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Discover That's What I Learnt

That’s What I Learnt ft Tushar Pandey

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Are you a theatre artist who strives to be better at your craft? Have you considered studying in a full-time theatre course? Do you find the process of researching universities stressful? Do the options seem too many or too few? Do you question if it is even worth it? Would you like some help making these difficult decisions?

Aadyam’s got your back!

That’s What I Learnt is a series of interviews with theatre artists from across India who have studied full time theatre courses in India and abroad. They share their experiences, the highs and lows, what they wished they knew and what they know now.

The series has been compiled by me, Meghana AT, an actor/writer/production manager who worked in Mumbai’s theatre scene for 6 years before moving to Prague to study a very unique theatre course. For the two years that I was seriously considering taking up this course, I changed my mind a thousand times. Everyone had an opinion on whether I should study at all, if this course was the one for me, how I should finance it, whether I should stay abroad or return to Mumbai. At the end of the day, it was a decision I had to make myself, but I wouldn’t have been able to manage without the advice of the many theatre professionals who were kind enough to help me. I hope this series can offer some insight to other people who are in the position I was once in.

We hope that reading these experiences will help you navigate this next stage of your career! Good luck!

Tushar Pandey

Tushar Pandey is a film and theatre actor, director and teacher. He is an Inlaks Shivdasani International Scholar, specialised in Lecoq’s pedagogy from the London International School of Performing Arts (LISPA) and a graduate of National School of Drama (NSD), India.

Tushar has been associated with various collaborations and projects in India and abroad; performing, conducting workshops, creating performances in multiple forms. He collaborated with Lyrebird Theatre, London, and devised, produced and performed Ships of Sand which premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2011. He has performed in England, Scotland, Greece, Dubai, China and India. His screen credits include acclaimed projects like Chhichhore, Pink, AashramBeyond Blue premiered at Marche du Film (Cannes Film Festival) and he received Special Mention Actor at a festival in Rome.

Tushar is an advisor and board member at The Drama School Mumbai. He is also a guest faculty at the National School of Drama, Delhi and Sikkim.

You can find him on instagram on @tushar.pandey

Headshot, photo by Ajeet Anand
Headshot, photo by Ajeet Anand

1. What convinced you that you needed to study theatre formally?

My orientation in theatre happened during my college days at Kirori Mal College, Delhi University. I got admitted to college through the theatre admission; like sports admissions, few colleges also select students via theatre, debate, music etc. It was during my 3 years at the college studying English hons., that I got involved with The Players, the theatre society of the college and that instigated my journey. The rigour and intent required to pursue theatre was formed during those years and then it was clear that I wanted to train formally.

2. What was the audition/application process like?

The National School of Drama (NSD) has a 3 stage admission process. Basic theatre experience is a prerequisite to apply for the course. If shortlisted, the candidate is called for an interview which includes a performance of prepared monologues, songs, poems and a discussion on theatre. These interviews are held in 4 cities across the country and each candidate visits the centre closest to their city.

The final round is a 4-5 day workshop at NSD, Delhi for the shortlisted candidates. Selected students from the workshop are announced a few days later.

A still from Rang Dhuli at NSD, directed by Tripurari Sharma. Picture taken by S Thyagarajan
A still from Rang Dhuli at NSD, directed by Tripurari Sharma. Picture taken by S Thyagarajan

3. What were the classes/courses you cherished the most from your years at NSD?

There were a lot of classes that highlighted different aspects of my interests. ‘Production Process’ by Anuradha Kapoor and sessions with Khalid Tyabchi & Jola Cynkutis have stayed with me more than others.

4. What’s a lesson/learning from your degree that you continue to use frequently in your current work?

‘Don’t forget to breathe’. I find this simple instruction is the most important for a performer. Conscious breath is what keeps the body, speech and mind in constant harmony.

As a creator, it’s always about figuring out solutions on the floor. The idea might or might not be interesting but it is only when you try it in the space, that you’ll know whether the moment is true or not.

5. Were you able to work (in theatre or otherwise) during your course at NSD?

No, there is no time to do anything other than the course at NSD. Moreover, I don’t think it’s permitted. Personally, I never even thought of doing anything else in those 3 years. You are surrounded with intense and exciting classes, productions that take all your time and energy.

A still from Jal Damru Baje at NSD, directed by Ram Gopal Bajaj. Picture taken by S Thyagarajan
A still from Jal Damru Baje at NSD, directed by Ram Gopal Bajaj. Picture taken by S Thyagarajan

6. Did your course help you in getting work? (through networks, through insights into the auditioning process etc)

In my case, I wanted to train more and specialise in physical theatre. Soon after NSD, I got selected at the London International School of Performing Arts and was also awarded the INLAKS international scholarship. So I moved to London for the next 2 years to train in Lecoq pedagogy.

Since NSD is a well-known and prestigious institute, it does give you an initial presence in the group but eventually what matters is how well you use your training in your performance.

Tushar as Edmund in King Lear, directed by Ovlyakuli Khodjakuli. Picture taken by S Thyagarajan
Tushar as Edmund in King Lear, directed by Ovlyakuli Khodjakuli. Picture taken by S Thyagarajan
Vidushak in Mrichakatikam, directed by KS Rajendran
Vidushak in Mrichakatikam, directed by KS Rajendran

7. When you returned to NSD as a faculty member, what changes did you see since your time as a student?

Most of my teachers were still teaching when I first taught at NSD, so the atmosphere wasn’t very different. What changed was my relation to the school. To train students, direct a production at your alma-mater gave another aspect to my own theatre journey.

Every practitioner brings their own methodology when working with theatre aspirants and I feel that is constantly evolving with new theatre makers.

8. Could you recommend a book/essay/speech for theatre aspirants?

I find essays and lectures very useful and I don’t mean the essays and lectures on theatre but in general. They provide interesting provocations to create new performance texts.

I created a small performance on Orhan Pamuk’s Nobel Lecture, ‘My Father’s Suitcase’ a few years ago and on Edgar Degas painting ‘Combing the Hair’. Observing and reading about paintings gave me insights that I really appreciate. The dynamic of colours on the canvas provokes a great understanding of emotions and sensations.

About Meghana AT

Meghana AT is an actor/writer/production manager from Mumbai, currently based in Prague. She’s worked with theatre makers like Mahesh Dattani, Quasar, Faezeh Jalali, Trishla Patel, Rehaan Engineer and others. She is the author of two solo shows, ‘Plan B/C/D/E’ and ‘The Art of Crying’. She is soon to finish her Master’s in Authorial Acting and Pedagogy at The Academy of Performing Arts in Prague.

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