As the world celebrates World Theatre Day today, four Bollywood actors share their first-ever professional theatre experiences and memories associated with it.
The day was celebrated first in 1961 by the International Theatre Institute (ITI). From then on, it has been celebrated every year by ITI centres and the international theatre community worldwide through numerous theatrical events to mark the occasion.
Richa Chadha, Pankaj Tripathi, Gulshan Devaiah and Vijay Varma, all started their careers on stage and from there, went on to accomplish what they have in the film industry today.
“I remember my first play was when I was in the 11th grade. I was cast in a professional play with some actors from NSD repertory. it was not my first experience on stage but I guess it was the first professional one. The play was titled Aur Kitne Tukde and it was a Hindi play directed by Dr Kirti Jain.
I was cast as an extra which worked well for me because I got to observe amazing actors from the National School of Drama from close quarters and learn from them. Also, I had braces and it was a period play so the less attention I do to myself the better it was to be.”
“My first play was Leela Nandlal Ki story by Bhishm Sahani and the director was Vijay Kumar, a National School of Drama pass out. The story is about a scooter that gets lost and the protagonist goes to police station to make a complaint. I was playing both the characters, a cop and a thief. It was my first play and for the first time I performed in front of the Patna audience and to my pleasant surprise they liked my performances in both the characters. Even though I was not great performer at that time nor was I trained in diction but I open heatedly performed on my impulse and the audience liked my performance and even misjudged me for a NSD pass out since the director was from NSD.
The next day in a local newspaper, review of the play was printed. I was also mentioned in it, and that, I have a great potential and a possibility of being a good actor. That one line grabbed my attention.
Only through one play, the critics and the newspaper figured out my potential and possibility as an actor which was quite huge for me, raising my interest and confidence to acting further.
This was in the year November-December 1996. In fact ,my encounter with theatre came much before in my village, Gopalganj during one of the festivals Chatt that is celebrated in North of India and now everywhere. This play used to be organized by a local drama group. Raghav Saran Tiwari was my first director and it was a very amateur play. Even in that play the locals of my village liked my performance and appreciated it a lot. Since then the seed of acting was sown inside me, that now I have to learn acting.
5 years after that play, migrating to Patna I did Bhism Sahani’s Leela Nandlal Ki play.”
“I was 5 years old and my mother was already an actor on stage. She use to be a very fine actor and I use to travel with her wherever she performed and watch her performing. It was a Malayalam play and I did a guest appearance. My mother and I had to just walk past, look at this person who is making a Rangoli on the floor and appreciate it. I had absolutely no clue about what I was doing but I was over the moon that I was on the stage and all these people were watching me.
That was my first experience of stage that I could remember. I have a clear memory; I can still see myself wearing blue checked shirt and blue shorts with elastic and my mom wearing a chiffon saree. It was in the year 1982-83.
The first time I professionally did a play Kurukshetra Burning in Bangalore it was in the year 2007 and in English language. That was the first time after the play I felt I was good as an actor. I had that confidence I could say that I was good. It was a series of monologues. It was fictitious retelling of what happened after the Mahabharat war. I played Duryodhan. Each of the monologue was about 15 mins. So I performed that monologue. My father had come to see the play, he was in the audience. After I did that I had such a great feeling that everybody responded so well to my performance and I think I gave a lot to that performance. It was then that I decided to come to Mumbai and pursue my dreams. It was never my dream to be a theatre actor.
Theatre is my teacher and I am very grateful to theatre. That play and role gave me the confidence to pursue my career and dream in Mumbai.”
“I was rejected at FTII and came back to Hyd dejected and broken. I enrolled myself in a Theater group (Sutradhar) and did a 4 month workshop at the end of which was a play. I went late for rehearsal one day and was thrown out of that play after working so hard. Then after showing discipline and commitment, I got a part in the next play – Kisi Aur Ka Sapna. My first play as an actor on stage. It was probably the most exhilarating moment of my life when I went up first time on a dark stage with just a spotlight. But I had to work a lot in the dark first to be in that spotlight. Theatre trains you in dealing with darkness and finding yourself. I am eternally thankful to the stage and my teacher.”