THE SHOW MUST GO ON
‘Act like you have never acted before
Emote like you are actually feeling.
Cover like you have not committed any mistake
Grab the chance, spread magic, and you will make it.’
Theatre is a stage similar to life: once the moment goes, it goes forever and it is hard to make-up for anything you have done wrong but yes, there is always a chance, a second chance. A life playing on stage, theatre is an art-form which is not looked as a career, even after being oldest form of art. But still there are theatre groups, like Delhi-based Film and Theatre Society which are contributing their lives to help achieve the respect, the familiarity, the status and the importance this art deserves. Here are some excerpts from a conversation with Atul Koushik, Founder- Films and Theatre Society.
Being a Chartered Accountant, how come an inclination towards theatre?
Basically, theatre came before Chartered Accountancy did. Making plays and directing them is something I’ve been doing since my school days. I completed my graduation from Shyam Lal College of Commerce, Delhi. The college had a theatre society and I headed it for three years. We used to make plays and perform around the whole Delhi University college circuit. We won a lot of prizes and somehow knew that theatre was something we would never leave in life. After completing my CA and Law, five years back in September 2009 I found this theatre group ‘Film and Theatre Society’. Ever since, we’ve been writing plays and performing them across India. So, my professional life as a CA and practitioner of Law is running simultaneously with theatre.
How are you finding theatre? / How has the whole theatre experience been?
When we began, there were a lot of myths that there are struggles, no money etc. but I believe that everything has struggle in it. People say that it is not commercially viable or people cannot survive on theatre but we are surviving by getting sponsorships, by selling tickets and yes! We are paying our actors as well. Everyone who is working with us is happy and I am happy that we all have a creative appetite which is being satisfied by theatre. So, yes it’s wonderful.
What difference are you trying to bring about with theatre?
We are not trying to make any difference, the idea is to do things the way you want to do and rest if change has to happen, then it would. At the beginning we saw some theatres groups, among which few were good and few weren’t so, we tried to form our own kind of theatre and plays. People come and appreciate us that the plays we do aren’t seen anywhere around, so if I have to talk about change then I will talk about change within us. Earlier we weren’t sure of what sort of plays to be performed but now we are sure about it. We are doing everything in more determined way, throwing in more articulated voice and working in an organized way.
Everybody is doing plays which were designed ten or more years back, no one is taking up the challenge of experimenting. Because of which creativity is coming to an end. People are translating Shakespeare and adapting old literature but what we are trying to do, is to create totally new substance which has not been heard of or written before. The success has allowed inspired to write interesting plays which have travelled all over India and we can proudly say that they are our productions. That’s the challenge we took and have been successful so far with.
Talking about translation/adaptation and creativity, should we expect anything different in ‘Saudagar’ which is an adaption of Shakespeare’s ‘Merchant of Venice’?
Yes absolutely, ‘Merchant of Venice’ is one of the most read and famous novels all over the globe, everyone has heard about the play. We have not only translated but adapted the concept in the Indian scenario. The play has been lifted from Venice to Rajwada so, you will see Rajputs and Rajkumars and the rivalry between them. It is similar to something which you must have come across in the movie Omkara.
Tell us something about ‘Couple-Trouble’?
In the expansion phase of FTS, we are not only making our own plays but also inviting young directors from all over the country, the ones who have talent and ideas but not means and resources to make plays. We ourselves have seen and been through such stages. So now, when we have the resources, we are stretching a helping hand for the new-script/screenplay writers. Last year, we held a competition where Vikas Bahari was the winner and we promised him that we will give him a chance to do a play under our banner. He introduced the script to us which was a translation of a Marathi play by CP Pandey and we provided him with the resources.
The concept of ‘Couple Trouble’ revolves around the mentality of Indian men so, how much do you relate to it?
I don’t relate to the concept because being a man I have written a play on Draupadi which had 12-15 women characters in it. For the same, I was questioned that how can I write such a play, and my answer was that I have a woman inside me like every woman has a man in her. So, similarly when we say that we are talking about men we are not talking in general but about the few who have thoughts like these.
‘Wo Lahore’, is a play which received rave reviews, tell us something about it and what changes have you made to it?
It is the same play I wrote ‘Wo Lahore’ four years back. The backdrop is set in the 1940’s when India was approaching freedom. The story revolves around a mother of three and her journey. In such a situation when partition was approaching, there are economic, social and political tensions. How she tries to keep her family intact in such utter chaos is what the play is based on. We get to see the social outcome which affected the map of India and also had its effects on each & every house in India and Pakistan.
How are you trying to drive the young generation towards theatre?
We are trying to serve mythology, literature and social values in a new platter. No matter how much a child hates milk but its nutrition is important for his health so, to make it likeable the mother adds flavor to it. Similarly, in today’s tech-savvy world we cannot expect anyone to go and read mythological books in the library. Therefore, we are just trying to experiment with our plays. It is important to make youngsters aware of the values, ethics etc. mythology and literature has to offer.
