j

Theatre : the stint

I still remember sitting in the balcony seat with Mom as we saw Shreekumar Varma Sir’s play : Ganga at Rishikesh being performed by artists from Stray Factory in the Hindu Theatre Fest. Madras Players performed, too. At that time, it was another world. Even while riding out of the venue I remember being completely taken by the lights, the laughter, the excitement and the people. It was so much more than cinema – and yet it works on you the same way. Only, its so much more real and absorbing, in the sense that at a certain point the change-overs begin to matter less – the opinions you form and performers keep you riveted or well, looking around, instead.

At college, I worked with a small yet very enthusiastic team of actors – whenever we got time, with roughly-edited plays; depending more on improv than real emotions, subtle details and strong scripts. We performed to thoroughly entertain the rest of the college – with cheap props and makeshift sets. Nobody had the upper-hand, the director was usually the script-writer who may or may not have understoodd his/her own play, completely. Casting was based on availability and the capacity to bunk extra classes that were held after 5:30pm. Performances only happened alongside college fests, the odd culturals in another campus or as an opener to an event. Practices led into flat-made dinners and night-outs intended to work on scripts usually turned into a lot of laughter and tom-foolery. We would collect a hundred bucks each to buy the odd prop or paint – we even had an account and a manager of it. There was one designated person (usually a bright child with a good pointer) who would be in-charge of getting the Principal’s signature in permission letters. Well, now that college is done, I can tell you the story of how Eason, my senior and the Captain of our troupe – Black Pearl (what did you expect?) – sneaked in my name in the medical register to get me attendance. Well I’m sure the resident doc found out because the name had no serial number and was scribbled above the margin but he let me go, anyway. That was for Survey and Leveling, I guess. I hope you don’t go tell on me, now.

But after college, things changed (in the past month, that is, not some major past) – and I got the opportunity to play the part of Julie in The Blind Date at the Short & Sweet Festival – South India Chapter. I knew about S&S before – I’d seen Stray Factory perform in the East and win accolades. I knew this was something very different. Well things got real the day we (the cast and the director, Charan Saravana) met at Alliance Francaise which was also the venue of the shows.

Introducing the cast:

I played Julie, yes. And she had a Grandmother : J.J who Sharada played (who is a fellow blogger who writes poetry, erotica and is an outgoing woman who is currently writing her next script, perhaps) and a date, Dave played by Prakash who is also an actor in Tamil Cinema and you should see him when he speaks about how much he likes acting. My favourite character though is : The Waiter (Sravanth – a mime-artist and fabulous performe who is equally funny, if not more, in real life) who started out to be a witty American but then transformed into a Mexican and then an Indian (Tamil, to be more precise) immigrant who fakes a Mexican Accent.

Practices lasted weeks together and I’d drive to the venue which is a nice spot under bel and mango trees and has so many other artists practicing and frolicking about that you’ll never spend a dull moment there. Eating at the bajji stall and the nearby sweet-shop – practicing lines, putting up with tantrums, being difficult, eating up lines, cracking unbearably stupid jokes (mokkai or blade jokes), talking in my incomprehensible Tamil and well, just spending time with a bunch of dreamers and performers is what I did until the show week arrived.

We had two technical rehearsals and then it all happened:

Ten plays- with mixed genres and actors coming from all backgrounds and walks of life – some hoping to compete and some, like us, just wanting to be a part of the theatre festival. I met so many people and interesting is an understatement.

Back-stage is where all the drama really happens with the backstage staff comprising of Char-less and his boys trying to find props on time and keeping actors from smoking in the toilet and maintaining decorum. Well, what do you expect if you put three dozen performers in a small, dark room along with adrenaline and make-up? But it was in no way horrible – it was pure fun. Every person was upto something, if not unusual, then funny. So much comedy. From props getting lost to lights being turned off when actors put make-up to people losing their costumes to actors going missing a minute before their play! Its a party in there.

The silent minutes in the small ante-room next to the stage which is the actor’s entry spot – where you await your turn to perform. You can see the other play from the tiny window. You can hear the audience and yet you’re not out there. The lights haven’t caught you . Do I remember my lines? Will he remember what to do when the cue is right? Will the spotlight light up at the right moment? Will the audience get our jokes? Will we exceed the 10  minute limit? And the the stage goes dark and the blue lights turn on – your props are being set and the audience knows you’re next. And then your fellow actors go out there and do their part while you await your entry cue : and at that precise moment you enter – pretending to be unaware of the two-hundred odd pair of eyes watching you and listening to your every breath. The show goes on – you play your part. The light is so bright that all you see before you are silhouettes but you play your part. And you’re exhilarated when the audience responds to your performance – they did get the joke! That feeling on-stage is a big responsibility –  towards the time you’ve spent gearing up for this, the people you play a part with and those who have come to honor your effort. And then the lights go off and you walk back to the ante-room where you wish luck to the other performers hidden in the dark – and escape into the green-room which is bustling with silent activity and you see smiles. A quick exchange of comments and then you go downstairs for the scrumptious chocolate cake and lemon tea at the canteen. I think I also had a keech and chicken-rolls (if that’s how you spell it) one day.

