To many of us, ‘theatre’ is simply those Shakespearean or Grecian plays studied in school and vague memories of “Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?!” or “To be or not to be, that is the question.” But given that theatre in India has a legacy of being culturally and artistically rich, complex and expansive, it’s an unfortunate mind-set. And it’s this mindset that Ankit Bakshi, creator of the Break A Leg! initiative, is hoping to change, and is well on his way to doing so.
The Green Room Diaries, the first property of Break A Leg!, is a series of inspiring video interviews with theatre artistes and personalities from around the country. So far it has featured Ira Dubey, Rajit Kapur, Shernaz Patel, and Hussain Dalal amongst others. Each interview offers a glimpse into the artist’s journey, their craft and their thoughts on theatre in India, and gives those of us who don’t often frequent the theatre, a glimpse into what we’re missing out on, too.
We spoke to Bakshi about what motivated him to create the Green Room Diaries and what he hopes it will bring artistes and audiences in India.
1. Tell us a little about yourself and theatre. Was there one show in particular that sparked your interest?
I am the founder of my six-year-old video production company, Laputa, based out of Hyderabad. We develop promotional video content for brands and big corporations (Microsoft, Google, Infosys, Trident) as well as some exciting start-ups and non-profits.
The first play I ever saw was by a Hyderabad-based theatre group called ‘Dramanon’. They performed Dario Fo’s Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay and I was absolutely spellbound. I was keen to pursue theatre and soon joined the good folks at Dramanon. So, to use an analogy, I am one of those lucky people who got to be a part of the music band that inspired them to pursue music 🙂
While I have acted in a couple of shows, I enjoy being backstage more than anything else. The chaos and energy behind the curtains is magical.
2. Why did you decide to start the Green Room Diaries? And what do you think it brings to both audiences and artists?
Although I make brand films for a living, it’s theatre that feeds my soul. But, as an avid consumer of digital content, I saw in it, an opportunity to promote Indian theatre.
The online world has done wonders for musicians and stand-up comedians, turning them into overnight stars and role models. I simply thought ‘Why can’t we leverage the digital space in a similar way, to spread the word about theatre?’ Also, with my filmmaking skills, it was only natural for me to marry both my passions. And hence, the Green Room Diaries was born.
What started as a simple video interview with established theatre practitioners evolved to serve a larger purpose.
For audiences, it’s an inside look into what goes into the making of a play and the artist’s journey. Viewers have told me that although they have seen a particular actor in a movie, they never knew of that actor’s theatre background. So, it helps give the audience a new and different perspective.
As for fellow theatre artists, they are hopefully inspired to pursue theatre more seriously and not look at it simply as a stepping stone to films. They also use the Green Room Diaries to connect with their audiences and speak about their craft.
You may also like to read: In conversation with theatre artist Mohan Ram
3. What are the challenges in developing new work and getting more shows on stage? What do you think would be helpful in addressing these?
The challenges are plenty: not enough venues, lack of funds, not enough Indian writing.
But I think that the biggest challenge is the lack of awareness amongst audiences. Keep in mind that theatre tickets cost almost the same as movie tickets these days, and plays are conducted in different languages too. Then, why do you think audiences don’t flock to plays? They need to learn more about theatre and be aware of the different plays being held! Green Room Diaries is a small, baby step towards that.
I dream of a day when the average Indian – and I mean everyone from a cab driver to a CEO – can choose from five different plays to watch on a Friday evening.
4. What has been the most rewarding aspect of this process for you?
Personally, I learn tremendously from every interaction and interview for the Green Room Diaries, giving me more insight into Indian theatre.
Also, I feel that the Green Room Diaries will one day serve as a sort of time-capsule or archive of theatre in India as at the moment there’s not too much documentation. And just the thought of it is very rewarding.
5. Many people still view theatre as an elitist activity. How do you think attitudes towards theatre have changed?
I am glad you asked this. I feel that theatre is often perceived as too sophisticated or too khaadi-jhola kinds, but the truth is that theatre is driven by people like you and me, who are passionate and dedicated.
Yes, it’s true that theatre does not pay as well as films or other acting based careers but things are definitely changing. There are corporate initiatives and foundations that support theatre now, hence the image of it being only for the rich or being film’s poor cousin is definitely wearing away.
6. What’s been your greatest discovery through Green Room Diaries?
I have discovered theatre artists are a lot of fun and not as serious as they are portrayed to be 🙂
Jokes apart, more than a medium for discovery, the Green Room Diaries has reaffirmed that passion, dedication and sincerity are the founding blocks of Theatre.
To watch more videos, head over to Break A Leg’s Facebook page, and be sure to follow them to stay tuned to new productions and insightful interviews with your favourite theatre personalities.
All featured image credit: Break A Leg