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Improv hits city bars

After the success of stand-up comedy, acting group plans to expand the influence of spontaneous acting. An Improv group has started doing regular performances in the city, as the scene finally starts to take off.

entertainment Updated: Jul 14, 2010 17:45 IST

After the success of stand-up comedy, acting group plans to expand the influence of spontaneous acting. An improv group has started doing regular performances in the city, as the scene finally starts to take off.

Adam Dow, an American improvisational performer, instructor and filmmaker, formed Improv Comedy Mumbai a year ago.

Mixed crowd
The group has 10 members, a mix of actors, college students and office folk. They have been taking part in workshops since October 2009, and are now ready to perform.

One of the first venues to host the group is Zenzi Mills, Lower Parel, which hopes to host the group once a month. Dow also has gigs lined up at Café Goa, Bandra and Kino 108, Andheri.

So what is improv?
"It is spontaneous theatre that is not pre-scripted," explains Dow, 31. "It is used a lot by actors and screenwriters to come up with spontaneous ideas together. If something good comes out, they can write it down and use it"

"A lot of people in Mumbai are not familiar with the term improv but they are familiar with the TV show, Whose Line Is it Anyway?, which grew out of it," he explains.

Improv is acting on the spot with no narrative, in response to a new idea, which could be suggested by another actor or the audience.

Briton Keith Johnstone developed the concept, also known as Theatresports, in the UK when he wrote the book Impro. It then spread to the USA, with an explosion in Chicago.

British director Mike Leigh is known for using it in creating his films.

Not stand-up
Dow, who trained with Unexpected Productions, a Seattle-based comedy improv group, says that it often gets confused with stand-up comedy in Mumbai.

"If you are good at stand-up comedy, you will not necessarily be good at improv as this is all about being in a team," he says.

"Plus, stand-up is rehearsed. This is more like a sporting event. You don't know what'll happen. Even if it's bad, it's still funny." In his view, it is actually funnier than stand-up
comedy.

"I don't teach my students to be funny. Being themselves is often hilarious on its own," he says. Apart from helping writers develop scripts, and actors play a variety of roles without preparation, it helps corporates collaborate and build on others' ideas and deal with anything that is thrown at them, he says.

Mukul Chadda, 36, a theatre actor has been in the group since it formed. He says, "I did a short improv course in Chicago in the late 1990s, but couldn't find anyone in Mumbai that could teach it, until Adam turned up.

I guess it's because it's not a traditional Indian form. It's great fun and is much harder than acting, as that is scripted. This isn't and any show could be a total disaster. That gives me a huge adrenalin rush.