I met a lot of people – some great performers, some good-nature’d folk and I had some friends come over to watch my play and that felt quite nice – them seeing another side of me. The last day, I just absorbed all that energy and looked at all those smiles before I left with my Mum who watched all of my shows and probably knows every play by-heart.

I may or may not do theatre again but this chapter in my life has already been written.

Arrividerci.

 

 

5869041a6eea6c44951df0893d050a4c

I’m in Chennai

Enslaved by internet speed and storage-space in mobile phones and devices such. That’s what life has come to. Office got over a while ago but here I am waiting for In Which Annie Gives… to buffer. Yes, that’s what its come to.

So, I thought I’ll visit the space I’ve been meaning to but not getting time (mind frame, actually) to attend to. There’s 8 hours of office and two hours of travel along with 7 hours of sleep. To add to it I joined a short play with well-meaning friends some of whom are serious thespians and actors. I’m just learning, really – experiencing, rather. I was always drawn to the theatre- well, now I’ll really get to know if I make the cut or whether theatre makes the cut for me.

Well if you happen to be in Chennai (or live here) – come catch us live at 7pm  (be there on time because we perform first) – Alliance Francaise, Nungambakkam. Its made with love, really – the other kind, you know. It has a lot of laughter and goof-ups, bajjis and lemon tea behind this play being performed. For me, maybe because of the people I’ve been around with – architects and writers (of sorts) – the Process is always more meaningful than the end. Well that’s what I believe in, for now, because I haven’t really completed anything of importance. Perhaps if I ever get a project (writing, art, audio or whatever) done – I’ll tell you.

Damn, the internet is slow. I’m still here. The office is almost empty.

Well, I hope to see you at the play should you drop by – do say hi. And, I miss my leisurely days, really. And I long  to go back to my hostel-mates and do the things we used to do. I miss my single-bed and the best room-mate, ever who loves cats, books and strangeness alike. We could exist parallel-y, peacefully and interact at a comfortable wavelength without any awkwardness and in these times, that a real miracle, you know. If you happen to read this : I miss you Gurangutan and all our erratic, crazy and lovely times. Making videos, playing with Peter, walking walking walking, eating together, watching favorite movies. You will be my best friend forever – without definition. I hope we stay in touch like our mothers and their best friend in college did. I hope to come there and meet your cats and little brother – go with you to all the places you mentioned. Someday. I have another set of special friends apart from my classmates – the Chicchar Gang. No, I will not translate. Its best left like that. They hailed from Meghalaya, Ranchi and Jamshedpur. And they were my closest friends by the end. I can’t even start telling you our stories. Because, well, not all of them are mine to tell.

Ah, well, Dad inquired why I’m still in office. And its getting dark outside. I must leave now and leave you with patchwork-memories.

 

1d45d04e2dd5963ba2c82ebdc6922397

Keyhole

Life is as infinitely great and profound as the immensity of the stars above us. One can only look at it through the narrow keyhole of one’s personal existence. But through it one perceives more than one can see. So above all one must keep the keyhole clean.

Kafka

Found this quote in Sakshi Nanda’s most recent post : Ordinary. Extraordinary! 

573d7f321558a03edfa8ecc6b7834abc

Unstrapping

573d7f321558a03edfa8ecc6b7834abc

Deserving affection is

now a thing of the past.

What ties we make,

for long, don’t last.

Its not because we cannot

Love to our heart’s content.

Its not that I’ve reached

an exhaustion in feeling.

Its the prejudice and pride

the malice in our mind.

Its the worry of a future

That is incomprehensible.

Its the voices of the people

whom you’ve been allowing

to have a say or at least have an 

opinion, in your life.

 

Its the suffocation of distance.

The pangs of jealousy

The fading of the novelty

that alas, never lasts.

Its the stories of the past

of crisis and betrayal

that keep you from 

taking the leap of trust.

I don’t blame myself 

for feeling the need for

unstrapping Myself from Us

because it was holding me back.

I knew I couldn’t give back

what I’d taken from you:

the reassurance, the trust and 

the implicit love (that I never trusted)

For I know, if both the ends

of the bridges don’t meet

then the two of us

are headed for a fall.

