Tue, 26 Mar, 2019

Where life is a stage

Headed by Arundhati Chattopadhyaya along with guest facilitators, the students of ‘In Stages: A theatre company for young adults’ will produce ‘Crime Diaries: Three Chilling Tales’ on March 11 at Sunaparanta

Story: BHARATI | PAWASKAR | 10th March 2018, 02:04 Hrs

As you step into the open courtyard at Sunaparanta, you will find Amar, Zen, Shyamala, Gaurangi, Kaira, Anish and many more youngsters monkeying around. Among them is a woman, bustling around, at times yelling, while ordering them to follow her.

The group of 20 students which ranges from 10-18 years is part of ‘In Stages: A theatre company for young adults’ which have been learning the nuances of theatre under the able leadership of Arundhati Chattopadhyay.

Harnessing her rich experience in experimental theatre to groom young boys and girls to be expressive, Arundhati Chattopadhyay enjoys offering a free hand to each member of her team so that they bloom and blossom naturally - on the real stage of life. “There’s no rehearsal there. All said and done for the first time, in life, there’s no retake and remake,” she says.

Sunaparanta has been offering short courses in theatre for young adults under the banner - ‘From the Page to the Stage’ since 2013. This series of theatre workshops has been an exciting learning process for the children between the age group 13 to 18 years, who have shown keenness and talent in their expression of ideas through movements, sound, mime and improvisation. The workshops have been well received over the years and led to the creation of ‘In Stages – a theatre company for young adults’, a programme held over 35 weeks which will now culminate with a performance - Crime Diaries: Three Chilling Tales.

“We will stage three one act plays, one after the other, without any break for an hour and 10 minutes. There’s no borderline and each play is linked with the other in some way or the other. The ideas came from the children. As crimes have been on the rise, they suggested we do some play based on this theme. So we worked together and came out with bit and pieces of ideas and the plays took shape ,” Arundhati shares.

Attending her workshops is sheer joy for the kids. “Whatever you do, wherever you go, just be yourself,” they are told in the workshops. “You are actors, true, but acting should come naturally, not artificially. So learn to express. Say it, do it and get going.”  

There is absolute freedom in the workshops. Arundhati tells them to feel the characters they wish to play. “Feel the way an old man would feel before you act him. Be the character, live it yourself. Enter into your roles, be the person you want to play on stage,” she advises. One may find her asking her students ‘not to do anything’ but just to sit or even, lie down on the lawn and close their eyes, or look up to the sky. “Relax. Think. Feel,” she casually orders. And they obey, some reluctantly, some instantly. And it works wonderfully. In fact the parenst have noted changes in the attitude of their children after the workshops, reveals Arundhati. They can concentrate, sit at one place for longer periods, sleep and eat well.  

Arundhati explains the reasons. “This is all because there is no restriction or strict supervision on them. They enjoy freedom of expression. When you give them freedom, they draw their lines themselves. They calm down. My theatre workshops are more than just a course. They learn to live and not to act. Making them human and humane is the real essence of all this exercise. Life is a big stage and they must perform well there. That’s the take away message that I want to offer,”she says.

From New York to Bangalore and Delhi, Arundhati has moved around  with her theatre activities, but when it was time to pause and to relax, she chose Goa without any hesitation five years ago and settled in Socorro, a place she describes as ‘nearby heaven’. She also fell in love with Sunaparanta instantly and knew she had to be associated with the place.  

“So I climbed up the stairs and landing in the admin office introduced myself and announced that I want to do theatre here. The people stared at me, not knowing how to respond. But then things worked out and we accepted each other.  Since then the Sunaparanta team, the kids who attend my workshops and their parents and me have gelled well with each other. We are now a part of each other,” she concludes and rushes back to her makeshift stage.