We have presented Draupadi and Abhimanyu from the Mahabharata and wherever we perform these plays, people tell us that this is the way mythology should be presented in today’s era. We have received a lot of appreciation from people and are now planning to take these concepts around the world.
Do you think theatre is effective enough? / What do you of theatre as a medium?
Theatre is a very effective medium because you see people enacting right in front of you. But the only problem with theatre is the limited audience. It’s only the people who have seen it earlier, come to watch the show again. But we are trying our best to reach out to as many people as possible by, creating various concepts which if carries a message then it is so subtlety given out that people unconsciously take it with them.
Theatre has an ‘air’ about it that it’s only for intellectuals so, are you open for? / Theatre has an ‘air’ about it that it’s only for intellectuals so, are you open to cater to the commercial audience as well?
We are more than open to cater to the commercial audience. Literature does not mean which is difficult to read and understand; it means content served in an organized manner. Our idea is to serve literature in a form that people enjoy it. One does not need to read thick books to be an intellectual. Sometimes even a conversation is literary.
It is important to change with time and the one who does not will stay behind. So, we are prepared for the fact that the concepts we have today would get obsolete in the coming five years but we are also prepared with fresh concepts which people would love and accept.
What according to you is the USP of FTS?
None of us are from a theatre background, but we all have an appetite for creativity and innovativeness which we are fulfilling by doing every possible thing. We dedicate our weekends and sometimes even weekdays to theatre. We have decided not to let our talent get drained. In the corporate world we are not allowed to be expressive or creative so, we motivate each other to work with a thought that Friday is coming and we can do what we want to; that is theatre. We don’t want experience, we just look for dedication. We started with three, now we are more than sixty members which is remarkable for a theatre group.
Are you still practicing CA and Law?
I used to think I will practice CA and law for five days a week like others but then, I realized that to make this theatre group run and grow someone would have to give away everything. So now, I am completely into theatre. I do give classes and send balance sheets, but am not into it as much as others are. Practicing CA and Law have given me the knowledge of making this theatre run in a better way. Your qualification will be of use only when you know how to apply it at the required places and I am happy to utilize it for something I am so passionate about.
I love every play we have produced but my personal favorite is Draupadi. The moment the curtain raises the audience see twelve to fifteen ladies dancing on a Rajasthani’s folk song and later as the story proceeds each one of them portrays Draupadi. Even the audiences have given it much love and affection. Last year, it was awarded ‘The best play of Delhi’ by the government.
Do you train people for acting? / Do you conduct workshops on acting as well?
Yes I do take workshops, not only for students but also for people from the corporate world. I am a guest faculty at the Institute of Chartered Accountancy of India. I have developed a concept where we teach management through theatrical workshops which is being accepted everywhere with open arms. I have a studio in East Delhi where I take workshops for acting and most of our actors come from these workshops only.
Who is a good actor for you?
I do not have a favorite ’actor’ but I have many favorite performances. It’s varies from character to character, one might act absolutely stunning in one play but would fall apart in other act. So, for me one who does justice to all his/her characters and thinks about the character beyond what the script portrays is a good actor.
Future plans for FTS?
We have lots of plans for FTS. We want to do atleast 200 shows in a year and have branches in various cities of India. And start performing out of India as well. We believe in ourselves and our art form, and hope to take it to every corner of the world. This art form is really old but in India it has not yet received the respect and stature it deserves so yes, we are trying our best to help achieve it.
Theatre is considered to be a step towards the silver screen, what you have to say about that?
Sadly, this thought process is somewhat the reason why the theatre has not grown yet. The basics are similar for both and both art forms require you to act through your face and body (expressions and body-language). We believe in not looking at theatre as a step rather, completely as a profession but unfortunately, theatre has not been able to give recognition to any theatre actor, no matter how good they are. The public reach of the movies is so good that millions are getting to watch the performance whereas theatre shows are watched by a maximum audience of 400 people.
Secondly, money is also a big factor, the remuneration a movie actor gets is something you cannot even imagine for a theatre actor for the coming thirty or even more years. People, who have become great actors now were somewhere part of theatre but got recognized only when they started doing movies. And if now, they come back to theatre then there would be a big crowd to watch them perform.
If you go abroad, you will see that the case is entirely different there. For example, they need to have at least two Hollywood movies to their name if they wish to be a part of Broadway.
Thus, we train our actors that if in future they come across a big opportunity, they should plan their schedule in a way to give at least two months for theatre. Because one should not forget where they are from, the day they forget their roots they lose the most important part of themselves. So, if you are growing then encourage others to grow as well.
Your message for our readers?
I would just say that people spend their money on various movies and a lot of times they regret watching it. But they should give theatre a chance to breath, should witness the magic of theatre rather than watching everything on screen. The best part about our theatre is that if you do not like it,I will be right there to listen to your opinions.This will help us to develop and hone our own skills. It is very easy to cheat in cinema but for theatre you need honesty, without which you cannot perform.
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