Dramatic milestone ten


Theatre PPL is a day-long celebration of workshops, plays and conversation

One of the prime movers in the field of drama-based pedagogy in Mumbai, Theatre Professionals Pvt Ltd (TPPL) completes ten years of its existence today. To mark the occasion, an all-day itinerary of events will be organised at the old-world setting of Bandra’s Corona Garden, which is bound to inspire the sense of occasion one might associate with a decade-long involvement with the dramatic arts. The line-up includes workshops, performances, panel discussions and music gigs. Entry to each fixture is free of cost, on a first-come first-served basis.

The organisation started in 2008 when co-founders Jehan Manekshaw and Tasneem Fatehi organised an acting workshop with actors Sheila Govindaraj and Caroline Horton almost on a lark, and were quite disarmed by the curiosity it generated. “It seemed that the city was urging for a space for this kind of work,” remembers Fatehi. Manekshaw had also discerned that there was enough of a critical mass of formally trained theatre practitioners, many of whom had completed intensive theatre courses abroad, among his contemporaries, who could be tapped into to share learnings with the theatre community in Mumbai itself. In no time, TPPL were organising ad hoc acting workshops for both practising actors and those with no links to theatre. Initially, the faculty included names from outside Mumbai, like Sankar Venkateswaran, Prabhat Bhaskaran and H. Tomba. There were tie-ups with seats of theatre learning, like Ninasam in Heggodu. “The articulation of practice, what it was to experience training by those who had been trained, the importance of riyaaz and rigour, were ideas that drove us,” says Manekshaw. In many ways, the current choc-a-block workshop culture in the city, spread across venues and organisations, owes much to these beginnings.

In 2009, TPPL developed a more structured three-week Intensive Drama Program (IDP), the learnings from which ultimately led to the founding in 2013 of their flagship project, the Drama School Mumbai (DSM). Over an eventful decade, they have changed homes several times — the NCPA hosted them for a year — before coming in to roost at the historically resonant Mumbai Marathi Sahitya Sangh at Charni Road, whose fifth floor (the Purandare Hall) is inhabited each year by a new batch of drama students. Even five years on, pedagogical processes at the DSM continue to be streamlined with, as Manekshaw terms it, ‘improvements on a theme’. Their approach has been of often throwing themselves into the deep end. As Manekshaw says, “We did it first, and articulated and figured it out later.” When the IDP had been first cobbled together, Fatehi did not know if different strands of performance-making — voice, movement, text, rhythm and singing — could fit in well together into an exhaustive three-week bootcamp. Yet, when Manekshaw observed the methodologies of his faculty he realised, “We were all looking for the same thing. We wanted presence, immediacy and watchability, we wanted a moment of theatre to come alive.”

What Manekshaw terms the iceberg, the tip of which is the Drama School, is TPPL’s work in the field of education. Very early on, they made a foray into drama-in-learning at the Bombay International School (BIS) which has expanded to more than 40 organisations across eight cities in the country. Their early acting workshops for practitioners weren’t breaking even, so this was a way of cross-subsidising, and creating an eco-system that helped many theatre practitioners (who participated in the school programmes) to supplement their incomes. Over and above this, was their unstinting belief that drama was a key tool for education. For Fatehi, it has always been heartening when she observes drama specialists come full circle. At a recent workshop looking to induct skilled trainers for a drama program, she found that every single person in the room had been participants in TPPL’s acting workshops in the very first year.

For today’s commemorative festival, they have roped in actor Abhishek Krishnan, the whizkid ‘smorgasbord’ organiser who made a splash with his Jhamela arts fest a month earlier. Both DSM alumni and faculty, and others from the extended theatre community, are part of the day-long festivities. The highlights include a tête-à-tête with celebrated namesakes Rajat Kapoor and Rajit Kapur, performance workshops by esteemed directors Sunil Shanbag and Anamika Haksar, a musical act by students of Lower Parel’s True School of Music, and a staging of offbeat drama Adrak, whose team is comprised almost entirely of past DSM students.

The Theatre PPL Festival will take place at the Corona Garden, Bandra today from 8 a.m. until midnight; more details at

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2020 1:21:16 PM |

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