“Offices, philanthropist, perfect, prefect…” said a bare-foot teenaged boy dressed in a white-and-blue striped shirt and navy blue shorts before he was suddenly interrupted by a man with white hair and matching beard. “Stop, speak like you are pleading with a policeman who is trying to arrest you,” said the man, Keval Arora – staff adviser to the dramatics society at Kirori Mal College and an institution in himself for every aspiring actor in Delhi University.
The Extra-Curricular Activity trials are on in almost every college of Delhi University but it is no secret that in theatre you first head for Kirori Mal College and only if you do not make the cut do you seek the stage elsewhere. “Our process takes up to two days. The first day we start very early and end only by 4 a.m. The final round can go up to 24 hours,” said Prof. Arora, before explaining that there are several rounds of auditions before a student is fit to be part of “Players”, the college theatre group.
Prof. Arora said that on the first day there is a preliminary round where students are tested for their responses to instructions like “sit”, “stand” and “turn around”. This is followed up with a check of their diction. “It is just a shifting round. We don’t see who is good, who is bad.”
While about 200 applications are received, about 80 actually turn up for the trials and 30 survive the first day. “On the second and final day of auditions,” Prof. Arora said, “we give them a hypothetical scene and ask them to improvise on a character to fit that scene.” Finally, each actor is given a specific situation and a problem and is asked to act it out.
Although the auditions are free and fair, very few make the cut as Prof. Arora refuses to compromise on anything. “It is not just me. The current dramatic society makes an evaluation, each actor is scrutinised and there are always arguments for and against.” However, this is not all. “We set our students to see the behaviour of short-listed candidates among their peers. We have to be careful since our practices involve working in close proximity at odd hours.”
There are lots of stories that make theatre theatrical and the stage at KMC is no different. It boasts of alumni who have changed the face of Indian theatre and cinema forever. Although Keval Arora did not reveal their names, this story cannot end without a small hint of one illustrious alumnus -- the first name starts with an “A” and has a surname starting with a “B”.