Report by resource person: Ramesh Rajhans
“A workshop on Theatre as Career” was held from 21.5.2000 to 30.5.2000 at J.J. Nursing Home Association Holiday Home at Aksha by sea beach under the auspices of Experimental Theatre Foundation conducted by Sri Manjul Bharadwaj.I (Ramesh Rajhans) and Rajkumar Kamble participated as resource persons. The workshop was residential, resource persons were, however, allowed to participate externally and a few to join during the course of workshop. The participating members were as follows:
14. Smt Geeta Mahajan
15. Smt Smita Pansare
16. Kum. Holga Deshmukh
17. Mrs Adena Harris
18. Miss Nicci Harris
19. Kum. Chandita Deshmukh
20. Mrs. Sangeeta Patil
21. Shri Robin John
22. Shri Raju Naik
23. Shri Sujit Kumar
24. Shri Gajendra Kumar
25. Shri Manohar Pagare
26. Shri Ravikant R.Shardul
I reached the venue on 21st at 10.15 AM Shri Bhardwaj received me and got me introduced to Mrs. Adena and her daughter Nicci as budding poetess. The girl really appeared talented and a well-behaved soft-spoken lady at first glance. Manjul begged leave to see other arrangement,Adena and Nicci set down at verandah conversation, I gathered that Adena also writes. She wants to be introduced to some pop singer so that Nicci song’s may be sang for video number. I warned her to check her hastiness in this regard otherwise she may run into some wrong hand and spoil the child. Be aware of the tinsel world.
The workshop began around 12.00 clock. The participants were told to go around and touch any thing they like and come back. When they came back, Manjul asked them to report their experience. Most of them reported visually i.e. about colour and shape of the texture. Thereafter, Manjul welcomed the participants by presenting a piece of thing such as flower, leaves, green nuts, etc., and asked them to sit in the hall where the mattresses were arranged in square. As the people sit there as stranger, Manjul asked them to report about the thing he had given to them. Again, they started reporting usually. Manjul kept on asking them counter question when they did not report correctly. He was also aware of the persons who were not attentive to the whole process.
He wanted every body to be aware of what were happening to them individually as well as a group. For this purpose, he persistently asked two question where are you? Where is group? It was interesting to note that none of them could understand these questions in the right perspective. Raju Naik answered the above two questions in sheer physical terms such as the place of the workshop where he was physically present.
This process (continued till midday of 22nd May) made them gradually realize that :
(1) They were never before asked to report in specific and correct terms (2) they never used the language to convey the intention correctly. Meanwhile, certain theatrical as well as relaxation exercises were introduced during the day and next morning (i.e. 22nd). (3) Before saying, they never gave a second thought to what they were to say. (4) They never ensured as to whether they stood communicated completely. (5) They also realized that they did not listen to anything attentively, which posed a serious problem to understanding. Most of the time they understood wrong and they were understood wrong. In brief, they were aware of the dislocation of thought and feeling in themselves for the first time. This led them to realize the cause of problems they face in their day to day life.
They also realized how body and mind are integrated. If the mind set is fixed, the body becomes stiff and vice-versa. On 22nd of May by the evening around 9.30 p.m., I had to leave the workshop to be at home due to inevitable circumstances and to join the next morning. But later I came to know that Manjul provided them with the script of “Main Aurat Hoon” written by him and also performed a piece from “Seagull” for them. There they were asked to prepare the role on their own using the input they are provided during the workshop.
On 23rd, I rejoined the workshop around 12.30 p.m. They were preparing for the performance of Mein aurat hoon! After a while, the performance began. All of them approached the script from the point of physical enactment and not to communicate the content. It was really very enriching to see them struggling to express the lines of the script through broad movement and loud gestures. Sujit and Gajendra were really funny on account of their personal built, accent and diction followed by their inability to concentrate.
Thereafter, Manjul asked me to introduce the script analysis and the correct approach to acting. Before coming to the issue, I analyzed their experience so far and made them understand how theatre is a means of concrete communication. As the script is the text of abstract ideas, it is to be concretized by actors for communication. So the script analysis is the process of discovering them and contents that the playwright deserves to convey through the play. They got it and it was pleasant to note that their approach of working on the script was totally changed. Now they were much more concerned to convey the emotional logic and content inherent in the lines of the text and as such their performance transformed.
At night, they were subjected to improvisational exercise in-groups of two. The theme of the improvisation was the one person wants to leave the workshop and go while another persuades him (not to leave the workshop) beneficial experience.
