How I beat a personal lockdown
With the city entering a mini lockdown, a few of our shows have been cancelled. Shows in Mumbai too are staring at cancellation and by the time this article is published, I suppose they will be called off. Of course, we are assuming that they are still on unless expressly told otherwise, and are continuing our rehearsals and marketing in whichever way possible. It is heartbreaking to say the least, but we respect the fact that safety comes first.
A few years before, when we weren’t introduced to the term “lockdown” and theatres weren’t shut by law, I went through a personal lockdown of sorts. I had recently quit Chartered Accountancy and had taken to theatre and films with a thirst I haven’t experienced since. I was away from all this and hadn’t directed a play for quite sometime. I remember that I directed six plays in eighteen months! All of them were full-length plays – two acts each.
Most of these plays were made on a commercial basis since I needed to earn something. It wasn’t much but it kept me from asking my parents for financial support. This was the first time that I had taken up theatre as my profession and not just a hobby. Up to this point I had enjoyed the support of many of my peers and seniors, who were pursuing theatre passionately, but they weren’t financially dependent on it. I started noticing that some of them weren’t happy with the artistic choices in the plays. A few of these plays were age-old Sangeet Natak and some of these friends even opposed the very thought of presenting an archaic text.
I think I had experimented with the form and staging but it wasn’t working for them. I vividly remember one of them coming up to me immediately after an opening show, hug me tightly, whisper “I am very disappointed” in my ears and leave without a discussion.
So, after eighteen months, I was back to where I started. In fact, at that time, I felt as if I was probably in a worse position than I was in while pursuing Chartered Accountancy! I was confident that I wanted to pursue theatre and films and nothing else and suddenly I wasn’t sure if I had made the right choice. Maybe I wasn’t cut out for it and should go back to the stability being a CA offered. And with these thoughts began my self-imposed lockdown. I stopped doing anything new. I feared the reactions of these friends. Things continued like this for nearly a year. I directed one play but did not stage it publicly. We just performed it in front of a limited audience in our rehearsal hall and that was it (It was wrong on my part, for the cast that gave me their time for rehearsals and I regret that decision now).
After nearly a year I watched two plays in a matter of weeks – “Piya Behrupiya” directed by Atul Kumar and “Stories in a song” directed by Sunil Shanbag. And watching these plays turned out to be therapeutic for me. The most important thing I noticed was the clarity and confidence in the direction. These weren’t commercial plays but both the directors knew exactly what they were doing and there was no pretence in that. They had embraced their form and were honest and unabashed about the fact that they were entertaining! Both the shows enjoyed full houses and were being enjoyed by everyone. At the curtain call I involuntarily stood up to give them a standing ovation and realized that I was not alone. Everyone was on their feet! And I remember those as extremely cathartic moments. I had just found the way and the will to do what I wanted. And no amount of words or counselling would have had this effect!
The current times are depressing, but for me they are not even close to my personal lockdown. So, to anyone reading this - maybe you don’t need to hear this but still bear with me – hang in there! This too shall pass.