Friday, May 23, 2008

I was destined to act in plays...

Destiny is strange. It can turn your life upside down in a jiffy. You never know whats in store for you next moment. I hadn't even imagined in my wildest dreams that I would be acting in Kannada Plays in Mumbai someday. I surely did not know that humming a song in the stinky toilet could provide me with an opportunity of playing major role in a beautiful play, which eventually turned my life upside down.

It was the fag end of the year 1998. I was working for Karnataka Sangha as a Clerk. Decent job for a young fresher with very lowly marks in the final year of graduation. The best thing about that particular job was, there were no pressures. Come to office at 12 noon, leave anytime after 8. Prepare petty cash vouchers, and tackle people who are there to book the auditorium for a musical program, or book the hall for a wedding. Take cheques and prepare receipts. That's all. All this for a princely salary of Rs.2500 only. There were no targets, no deadlines, no female colleague to flirt around with and of course no incentives. But for me, the best thing about the job was, there were no bosses to keep an eye on us till the evening. Till 6 pm, you could do anything. From roaming around to sitting in the library and reading some great Kannada books. It is there that I read very interesting and great Kannada novels and books of Dr. Shivaram Karanth, Masti, Bhairappa, and loads of others.

It was the month of November, 1998. It was a casual day of work. I was doing some usual stuff in the office. Enter the then General Secretary of the Sangha, Mr. Bharat Kumar Polipu who tells me to follow him to the meeting room of the Sangha. I was confused. This guy had never spoken to me even once during last six months and now orders me to come to the meeting room. I wondered why! Maybe somebody had complained to him that I spend more time at the library than at my work table. He was the secretary and had every right to fire me. I went to the meeting room with my legs shaking. The first thing he asks me is to sing a nice song for him. Best way to fire a poor chap, or so I thought. I started singing a couple of lines from a film called Damini. "Jab Se Tumko dekha hai Sanam...". "Good, but please sing the song that you were singing in the toilet a few minutes ago" says the Secretary. I started crooning "Kabhi Kabhi mere dil mein Khayal aata hai".

I did not know what was going on here. And before I could finish my song, he asks "Have you acted in a drama before?".. Have I acted in a drama before? Ask this to the K E Board's high school, Dharwad. Ask that to AIR station of Dharwad. Ask that to Katti Sir and Koulagi madam of KEB high. Ask that to Mukund Maigoor, to Tumkoor Shivakumar., to Ma Gu Sadanandaiah, even to the chapraasi of Kalabhavan. I always thought I was the next best thing after Marlon Brando to have happened to the World of theater. Unfortunately my answer to him had to be a little milder than that. He was my boss after all. I said "Yes Sir. I would love to act in a drama too". He then commanded, "Well, then here is a script for you. It is a play called 'Gummanelliha Toramma' by the great Sri Ranga. Read the script and come to the rehearsals from tomorrow. You are going to play the central role of 'Haadugaara' (the singer)".

There was no chance of me saying NO to him, because a colleague had told me that this very laid back and relaxed Secretary of the Sangha was a brilliant Kannada Director too. I was pretty happy to say yes. More than that, I was happy because I could now spend much more time in the library in the pretext of researching for the play.

I thought the journey from the rehearsals to the actual show, would be a smooth sailing for me. It was anything but that. Its there in the rehearsals that, I started re-inventing myself as an actor. The long gap of 10 years between acting in plays, had taken a toll. I found I was a no hoper in the beginning. It was pretty tough. I was always an actor who needed my freedom. I would not mind If the Director ordered me about the movements; But I could not take it when he tried to make me act in a way he wanted; I would not tolerate If the Director told me to emote in a certain way. I would hate it when the director would say a line in a particular way and ordered me to say that line exactly the way he did. No Sir, I am not a mimic, I am a far better an actor than that, or SO I thought. The first week of the rehearsals was a living hell for me. I could never get it right. Even the Songs I was supposed to sing were composed in a very high pitch. My request to shift the pitch to a lower octave were met with complete disdain. There were days when I thought to myself, It would be better If I quit. But I also knew that it was too late to quit. I decided that this was going to be the last drama of my life. I changed my attitude. I realized that I had not understood the character well. I sat with the director once after the rehearsals and discussed at length about the character. Suddenly it was smooth sailing. The comic timing was magically back.