Next day, the participants were told that now they had a fair idea of what is play and what is acting, it will be, therefore, ideal to attempt to write a play of their own. Smt Geeta Mahajan, Smita Pansare and Holga Deshmukh wrote plays as follows: -
4. Where is my nest? – Geeta Mahajan
5. ‘Laghana’(Marriage)- Smita Pansare
6. Meri kya Galati hai? _- Holga Deshmukh
It was wonderful to note that all the three scripts were plays, indicating clearly that they well received the message. Day by day there was a noticeable growth in their work and also in every day behaviour. The last performance by them with the audience from the nearby girl’s camp was a tremendous event. It was clearly communicated with impact. When Manjul asked the girls to express their views about the individual performances. They were totally candid and sympathetic. There was no voice of condemnation. The fact that Mein Aurat Hoon, which is a highly symbolical monologue, was fully communicated in content and impact, was the testimony of correct approach adapted for staging the script.
Analytical study of the change in participants:
13) Not willing 14) No direction & vision in life 15) Lack of confidence16) Afraid to talk with elderly people17) Thoughtless speaking18) Doesn’t own her saying19) Never tried to discover/understand the self20) Not aware of the relation between thought and feeling21) Afraid of being questioned22) Not aware of strength and weaken23) Tendency to project false image of self 24) Suppressing herself/ himself
13) Not willing to go after 10days14) New direction & New vision 15) Full of confidence16) Initiate the talk with full confidence to the point17) Realization think well and before speaking –understood the importance of words/meaning18) Started owning her saying 19) tried to discover/understand the self20) understood the relationship between thought and feeling21) Questioning helped her to open up22) Aware about strength & weakness 23) Acknowledged the real self projection24) Open up herself/himself.
10) Not aware about the role of self understanding in theatre11) Not aware about theatre 12) Not aware of the improvisational exercise of theatre13) No concept of theatre14) No idea how to read & understand script 15) Not aware of acting potential16) Not aware of playwriting17) Not aware of direction, importance of music and light in theatre18) Not aware of theatrical exercises for plasticity of body
10) Got aware about the role of self understanding in theatre11) Got the information of various form of theatre12) Experienced the improvisational strength & challenges of theatre very happy13) Formed her / his own concept of theatre a medium where we se life from a very close quarter and in depth14) Learnt how to read & understand the script should not be approached externally. We should discover what the playwright wants to convey/communicate through the script. An abstract character is to be concretized by the acting15) Realized how to control /project the emotion. Acting should be real and not artificial16) Wrote the plays, Showed to the audience and got encouraging response. Ready to write the next play.17) Learnt , practiced and performed18) Know the exercises, practiced and acknowledged the importance
The workshop was also an important event in my theatre career. It provided me with a novel base of understanding the people, their makeup of mind, their bases and their level of awareness. The closing ceremony was especially very sublime with the fire burning in the middle and people sitting around it. They were asked to leave at least two negative attitudes here in the fire and take at least two positive attitudes from here. It was really very solemn and sublime and I am sure the participants were not the source the persons when they joined the workshop. This was the ultimate success of the workshop
Got opportunity to be with nature and experienced the beauty of the nature, which is a dream for Mumbaites. Never forget these 10 days experience in my life. Never had such experience earlier in life.
“THEATRE AS A CAREER –An Introduction”
Report by participant: Geeta Mahajan
This is the most difficult report I have ever written about any workshop I have gone through so far. The more I think about it, reflect on its whole process, the more I derive from it.
Manjul and the Experimental Theatre Foundation (Experimental Theatre Foundation) relies on the method of experiential learning in the real sense of the word. Experience it ‘here & now’ & ‘understand’ it. It is not easy but it is effective. It is based on the concept of learning that true learning comes through experience and not through books, notes, one-way lectures & seminars If we look at our own self & our understanding of the reality around us, we realize that, that learning which comes from experience has become an integral part of our self, while that which is not related to experience remains empty word.
‘WORD’ is an obsession with Manjul in the workshop. That inculcates a kind of discipline in communication. “Say what you mean & mean what you say”. Apart from making one realize that we have been using words more to camouflage our feelings than to express them, this discipline helps in focussing on the activity of the workshop removes possibility of presumptions prejudices & saves time. Everyone starts the journey of searching answers to questions raised rather than throwing words around.
Understanding ‘SELF’ is one of the important tasks set before the participant on day I, by asking questions like ‘who are you?’ & ‘where are you?’ Everyone is uncomfortable with the task to different degrees but finally grapples with the question. The process of understanding one-self goes on in a subtle manner throughout the workshop & beyond.
These are literally ‘n’ number of exercises, small experiences, the evaluation process, the daily MILLY (Most Important Lessons Learnt Yesterday), encounters & conversation with Manjul, Dr. Ramesh Rajhans & Shri Rajkumar Kamble, the company of innocent child Priyanka & motherly figure, Mummy being in touch with the abundant nature surrounding us… everything catalyses the process of understanding self. The more you reflect, the more you derive & achieve. The exercises need to be listed together with their objectives. These are many encounters with Manjul & other persons which puzzle the participant but that sets a train of thought that compels you to probe within you & understand yourself as the first step to enhance your growth.
