‘Mere dada kahaaniyan sunate the’ My grandfather was a retired theater artist and a trip to his house would always guarantee a story, be it the Mahabharata or Ramayana or just stories of his theatrical exploits. After my dad passed away, we shifted permanently to dada’s house. The stories grew more frequent, I got more involved and before I knew it, I had set upon my theatre path.
In our small village in north Karnataka, there was an established theatre troupe called Rangabharati that used to run a summer camp where faculty from Ninasam would come teach. I learned about traditional theatre through my dada but these camps introduced me to modern theatre. They gave birth to that curiosity of knowing more that probably is fueling me even today. I grew with these camps and after college, I joined Rangabharati officially.
Theatre was my passion but as my parents wished, I first wanted to do at least 15 years of duty in the army. I had passed the physical test and collected the appropriate certificates when news came that my mother was diagnosed with third stage cancer. I dropped everything and rushed back home. Money soon became a big problem. Treatments would take us to Hyderabad and for income I had to take up a job as a manager of a hotel. Out of the tightly wound schedule, I always tried devoting any small pockets of time to theatre but chances like that were rare.
My mother one day said to me, ‘If you love theatre so much, you should pursue it’. I think hearing those words out loud gave me the confidence to think about the prospect. My mother passed away a few months later. Alone, broke and without direction, I remembered that feeling from my Rangabharati days where I was so influenced by the Ninasam gurus. I used to want to walk like they walk, eat like they eat and so joining them seemed like the natural choice. However, by the time I came to that decision it was the last day to fill the form. Postal service would be three days too late so I borrowed a friend’s bike, collected money for petrol and rode all the way south to submit my application. The effort was worth it because getting into Ninasam was one of the best things to happen to me. I did not have any experience outside the bounds of my village and Ninasam broadened my horizon. I was part of the repertory for two years and in that time, I crossed paths with Drama School Mumbai.
My interaction was in the form of an exchange program. DSM taught a devising class at Ninasam which translated into me writing something for the first time and gave birth to an insatiable need. Writing turned into stories and stories turned into plays. I would go up to anyone anywhere and chalk out my story to them. My friends told me to work on it more and thus to learn newer techniques and branch out I turned to DSM.
Getting into DSM was not easy but I had help along the way. I set off to Mumbai empty handed where I had kind friends help me out with the application and lodging. I managed to pay my fee thanks to a scholarship, the repertory payment that I had and help from my colleagues.
Mumbai opened some very interesting doors to an ever-interesting world. Big theatre space or small, the performances I watched always left me yearning for more. I soon realised reading was really necessary, so I started learning how to read English and Hindi. Watching performances, reading plays and my classes allowed me to adopt new techniques and translate my written pieces to the stage.
Currently, the pandemic has brought our classes online. I am back at my village and itching to go out and perform, even if it means doing solo shows inside people’s homes! When someone asks me what my future in theatre looks like I always refer to a Ninasam belief that I keep close to my heart– take your art back to your roots. I reply that I aspire to build a theatre laboratory in my village and create works that people from all walks of life can relate to. ‘Mujhe bas logon ko kahaaniyan sunana hai’