My father was extremely passionate about theatre. He had shifted from a village in Andhra to Bhopal for work, but nothing could dampen his spirit for the art. After work hours you would always find him doing Telugu and Hindi plays – that too in the heart of MP! And it was in these very plays that I started working as a child actor. Every year, almost like a ritual, we would visit an annual theatre festival in Hyderabad where we would stay in tents, perform a piece and watch quite a few performances from around the country.
That love and experience for the arts I gained as a child was something I carried forward into my school and college years. In 12th grade, like every other family, my parents wanted me to do further studies. I knew I was good at arts, so I decided I would do something in that field. That’s how I ended up in MICA for my post graduate degree in branding and communication. My time there completely turned my life around for the better.
In college we juniors had to put up an entertainment show for our seniors. I gathered a few of my classmates and did a small parody sketch. While watching the other performances, I saw a piece on Monty Python by this other boy in my batch, Karthik Kumar. That same night, on some corridor of our hostel, we bumped into each other and appreciated each other’s work. It was an instant connection. MICA had a theatre society called ‘Sankalp’ that was on an indefinite hiatus, until our batch came in and pushed for it to be revived. The seniors finally relented. That gave us an opportunity to apply for the director’s position. Karthik and I were the only two people who applied as a duo and we got the job, as our collective experience in the field was formidable. We decided to do a play by Mahesh Dattani. We had our cast set and rehearsals had started, when out of the blue, we get news that IIM Ahmedabad is staging the same play just a week before us. We decided to shelve the play and that is when ‘Evam Indrajit’ came alive as our first production.
The entire unit felt that the show shouldn’t be confined to our campus, so the hunt to find a theatre to perform in started. On finding a theatre we realised we needed money to pay the hire charges. So the hunt for sponsors began. Overnight, from being a drama society, we became a fully functional work unit. We had people standing outside ATM’s physically selling tickets, we had people solely looking for sponsors, and we were marketing the production on our own. The team pulled it off. What they also unknowingly did is seed in an idea for years to come.
A first in MICA, Karthik and I did a joint thesis on a business model with theatre being the core idea. We convinced our dean to allow us to do it together as we knew it wasn’t going to just stay in the college library. This was going to be the real deal. Again, back then we didn’t have easy access to information. So both of us travelled to gather intel and sound off our ideas with others in the theatre circuit. The reviews we got were on the fence – rarely did anyone talk about theatre and good money in the same sentence! But we were undeterred. Both of us worked for two years to generate capital, got back in 2003 and started our company – Evam.
Today Evam is a successful and ever-growing venture. A vision come true. It wasn’t an easy journey. Not by any means! We’ve had our ups and downs, even to a point where we have debated whether to shut shop or not. But the power of the theatre and our fierce belief in what we do were so strong. We made it through. We knew this was the only job where every morning we would wake up looking forward to work. It had to come through. We started applying the art of theatre to other work avenues. We took up corporate shows and workshops. One of our biggest branches right now – stand-up comedy – came from a production where we had collaborated with actors on a set of monologues. Someone from the audience happened to say “If you had just strung the funny monologues together, this would have been a great stand-up show’ and that was it.
Evam became a platform where artists would meet at one such workshop or show and then connect afterwards to create collaborative work of their own. The feeling of enabling a community of artists is irreplaceable and is the fuel that pushes us every day. In the lockdown itself, we’ve done so many successful workshops that have brought people one step to closer to the theatre. Truly, there is nothing more exciting than working on what you love and Karthik and I knew this, right from the get go. All that we needed was to go reach for it and we did.