We were producing the play for the yearly festival conducted by Kannada Kala Kendra, a very reputed Kannada theater institution of Mumbai. The day was 10th December, 1998. Venue- karnataka Sangha's Auditorium. And the Show was a GRAND success. Every one liked the play and so many of them came to the backstage and congratulated me. I clearly remember a senior actor called Krishnaraj Shetty calling me the 'Find of the season'. I was in seventh heaven. Director was all praise for me. Even a veteran like Sai Ballal congratulated me. But the best one came from Mr. Mohan Marnad, who simply hugged me and gave me a thumb's up.

I am proud that I started or rather re-started my stint with Kannada theater for a wonderful institution like Kala Kendra. I am proud that today I am the Joint secretary of the same institution. Destiny is strange after all.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Shree Ganesh...A translator's beginning.

Here I am, jumping into the blogger's bandwagon. With a huge doubt on my ability to convey my feelings and thoughts, I say Shree Ganesha. Wanted to start blogging long ago, thanks to a friendly advice from a wonderful friend Shridhar Prabhu. But, come to think of it. I am a writer/translator/dubber by profession. We unfortunate fellas write day in and day out to earn a livelihood. Writing again can never be the best way to relax. We would rather have a bottle of beer and a pack of Gold flake king to get away from the misery of writing for two square meals a day.

Well, it is rather inauspicious time to begin blogging. I am still mourning the demise of one of the greatest playwrights and a great Marathi laureate Shri. Vijay Tendulkar. Yesterday Mr. Shashikant Yadahalli, the renowned theater critic and the editor of 'Rangabhoomi Vishleshane' magazine, called me up and asked me to write an article on Tendulkar sahab. Although I have seen and read a few of his plays, I was not fortunate enough to know or understand his works fully. Incidentally just a few days ago, I thought of venturing into the field of direction and the play I decided to work on, happens to be the last play written by Tendulkar Sahab. A play called 'Baby'. I wanted to seek the permission and blessings of Tendulkar sahab, but unfortunately that was not to be. Now that I have downloaded and started reading some articles about the great man, I realize that what an asset he was to Indian theater in general and Marathi theater in particular. It would be my good fortune if I could write a few lines about the great soul.

Talking of the play 'Baby', I must thank a dear friend mrs. Jayalaxmi Patil, who volunteered to translate the play into Kannada. I must also thank my dear friends Shri. Mohan Marnad, Ahalya Ballal and Surendra Kumar Marnad for having agreed to play the vital characters of the play. I know it is tough to agree to be a part of a play to be directed by a rookie. Above all I must thank all the friends from Karnataka Sangha, Matunga and particularly, my Guru, Bharat Kumar Polipu for having faith in my ability to carry the responsibility of directing a Vijay Tendulkar play.

'Baby' is a strong play. A subtle yet strong reminder that hope exists, even in the deepest and darkest dungeon like situations we find ourselves sometimes in our life. The Character of Baby never ceases to amaze me because Baby, for me is the true reflection of the character of a common woman. She could be vulnerable, yet very very strong. And for me, a woman is always a symbol of hope. A woman can never be destructive. A woman knows only to give.

I am sure I will be the happiest man on earth when, at the end of October 2008, Baby will be staged at the Karnataka Sangha's Auditorium. I am eagerly waiting for the rains to start soon and end sooner, so that I can start with the rehearsals. I am feeling the warmth of the illuminated spotlights and dimmers already.

Before I wrap this up, I should also thank a few people who inspired me to start blogging. I have been reading Mr. Amitabh Bachchan's blog for a month now. The man works eighteen hours a day. He is either shooting or running to the airport to catch a flight to Cannes or present at a book releasing function at any given time of the day. He is omni-present. Yet he finds time to write those long-ish and spicy blogs. Truly inspiring, coming from a 65 year old man. I should also thank a very dear old friend of mine, from my school days at Dharwad, Rashmi Deshpande, who was better known as Junior Juhi Chawla, those days. She writes some beautiful things on her blog too. Some very very simple yet close to heart stuff. I should also thank friends like Pushparaj Rai, Mariyappa Natekar and above all my idol Mr. Jayant Kaikini.

I would love to write some stuff about Jayant Kaikini sir and some memorable time I have spent with him in the past, in my subsequent entries. I sincerely hope my latest fixation with blogging wont come to an abrupt end. Knowing myself, that is a definite possibility. Lets see what happens. Shri Ganesh toh bol diya hai...

Till next time.