My first tryst with theatre was as a costume dresser for a high school play. My friends were the ones who were originally involved in it. They thought doing an activity together would be fun so I decided to join them. Hanging out with my friends was fun indeed but the work I was doing had captured my interest. Soon I had signed up for another project and then another and then yet another until I ended up taking dramatics as a subject in the 12th.
I had decided to pursue Humanities and keep nurturing my interest in theatre after high school. I enrolled at SRCC in Delhi University for a B.A (honours) in Economics. But soon enough, I realised that economics was a lot more maths than I wanted to associate myself with. Naturally, I started gravitating to what was soon becoming my main focus – theatre. I joined the college dramatics society. I knew I didn’t want to pursue acting so I directed plays for the college as well as for an amateur theatre group outside. The magic of theatre and the beauty of the Delhi theatre circuit had absolutely won me over, the economics degree just barely hanging in there.
I knew economics wasn’t my cup of tea, but I also wasn’t sure what made the cut. So, I decided to take a year off. In that time, I tried to gain some more experience. I directed a play, worked with a design firm, did economics research for a think tank and finally landed the fated internship at QTP.
I got introduced to QTP via Thespo. Our college dramatics group in Delhi had screened for them not once or twice but thrice, because of the invaluable feedback sessions they provided. I met Quasar during the Thespo Delhi screening and happened to keep in touch with him. Over a conversation about a new play that he was opening, I mentioned I have taken a year off and he just asked me to send in my CV. A few weeks and a telephone interview later I had packed my bags and landed up at QTP’s doorstep in Mumbai. The internship was only to be 6 months long but I ended up staying for three whole years. And those three years were my drama school of learning.
I worked as a stage manager for QTP productions and events, ran Thespo for two years and gained much needed clarity on what I wanted to do. My parents were very supportive of me pursuing theatre but they did advise me to find a course that I could study in this field. I knew theatre was it for now and I wanted to challenge myself and better my craft. So, I took my time to zero in on the right course, which ended up being the MA in Collaborative Theatre Production and Design from Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London. The flexible yet intensive nature of the course was what I got attracted to and I was glad I took the opportunity and went for it.
After completing my education, I worked in London with two companies and then returned to India, where I started freelancing as a stage manager and production manager. I loved the backstage and the challenge of setting up shows in unconventional spaces. And one of the biggest shows I had the opportunity of working on was Disney’s Aladdin. As senior stage manager I was at the helm of the ship and had the responsibility of making sure that a musical of that scale ran smoothly. We had a crew of almost 100 people that worked like a well-oiled machine. But a technical heavy show running for a long period of time came with problems of its own.
One of the biggest obstacles we faced was the magic carpet mechanism failing during one technical check. The audience was waiting in the foyer but the mechanism was just stubbornly stuck despite our best efforts to re start it. The magic carpet scene was in the second half so we tried to revive it in the intermission, after the production team made some calls, but to no avail. The team needed to take a decision. In those 15 minutes, we re- choreographed the scene sans the mechanism with the actors, stage managers and stage hands. Our cues were based on time so I went over to tech and we quickly wrote down our new cues. We were ready just in time. The audience walked in. The show resumed. The scene played out beautifully thanks to the synergy of the team and in the end the audience walked out delighted and none the wiser. That experience just feeds into the fact that each and every show is a different experience. That particular show for that particular audience will never be recreated. The transience of it compels each of us to give it our best shot each time the curtain opens. I may have done exceedingly well today but how do I get better tomorrow?
An interest I picked up while wanting to hang out with my friends had grown into work I loved and work that challenged me to do better every day. The collective pursuit of excellence and the push to do the job well has made me strive to put up the best damn show possible every single time. I wouldn’t settle for any less.