“I was lucky to get the attention of Barry John, the legend of theatre. I was one of the participants in his workshop and it was after the second time I was rejected at the National School of Drama (NSD). Raghubir Yadav took me to this workshop. Barry saw me working and participating and looked at my intensity and was impressed and worried. I was a shy boy. I was reserved and was more to myself and smoking a beedi in the corner of the room. After 20 odd shows got over, he called me and told me not to try for NSD. He said, ‘You come with me and I will give you Rs 1200. You be the trainer at my workshops.’
He really started putting pressure on me to do English plays because he knew that I was very passionate about learning the English language as a skill. So he was like a godsend in my life and we are still now we are a patch.”
“My tryst with acting started with street theatre and it made me hugely confident about the fact that I could entertain people with my skills. Street theatre actually set my foundation to become a fearless performer. I became not afraid to take risks and I’m hugely grateful for this because it has shaped who I have become today.
Theatre, to me, can be introspective, critical about society and what we are becoming and also serve as a gateway to fantasise about a world that doesn’t exist. I have learnt so much from theatre because it challenges you to push your boundaries so that you can entertain and engage with audiences in a much deeper and interactive manner. I have taken my learnings from doing theatre and tried to emulate them for my on-screen performances and choice of scripts.
Theatre can be a boundless form of self-expression and I realised back then that if I had to become a good artiste, I will need to constantly push myself to shed my inhibitions and pick projects that challenge my notion of how acting should be. I have enormous respect for theatre and theatre actors and whenever I get a chance, I try to make time to watch great performances and productions.”
“The only talent I had was acting and I fell in love with my art since I was a kid. I was never chasing fame and money and this is what I wanted to do. I did theatre and went to the Film Institute. I did not want to come here unprepared. Your friends will sy, you do very good mimicry and impressions and look good too. Why don’t you go to Mumbai and be an actor? It is not that simple. Cinema is changing and we need talent out there now. We need to get trained and have some experience before coming here. I came here and I did not want to give up chasing my dream without a plan B.
There was this wonderful place called Shriram Centre for Performing Arts near Mandi House and I enrolled for a two-year acting course because I knew that I could do theatre. I travelled from Gurugram to Delhi in the state roadway buses. I come from a humble middle class family and we were not too well off financially. My dad Satyapal Yadav was a government employee working in the revenue department. So someone told me that I should arrange a bus pass by enrolling into a Delhi University college as I was spending a lot of money daily in travelling and I could get a pass. When I got decent marks in class 12, I applied to different colleges and got into one where I pursued my bachelor of arts.”
“A lot of times acting may look natural, but you need internal and external training. Everything I am today, be it as a human being or an actor is all due to theatre. My understanding of life itself emanates from theatre. The basic of my acting comes from theatre, on how to stand and how to walk, how to act and how to deliver my lines. My basic personality today is because of theatre.
We were taught about the socio-cultural milieu while learning theatre. You need to know the history of the place and the character and his economic as well as socio-political backdrop which actually goes into forming a character’s behaviour. You get into reasons and hence creates an understanding in an actor. There are ten ways to approach any role. You try one and if it doesn’t work, scrap it and try another. Theatre teaches you to think and helps you develop a thought process.
There was a story by Phanishwar Nath Renu called Na Jaane Kehi Vesh Mein which was a comedy satire and I played the lead role of Bhairav Prasad Bhanwra in it. That developed a sense of comedy in me and we did over 600 shows. It was about a wannabe poet who writes bad poems and meets his Guru and wants to serve him a lot and ends up torturing him during a train journey.
I am still in touch with my gurus of theatre – Anuradha Kapoorji to Devendra Raj Ankurji and Prasannaji. We did a workshop recently at our house in Madh Island and Prasanna sir came there. I am in touch with Ramgopal Bajaj sir too.”
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