Getting the act right

The training period of eight months was divided into four terms, with each one focusing on particular aspects of direction.   | Photo Credit: mail

What does it take to direct a play? How can an aspirant be moulded into a director? The answer to these questions led Abhishek Majumdar, co-founder of Indian Ensemble, to come up with a unique training programme for aspiring directors. With the support of Riad Mahmood Education and Arts Foundation run by Riad Mahmood, Abhishek and Riad took the first step. After short listing and meeting the applicants, they chose three young theatre enthusiasts – Karen D’Mello, Amit Sharma and Anju Alva Naik. And, thus began the Directors’ Training Programme in November 2014.

The training period of eight months was divided into four terms, with each one focusing on particular aspects of direction. While the first term dealt with text analysis, the directors worked on the modern classic, Vijay Tendulkar’s Sakharam Binder. The second phase involved practising the viewpoints and composition technique through the adaptation of the play Equus by Peter Shaffer. The directors worked on the contemporary writer, Neel Chaudhuri’s Taramandal for their next session, applying the lessons learnt in the previous months. While the last term included guest lectures on various topics from national and international experts, the participants worked on a play of their choice for the final presentation.

“We’ve tried to emulate the real world as much as possible,” says Abhishek. “The three candidates had to manage everything from finding their own rehearsal space and selecting actors to working with the music. Describing their initiative as an experiment, Riad expresses happiness with the outcome. “Considering what I saw when it began and how they are now, the programme has been very beneficial for the directors.” The concluding plays were staged at Ranga Shankara. The directors’ also launched their new theatre companies.

Karen D’Mello chose Neel Chaudhuri’s Taramandal as her concluding production. Extending Satyajit Ray’s popular short story Patol Babu, Film Star, the play is about a man and his unfulfilled dream of becoming an actor. It involves parallel narratives which are intended to punctuate the protagonist’s life. With the touching theme and strong performances, Karen received much appreciation for the play. “This is a story of disappointment and failure. I connected to it because I was also worried about whether I would succeed in my attempt,” she says. The training period has prepared her for what lies ahead. “Earlier, I was just an enthusiast. The experience of the past eight months has given me immense confidence.”

Anju Alva Naik directed Anushka Ravishankar’s The Cockroach Collector, a dark and witty play revolving around a dysfunctional family comprising the mother referred to as Ma, a daughter named Alka and a son, Mano, who is the titular character. “When I first read the script, it touched a raw nerve. There are many underlying themes in the story, out of which one I’ve tried to portray is denial,” she explains. On her future plans, she says, “I don’t want to be restricted by languages. I would love to explore opportunities in regional languages as well.”

Sandeep Shikhar's Open Cast was Amit Sharma’s choice for his final presentation. Essentially a tale of displacement, the play features two parallel stories based in Dhanbad and Delhi. While both talk about the central theme of dislocation in terms of evacuation and migration, the characters’ perspectives are also taken into account. “It is about human relationships. How do the people feel, do they think it is a gift or a problem? Does the new city accept them? These are some questions that form part of the narrative,” explains Amit.

All three directors contend that the training programme was extremely useful for them. “Having had no formal training in this field, I was able to know more about the technique and craft of direction. I had a wonderful time,” beams Amit. Acting as a metaphorical “punching bag for each other” Anju and Karen are mutual critics of their works. “The three of us have been supportive of one another right from the start. It has been a fun learning experience for us,” adds Anju.

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Printable version | Mar 8, 2021 12:23:12 PM |

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