Last week we got an opportunity to talk to Aanchal Nandrajog - an artist/producer, who is creating her own niche within the world of performing arts. She shared with us her journey, her love for theatre, talked about her latest play – Meera or Me and her production house Bani Arts.
This is an excerpt from our conversation:
Theatre is considered to be an unconventional career. What drove you to it?
It was never thought of as a career, it was more of a sense within that took me towards it. Ever since school, I remember experiencing a pull within whenever the word theatre was heard. But I didn’t have the guts then, to take it on. So I chose what is popularly known as a common life and trained myself within the field of tourism, with an aim, to develop sustainable tourism destinations in India. I was looking forward to working with the government for the same. But life had it’s own plans. In 2004, after completing my post grads, in tourism planning and development from Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, I found myself participating in a theatre workshop. And I’ve never looked back since.
Nothing touches me as much as a good performance and nothing is more pleasurable than being blessed by an evening where the audience is having a great time because the performance is simply blowing their minds away.
Over the years, I happened to realise, that theatre not only entertains but also enriches and heals both its practitioners and it’s audience. It is a space that allows you to celebrate your truth together.
How did you come with the idea of intimate theatre, and what drove you to it?
Intimate theatre has been happening for a long time. I didn’t come up with this idea. You have veterans like Dilip Shankar in Delhi and Atul Kumar in Mumbai, who have been doing it for a long time now. For Meera or Me, an intimate setting was ideal, as the piece had evolved itself in a way that gives the audience a sense of being in someone’s bedroom.
Originally I had envisioned a huge show with actors/dancers/gymnasts etc. But my director also my master in the field, believes in being organic, and letting a piece evolve by itself. So he asked me to start with me. That meant a one-woman show and yes I did freak out. I was stung by fear at the thought of facing an audience for an hour, all by myself, at such close quarters, with absolutely nothing to entertain them with, but my performance. It is freaky and somewhere delightful to be able to achieve something like that.
So an intimate setting was the best place for us to start with. Also, somewhere within I’m grateful for it being such. It makes me feel richer. There is something about intimate settings; it ‘s mysterious and more embracing. It also gives creators a chance to play with the space, breaking away from the structures of an available stage and creating your own. Having said this we do look forward to stage shows, at spaces like the habitat, Zorba the Buddha, at Prithvi etc.
Do you think commercial theatre compromises with the quality of the profession?
No. Commercials are brilliant. It’s greed and impatience that hampers the quality of a product. You can take any field for that matter.
I feel people need to grow above this norm that theatre or art cannot fetch you money, of course it can. The two worlds simply need to understand each other, and compliment each other, with a larger perspective in mind, that looks at sustainable development.
Commercials are very important for artists. What will an artist do without an audience and money? How will he create? And what will the world be without art? Commercials don’t ruin quality; it’s the people who work out of greed and self indulgence, they ruin quality.
You simply have to find creative ways of doing things.
What have you learned from the play?
Oh, that’s a very good question, honestly, I’m still learning… all I can say as of now is, I’ve learnt how to stand by myself on stage. Earlier if you would say show, I would freak out, today if you say show, I’ll look forward to it.
And this is all thanks to my director, who’s given me something for life. And I’m still learning, every time I revisit the script, every time I rehearse, there is something new that comes my way, about the play or me. It’s a process it carries on.
What do you want the audience to take away?
I’d like them to go entertained and enriched at the same time. I received an interesting feedback after my first show. The lady wrote to me, she said, “Meera and Krishna, both are very close to my heart. And I have been questing for a long time now. Your show has taken me to another level and broken barriers within” Now, to hear something like that, is a gift from god itself.
What the audiences take is not in my hands, my intent is to be able to give a fine performance, one after the other.
How has the performance impacted your life?
The text is such, that when explored with truth, opens up various areas within you. You realise as a performer, an actor how far away you are from your own writings, your own thoughts, from your own intellect. An audience member had asked me, how true is this piece of work to you, in your daily life? I said, it’s a journey…every time I rehearse I take another step towards truth for myself.
What are you currently busy with?
I am working towards more shows for Meera OR Me. I’d like to travel with it as much as possible.
I am also now setting up my own company, Bani Arts. Bani Arts, intends to creatively bring the world of business and arts together. Our first venture is destination workshops for school kids & corporate personnel, in Jim Corbett, starting august 2013.
Do you have a message for people who want to be professional as actors / dancers?
I’d like to share, what I’ve learnt over the years. The beauty of art lies in its truth. So as an artist try and be true to the moment. And as a professional go out there and sell yourself. Art and its business go hand and hand. They are not separate from one another.
We wish Aanchal all the best for Bani Arts and hope she continues her journey of learning, teaching and loving performing arts.
Photographs Credit – Prashin Jagger
You can also give out messages to Aanchal in the comments below