I am in the middle of a performance. I have hit my head on a glass table and there is blood that is slowly trickling its way down my temple and onto my face. But all I care about at that moment is to deliver my lines and keep the show going. This is a memory from my 9th standard, from my very first time on stage. It left me with this feeling…this desire… to do more and I’ve held on to that feeling ever since.
I was a part of Chandigarh’s Sector 11 Government College. When I joined they had no existing Dramatics Society. So we set out to build one right from scratch. It was an exciting time, because it gave us a flexibility to develop our skills. We were able to invite people from the industry to come teach and critically review our work. And it gave us the freedom to come together collectively as students and just create. That was the start we needed for our journey of exploration. And our team grew – both in numbers and in craft!
In 2005, I started Alankar Theatre with the same creative belief and passion as my college drama society days. But as I was also an actor-director, I decided to work parallelly with many other theatre companies so as to gain exposure and get the chance to experiment as much as I could. I have been lucky to be awarded many accolades. But when I received the Sangeet Natak Akademi Yuva Puruskar in 2014 I honestly didn’t know how to process it. There were so many talented artists in the run up alongside me, that winning it seemed surreal. Now I am thankful that I got it as the award acts as a constant pressure to always do better.
Today, six years after that memorable day, I have learnt how to face a new challenge – the online platform. We can’t escape it. At Alankar, right from the get go, we adapted to the change with online workshops, building online plays, creating new monologues. They have all been a part of our recipe. Interestingly during the pandemic, I realised that although we, in the theatre, are in a profession of expressing our feelings, we often don’t get the time or the space to express them to the ones we love. The lockdown actually carved out space for revamping these relationships. But unfortunately the good stops there. People in the theatre have been hanging on by sheer will and grit. The situation hasn’t been kind for our community and has sadly revealed that our country, our audiences and our government are yet to build a society that is ideal for arts practitioners to live in. In Chandigarh, we created a donation fund and helped more than 30 artists to get by during these tough days. I believe, if you care about the theatre, then there is no better time than now to show your support, in your respective towns, cities and theatre communities.
There is an early childhood memory that has been imprinted on my brain. A night in Assam years ago. Right outside our living quarters, we witnessed a stunning natural phenomenon. There were fields spread out in all directions. And that night, they were lit by a thousand fireflies. A light that shone as far as the eyes could see. It was magical. It was something I will probably never experience again in this lifetime. But I always wished I could recreate even a fraction of that memory on stage. And not so long ago I got the chance to do that. It reaffirmed why I was in this space. Why the theatre and the stage were so important to me. It reaffirmed that anything is possible.