Late on a sultry afternoon, in the basement of a Hauz Khas house, seven 20-somethings stand in a shoelace criss-cross.
While six of them seem to be in various stages of surya namaskar, the seventh seems to be moving as though he were reaching up and pulling down sunshine for the others. The namaskar over, it’s time for some play.
The group splits up into two teams and starts a ‘sword-fight’, each using the longest finger. Many a laugh, shriek and tumble later, they collapse into a sweaty, happy heap.
The heap, comprising four boys and three girls, calls itself the Tadpole Repertory (TR) — a bunch of theatre enthusiasts. And what they were doing was ‘warm-up’.
Their total count varies, but this is the core group that was formed last November when some of them broke away from the First City Theatre Foundation.
Meet Neel Chaudhuri, the 28-year-old who was ‘pulling down the sunshine’. He’s the chief instigator who’s also a playwright. His day-job is as a consultant with the Osian’s film repository.
Why the quirky name? “We used to call each other tadpoles before we settled on the name,” explains Neel. “In one of the plays we were rehearsing there was a character who could read others’ thoughts and he would see the thoughts as tadpoles.”
They also believe the repertory will graduate to being something larger. Frogs, maybe?
The group held its first ‘medicine show’, a melange comprising musicals, monologues and stand-up skits, etc., this May. And they have staged two since. The next one is coming up today, at The Living Room in Hauz Khas. They are also working on an original play, which they plan to put up towards the end of the year.
As with the patchwork concept of their first show, the Tadpoles are a motley crew.
Bikram Ghosh, a bearded 25-year-old better known as ‘Momo’, likes working with comedy “because it’s more difficult”. During the day, he earns a living as an advertising executive writing purple prose on tea.
Tarun Rai, 23, is a light-eyed ‘freelance actor’ who has completed a course at Barry John’s theatre school Imago.
Kriti Pant, 22, is another actor who loves “spending time with her cat at home”. “We’ve decided to make theatre our vocation, so it’s imperative to practice like you would for any other art,” she says with a hint of accent, swinging her long plait to one side.
Neel Debdutt Paul, 23, is a history graduate from St. Stephen’s who also works with Hachette Publishing.
Rohinee Ghosh, 21, has moved to Delhi from Kolkata and is a journalist writing on the arts.
Namrata Kala, 24, is a development economics graduate from Yale University who works with The Energy and Resource Institute (Teri). “We try to be edgy, we want to be literally close to the audience,” says Namrata.
“We want the audience to push the envelope, because in theatre, they are the ones who ultimately matter.” Is anyone listening?