Some participants are adequately equipped with the sensitivity & sensibility to absorb these suggestions made by Manjul while some are not, when the encounters become violent & outwardly humiliating & painful. The result, however, that the individual concerned actually changed in a positive manner, justifies this seemingly rude, but very delicate/sensitive method. As the intention of the resource person becomes crystal clear to the participant, there are no hard feelings & he is drawn closer to the resource person.
There is also an overt expression of love & affection in the workshop, which makes the participant comfortable with oneself, the groups & resource persons. Throughout the process, the expressions are genuine. This task is a challenging one & demands tremendous resourcefulness from the resource person. I am surprised to witness that it does not consume Manjul but enriches him. Through each experiment with the human beings around him, you feel that he has gone through a difficult process & reached a higher stage.
The experiments to make the participants understand ‘SELF’ bring the whole group together & bind them in an invisible bond. Throughout the workshop, the individual participants & the group as a whole are made to perceive their presence or absence, motivation, urge or the lack of it, the thought process, emotional state at each juncture. The group formation, breaking of group, handling of group dynamics with its effect on the growth of the group are carried out with the superb skill of an experienced scientist on the workshop as laboratory & participants as the animated raw material. Each participant according to his/her status perceives the whole process. Whether an individual is conscious & perceptive or not, the group is formed when Manjul works towards it & it is broken in an equally decided manner. Again, all this is done with a number of facilitating exercises & interventions.
Once the group is formed & the participants are warmed up intellectually & emotionally, Manjul and the resource persons take the whole group through the journey of understanding Theatre - as the closest possible, as honest as possible. Theatre- reflection of life itself. To understand this is the next task chalked out for the individual participant & the group.
The script of “MEIN AURAT HOON” written by Manjul himself which is a masterpiece in its own right becomes the representative object of theatre for all the participants to feel, touch, handle, perceive, concentrate on, assimilate, mould, squeeze, dip into… it is read by all participant in the beginning, discussed & then performed. The participant goes through complex process involving all Facets of his/her personality. The participants essentially probes in to what the writer has perceived & Presented on intellectual & emotional level, looks for the subtle theme & conflict inherent in the script which is nothing but the theme running through the script. The exercise of reading scripts in the group in presence of resource persons catalyses the process of understanding these concepts of theatre.
Then follows the whole process of acting out the script, directing it, writing script on conceiving a play understanding a script as a director, selecting actors, rehearsing the play, creating set, thinking of appropriate light & music, deciding on entry, exit & acting areas, performing the play first before the group & finally before general audience.
After each and every exercise & experiment an evaluation is carried out meticulously, intensely & creatively. Every second became learning experience through experience.
The final evaluation is of course, that by the audience, people at large. That was arranged on the penultimate day very -very skillfully by Manjul. It has been gratifying to see that an audience of school girls & the few women as accompanying staff appreciate, feel & understand theatre in all its dimension & technicalities. Their robust common sense navigates them to see positive & negatives of the performance & the artists (actors, writing, director, backstage workers) offering once again an opportunity to learn from experience. The ‘right’ amount of tension due to the presence of the outside audience takes the performance to a new height, it is clearly perceive. The theatrists get in constant & intimate dialogues with the audience as a fresh new experience.
In the entire journey the participant (individual) & the whole group are facilitated to go within oneself, reflect upon the experience, learned from each other & derive (design) their own concepts in a crystalline manner. On the penultimate day an opportunity is given to identify these concepts and co-relate them with the academic definitions with the facilitation by Dr. Ramesh Rajhans.
Finally, no, it is never final because the process has been instilled within each of us with the representative guardian to oversee the process move further & bring about growth in each of us in continued manner- Hence not finally, but on the technically last day, we share with Manjul what we have gathered with our brains & hearts during the workshops, ask questions in an open, uninhibited manner. It is interesting to hear from Manjul what he learned from each & every one of us.
It ends on a note that all the 13 participants, three resource persons, Babliji as the manager, Priyanka as our little friend, mummyji as mummy ji here all together made a beautiful journey through this 10 days & here all reached a higher stage of their existence, more sensitive & more intelligent. The exercise of burning negative traits within oneself & instilling new positive traits was really moving with concrete commitment to oneself & the group. The group parts (physically) after resonating with one another in the peak emotion.
Last, but not the least, the physical exercises (conducted by Rajkumar Kamble) did wonders on our body as the medium of theatre.
Thank you, Manjul