a strong play in many ways,” observes Alon.

The audience is integral to his plays. In another KPP production, Six Characters In Search of An Author, the spectators had to shift across three venues. Life of An Actor, his latest production with Muthuswamy’s troupe, is a devised work on the life and hardships of actors. The cast perform before an audience, as if they are a jury for an audition. “For me, audience should not come to watch, but to work. They must be involved in what is happening.”

All in the mind

It could be the Zen master in him talking. Because, he chats about everything with a certain mindfulness — be it his young days in the TV industry, the vibrant theatre scene in Israel or his happy experiences mentoring actors such Vijay Sethupathi, Somasundaram and Anand Sami.

Alon was 30 when he stumbled upon Zen philosophy. “My TV show had made me famous; I was also doing a radio show, performing musicals and had my own rock band. But, something was sad and frustrating, and I decided to seek something parallely. When I encountered Zen, it felt like home coming,” he smiles.

Staying in the here and the now; that’s what is common to theatre and this school of thought, he feels. The fast-paced life kills creativity, says Alon. “Creative thoughts can flourish when you are in a safe condition; when you know you will not be criticised or judged. My workshops also address this. I tell my participants not to be the best or number one, but be themselves.”

(Life of An Actor will be staged at Koothu-P-Pattarai Trust, Virugambakkam, from July 31 to August 6 at 7 pm. For reservation, 044 65373633. It will also be staged at Roja Muthiah Research Library ,CPT Campus, Taramani, from August 7 to 12, at 6.30 pm. No reservations required)

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Printable version | Nov 30, 2020 7:09:16 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/art/gil-alon-on-how-creativity-flourishes-without-fear/article19370167.ece

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