In the day, Shailesh Shinde is one of the many autorickshaw drivers negotiating the city’s sweaty, hustling traffic. Come evening, the 39-year-old retires to his one-room tenement in Dharavi, only to transform into an actor and mentor to a bunch of theatre enthusiasts.
At 6pm, Shinde and his group head to the nearby Manohar Joshi College in PMGP colony, where they practise for three hours.
Brainstorming on scripts, characters and stage design also helps them de-stress after an exhaustive day, said Shinde. Archana Gawali, a college student, said this was the time of the day she most looked forward to.
Shinde began this practice a decade ago, with the formation of Vikranta Theatre. The group, comprising young locals, has performed more than 55 plays in the city. “We stage comedies as well as plays giving social messages,” said Shinde, who writes and directs most scripts.
Shinde is a student of Baburao Ladsaheb, whose 25-year-old Five Star Acting Classes remains the first acting studio in the slum. Best known for providing street-urchins for Oscar-winner Slumdog Millionaire, the studio operates out of a windowless room in Ladsaheb’s shanty.
Shinde tried his luck in films, but some failed projects later, took to driving an autorickshaw for a living. His mentor Ladsaheb is proud of this student, who is carrying forward his work, while being realistic in life.