For three weeks starting Monday, a group of performers will challenge and unlearn the formulae of acting perpetuated by Bollywood.
Jehan Manekshaw, founder of Mumbai-based theatre company, Theatre Professionals, is leading this pack of committed theatre actors to an Intensive Drama Programme (IDP), to legitimise and make more relevant this step cultural practice through ensemble learning.
After returning to Mumbai from London, with a masters in fine arts, Manekshaw intended to direct, but decided to invest in structured training programmes instead.
“There isn’t a proper standard of professional training in the performing arts. With the workshops as with IDP the aim is to develop the autonomous actor. There are no short cuts to learning the craft, you have to be deeply committed to develop a virtuosity,” said Manekshaw, (35).
While Mumbai does have a fertile theatre tradition, Manekshaw is of the opinion that the city doesn’t encourage or allow for much thinking about the craft.
He scoured the country and employed the services of noted theatre practitioners as instructors to the programme.
“We asked ourselves where do you begin training an actor? With other art forms such as dance and music there is a systematic and structured training, but with acting the beginning point is hard to identify,” explained Sankar Venkateswaran, an instructor and artistic director of Kerala-based Theatre Roots and Wings.
The modules developed from identifying the tools such as body, voice and imagination.
“Most training starts with the mind but unfortunately in Indian theatre the mind and voice are considered disembodied so we had to start with the body, which is the most tangible of the lot,” said Venkateswaran, who trained at the Theatre Training and Research Programme, Singapore.
“It’s like going back to school. Here the yardsticks for acting are either Broadway or Bollywood. As an actor I didn’t have means to build on my practice until I enrolled with Theatre Professionals. I’ve learned to treat my body as an apparatus, its like riyaaz for theatre,” said Ashish Chawla, an actor of five years who has enrolled for IDP.
IDP will take place from May 17 to June 6 at the NCPA. For details log on to theatreprofessionals.co.in.