I never stop hoping

for a zesty romance

but it doesn’t have to be a 

person, necessarily, it can

 be a Passion or a Chance.

 

 

large

Fates Entwined

largeThe story so far :

  1. A Haunted Memory
  2. Three Strokes of Red
  3. The Red Saree
  4. Black Heart
  5. Who’s next???
  6. 3 NUMB3RS
  7. Will-O’-the-Wisp
  8. Ressurection
  9. I Watched You!

 

……

“Roses are red and Violets aren’t blue

When your body aches and your day ends

Where memories will be your only friends’

‘Catherine, where do you live?,’ asked Steven as the three got into the Jeep.

‘Why,  are you taking me home?,’ she asked.

‘Yes, we need to let your parents know you’re safe,’

‘Will I be a part of your team? Or will you drop me off?’, she asked, dreamily, opening her sketch-book.

‘What do you want to do?’ came Prakash’s voice from the backseat as he tried to position himself in a way that didn’t hurt him too much.

‘I want to draw and not go home yet,’ she muttered. Steven peeked into her book from the driver’s seat as he started the engine to see lines emerging from the ends of her pencil as she drew over the paper, furiously with a cold smile plastered to her face.

‘Go to Annie’s, Steve. Something tells me we’ll find something there. If she is, indeed, alive then she would have tried to tell her parents. She cared about them too much to keep them believing she is in danger. Or maybe she is in grave danger. Any which way I will find out,’ said Prakash.

A light rain had picked up as dusk began to settle and the three drove to Annie’s residence. Prakash explained to Steven and Catherine that Annie’s parents were both meta-physicists and sometimes acted weirdly but otherwise they were really good people. Annie’s parents had met in a research camp at Dartmouth and moved to India when she was just a little girl in her Mother’s ancestral home. Annie was half South American.

Samantha, the mother, answered the door – her grey hair frizzed up and tied into a bun, she welcomed Prakash with a warm hug.

‘Tell me, any news?’ she asked, calmly. Steven was almost suspicious at the lack of worry in the mother’s voice. Prakash nodded a no and inquired about Aberto.

‘He’s stopped talking, completely, son. He’s always locked up in our office – with his readings and charts. He believes she’s sending him clues from the multiverse. He believes she’s found a way. She left to see you, I keep telling him but he believes she escaped into Another Else.’

‘Another Else?,’ mumbled Catherine as she appeared before Sam from behind Steven’s hefty self.

‘Lissy!,’ gasped Samantha as she almost fell back.

Catherine’s face displayed no emotion. She tugged at Prakash, who had gone cold at the mention of Lissy’s name from Samantha’s lips, and handed her book to him. His hands shivered as he took the blank sheet to see two women under a tree watching over two girls sleeping on the grass and a note.

‘Roses are red,

Violets are turning blue

Their fates entwined,

The ends are due.’

‘Its me! Who is she, Prakash! Where did you find her?’ exclaimed Samantha still holding on to the wall and peering into the picture he held.

‘She’s Catherine, Samantha. Why did you call her Lissy and what do you mean that she drew you in this sketch?’

Samantha fell to her knees and cupped Catherine’s cheeks in her palms.

‘But she is Lissy. Her mother and I were the best of friends. I had heard that their father had deserted them after getting caught for grave acts of fraud and a business that shut down but I could never locate them. Oh, dear!’ she wept.

 

……………………………………………………

This post is a part of the “Tagged” Contest by writer Kaarthika and The Chennai Bloggers Club. Kaarthika’s book is being released on May 29.

20

Stumbled Upon Myself

You’re lost amidst echoes.

Blood’s pumping into your head.

Crickets sound like people calling out.

Someone’s clapping from afar.

 

Its dark, your thoughts are falling in place.

The broken signals are harmonizing.

You were running away from something.

Work, love, hate, separation, reality, responsibility?

 

Your eyes got fixated upon the sunset.

And your mind was far away

Thinking of the evenings you spent

colouring books and eating with your face.

 

Days when you weren’t actually smiling

for the camera but were just smiling.

Days when you made up stories

about the smallest of incidents.

 

Days when love came naturally.

And people lifted you up with joy.

And you stole extra pieces of cake

and hid under tables, giggling.

 

And somewhere you got lost.

You stopped telling stars stories.

You forgot about imaginary friends.

You don’t feel excited when the sun’s up.

 

You don’t paint your face green.

Yo don’t make paper boats

and set them afloat in drains.

Or write notes to your parents.

 

These memories turned into music

Your footsteps became beats

and suddenly you’re living your past

in your head, like a movie and laughing.

 

You lost your way

while you found yourself.