My initiation into theatre began in my Third year of college. That pretty much makes it around two years now and I can count the number of productions I have been a part of on the fingers of one hand. I've never discussed with any of my co-actors why they took to theatre - it should make for very interesting conversation. But I can say why I did. To deal with break-ups. uh huh, uh huh.
I'm not even sure what has prompted this post. Somewhere in the middle of last night's drunken spree at Athena's, Shahana [renowned on this blog for being one of those bonker-babies of this our holy JUDE] asked me why I could never be real in real life. It's worth a thought - I haven't been myself for so long, that I can't seem to be able to tell who I really am anymore. All I could think of when she put this question to me, was Lisa Ray sitting atop a barstool and telling Rahul Khanna, "I can be anyone you want me to be." Hollywood Bollywood, I think. Yes, we have remarkably cerebral taste, thank you for bypassing.
I remember rehearsing for 3 different plays at the same time and doing classes and writing term papers, simultaneously, in January this year - when D packed his bags, stubbed his cigarette [I really really want to say "on my bleeding heart" right now, but notice how I shan't], and left swiftly on a jetplane.
I act, not for a love of the stage. Heck, I'm shit scared of the stage. I act for the love of the characters I play, and for the range of possibilities they offer me of finding myself. Of letting go. So when I'm killing people softly with a 24-minute long Beckettian monologue, and I have tears in my eyes because the 24 minutes span the entire lifetime of an old woman - an entire lifetime spent standing at the same fruitless juncture, no hope of redemption, yet tranquil despite it all- I can weep tears that I would hold back in my own life. Sometimes, I can run away from myself - but it is a space within my control, always. The emotions are mine to play with. And there's a tremendous sense of security in knowing that at the end of it all, you can wash off the pancake, and go home, because your life is still where it was before the show. Those with more experience, have told me this is a wrong approach to theatre. I should try to be the character, not look for myself in who i'm playing. That is possible, and I'm not making any more excuses. That guard - it's up again.
To try and give shape to the purpose of this post - the show's over. It went well, I think. Except for the part where I went delirious and started screeching like a crazed hyena, for no particular reason other than the fact that the spirit of one such accursed creature had miraculously possessed me halfway through the progress of the play. I can't for the life of me figure what went wrong. I've managed to boil it down to the idea that I may not be cut out for such things. Let us briskly skirt this issue, before I crawl to the floor and get into a foetal position to nurse my angst.
Since the birth of this blog, I have acted in 4 productions. Not once has there been any form of publicity here for any of the other plays I've been a part of. I've always shied away from publicising plays that I do, because, like I said, I'm shit scared of the stage, I'm scared of the audience. I don't like being judged by people who matter to me and so my parents have been banned from attending any of my plays. Again, wrong, very wrong.
But Lokkhoner Shoktishel was different. I have never felt so close to a production before. I'm not very sure what it is I want to say - it must be something very simple, really. I'm heartbroken that it's over. I'm heartbroken that I couldn't give the performance my very best, because I owed it to the team. This was not just the director, Joy's baby. This was all of us together - we made a play. I've never made a play before this - acted in one, yes. This production has given me memories. Stories to tell. Unforgettable moments.
There will be reviews, those who came and watched last evening, will have things to say - favourable or otherwise. I should probably be bothered, but I'm not. How do I put it - it's like how you're proud of your child no matter how s/he fares at school? Ok, somebody burn me down NOW.
I will not forget doubling up with laughter at my dismal attempts at a kalaripayattu roll-on-floor-n-upsy-daisy [there's a sophisticated name for this, but damned if I can recall], I will remember sitting dazed at the tiny balcony of our rehearsal space, all of us in a huddle, talking about who knows what - but deliriously happy - who knows why. Every tiny detail, from exhausting possibilities of things that you can possibly do with a large green umbrella in a very public area, to singing unfettered, and the walk back home in one large group every evening. J, coming in at the very last moment and dazzling us all with how stage-free she was. Uttappam staring languidly at Shugrib's breasts. Utey being sizzling eyetum numbur.
The whole-night stage rehearsal - smoking up one joint after the other in a fit of unconsumed insanity at 5 in the morning, and then ... heh, it's all plastic now. Trippy G, the resident rockstar-cum-set designer-cum-poster designer-cum-actor extraordinaire - singing nursery rhymes to a psychedelic-rock rhythm early in the morning, while people lay sprawled across the greenroom floor, after an exhausting 6 and a half hours of midnight-to-morning rehearsal. Babon da, the lights man and his wife Morjina Di, who has the sweetest voice. The musicians - I know them all - we've been in it all together.
Friendships have been forged, I'll be honest, I don't know if I belong. But these two months, it's been about not stopping to think about whether you belong - I have disagreed, but I have also respected other viewpoints and had my opinion given respect to. I have felt closer to people whom I have known over only a handful of weeks, a couple of drinks and several joints; than I have felt to friends I have been meeting almost every single day for the last 4 years.
Laura, I have been directed by her before, and this time it was Joy.... it's hard to put a name to what he means to her. I have seen how powerful love can be, through these two people. I have seen Laura frantic, always looking out for Joy, worried for him - she has, in my opinion, put more effort into Lokkhoner Shoktishel, than she did for her own productions. They are, if I may quote from a conversation at Oly a few days back - two forces that combine to form a larger, impenetrable force - a burst of energy, that drove us to improve our own act.
Joy - he holds high ground in the list of people I have tremendous respect for. I can't say I know him well, because I've been too afraid of him to actually try. But in his own quiet way, he urges you to find yourself- to get the best out of yourself. I have learnt some things from him that I will always hold very valuable. I will always be grateful to him for helping me understand theatre and its nuances just that little bit better, and for leading me to figure out for myself exactly how potently it has taken over my life these last several months, since D left.
Midnight conversations about the fate of Shoktishel, panic on the day before, utter chaos, and in the midst of it all, long chats about life and what it might hold for each one of us. And oh, the horror stories! Uhm .. you know you're not going to be quitting smoking anytime soon, when you're willing to relinquish 23 years of socially conditioned homophobia, and kiss 2 individuals of the same sex, for the sake of a cigarette. And yes, we're leaving it at that. I don't kiss-n-tell. :-[ I have, in the span of one minute of shocking debauchery last night, had my arm repeatedly bitten and my butt slapped, while my foot was being gnawed at. All, by women in various stages of intoxication, trying obviously to replicate some sort of depraved Dionysian ritual.
Cups of tea and toy guns. All come back like snapshots. I don't know how much I have given to this play - but I've sure got back a tremendous lot. I've been rambling endlessly about things that theatre persons have perhaps experienced already, and that those not particularly keen on theatre will not be very interested in. But this was a first for me.
I needed to get this out - I will soon cease to be a part of the stage and I am glad and grateful for having been given the opportunity to take with me the experience of these last 2 months.