Mikhail Sen - Talks about his time as part of the first batch of the One Year Certificate Course

My experience at the Drama School, Mumbai over the last 9 months has been nothing short of amazing. That being said, it was never easy and there were days where one would come back wondering why one was putting oneself through such a tough process. Which me brings me to my first big learning at the Drama School, the ability to find new energy. This is something that I learnt quite early (week 4 or 5) during our work with Prabhat.

When you’re firing on all cylinders and slowly losing steam, you’ve got to push yourself and if you do you’ll find what you need to reach your goal. It’s funny how you can use anything as a metaphor because what I’ve just said I realize rings true about life.  Which brings me to another realization that I had. It’s important to be able to see things from as many different perspectives as possible. Having said your own way of seeing or the one you identify most closely with is also really important. It’s sort of like understanding the self (where one’s coming from) as well as the other.

There has been a great deal of learning at various different points. The Theatre Making Lab process was a fantastic way to get us as students into the routine of constantly creating and performing, week after week for 20 weeks.  New tasks brought new challenges and new solutions had to be found. The learning also came from working with each other as well as watching each other’s work. This leads to new ways of working, new ideas – new ways of seeing.

The course for me in terms of structure and content was also quite brilliant. While it was always emphasized that each actor/ performer/ practitioner has a method of work, by studying or using his or her methods and exercises we were encouraged to find our own way of working. The different techniques and subjects ranging from Stanislavsky to Commedia Delle Arte, Greek Chorus to Kalaripayattu improved one’s understanding and broadened the range of both the actor’s mind and body.

The six weeks of rehearsal, which led to the creation of the Curious Climb of Cutter Chee, was an experience in itself. Having never devised an entire 2 hour-long piece, one was exposed to an entirely new way of working. There was great deal of learning and the importance of improvisation was brought home to me.

The rigour and discipline that the Drama School gave me is something that I believe will stay with me for life. The idea that it’s the approach to work and the work itself, which is most important.

Why I decided to create a Drama School

One of the most difficult days in my life had to be the day I boarded an Air India flight from London back to Delhi. I had just finished a two year course Training as a theatre director and producer, and spent the additional work experience year on my visa doing two things: making theatre in an environment full of actors, technicians, producers, whom I could collaborate effectively and to great result with, using the skills I had learned in college; and, interviewing at a thousand jobs in the Theatre to see if one of them would convert to a job, and a more importantly, a work-permit so I could spend my time in this rich environment of professional theatrical practice.

I was distraught. I had spent the 8 of the last 10 years of my life in the UK and US, studying and working in places where professional practice and a sector existed. I had no idea how my MFA and BA in theatre direction were every going to translate into a career back home in India. Where the notion of “creative industries” was unheard of. It took me some time to come to terms with my new reality, but having got over my unhappiness (and to some extent, my own perceptions about myself), I started to look around, to see what it was exactly that I could do.

After touring to meet a number of companies, and talking to many people, I realized, that there was actually an extremely rich vein of theatre practice across the country, and in terms of content, depth of practice, ability, India had it all. It’s just that it all existed in isolated pockets of practice, at best, you could say Theatre as a sector, existed like a cottage industry, its ‘fairs’ being the three or four major theatre festivals each year, at which the same plays by the same companies were being seen. Its best practices, lay behind the walls of institutions, that, while doing good work, were inaccessible to many, for example, the National School of Drama, which has 25 seats a year, and caters to regional quotas (being the nations premier institution).

In the meantime, in the city itself, there were a multitude of performers and actors, and people who love and want to do theatre. (Drama incidentally comes from the Latin, Dram, drm; it means “to do”).  These people were creating work, either on the stages of Prithvi, the NCPA, or through vernacular companies, all of whom picked up what little they could, through workshops by local actors, or learnt by getting cast in amateur plays, and gleaning what they could from either their directors, or the more seasonedactors around them.

We needed a new platform, upon which to hone skills, pick up the rigor, focus, and commitment, which is required when learning the craft of acting, and could deliver learning in a structured manner in line with the more evolved pedagogical methods of the west.  But, it wasn’t simply about creating this space for formal training in acting and theatre making to fulfill this need.  It was also creating a School, which would call upon these rich practices that existed across the country, and create a platform in which knowledge dissemination, using methods and techniques from Kallari, Koodiyattom, and Manipuri could co-exist with Greek Chorus, Stanislavsky, and Commedia. A place where actors could, through exploration and tutelage in all these forms, not develop a mastery of them (that takes a lifetime), but absorb the fundamental principals, and through experiencing them evolve a new, contemporary understanding of the fundamental tools of the actor, conditioning of the breath and voice, use of the body, and the imagination.

But is it enough to create an actor? I don’t think so; the last thing a school should create is the out-of-work actor. It’s important to create theatre-makers as well. So while you can keep struggling to look for a job, under a director or get cast in a film, you also have the ability to make your own theatre.  That’s where the joy of theatre lies, its to revel in the act of creation, the act of storytelling, its about having something to say about something you believe in, and having a burning need to share it with the world, your audience, (in a manner that entertains, absorbs and involves them).  It’s important, that any one who is studying performance, is also empowered and enabled to be the authors of their own work.

And is it enough to create the actor-creator? Especially if they are going to have this formal training, and the sensibilities of a creator? To then be cast into a sector which I characterized at the top of this as being a cottage industry? This is why, any Drama School in India today, needs to also cultivate the entrepreneurial frame of mind. To understand what it takes to produce something, market something, imagine an idea and create a workable plan that will evolve from an idea in their heads of what kind of sector they want to work in, and to confidently embark on this ultimate act of creating something where nothing existed before.  When Tasneem Fatehi and I created Theatre Professionals in 2008, it was with an aim to do exactly this for ourselves, create a space in which we could be professional Theatre Practitioners, and earn a living from Theatre in whatever way imaginable. Its been a great journey where we now have Drama instructors who earn a living teaching Drama in 22 Schools, directors and choreographers who work on annual day productions in schools, facilitators for corporate workshops, and a team of professional faculty from across the country, regularly conducting training for actors (this year, we embark on creation our own productions as well, two of them, through the school). All of our team work in the Theatre, earn a living from the theatre, and consider themselves theatre professionals. There are now 40 of us, and we live, breath, dream Theatre.  There are so many sectors that have formalized, organized and become professional here in the last seven years, the “creative industry” is now a reality, and its now the turn of Theatre to do the same. But just our one organization, will never make this dream of a formal, professional sector a reality; it will take a whole new generation of Actor-Creator-Entrepreneurs to do this. The Drama School, Mumbai is our first, and the best step, we can take towards this.

To finish the story I started with; last week at a wedding here in India, I had the good fortune to meet all of my friends from the UK, who had come down for it; the same ones who said goodbye to a very distraught and unhappy individual at Paddington Station. Time folded in on itself, the last seven years reducing to a moment (as it does at such reunions). The common consensus, starting a career in Theatre in India was the best thing that ever happened to me, and they were right.

– Jehan Manekshaw

The Drama School, Mumbai - OYCC call for applications 2014-15.

The Vision 6After a strong first year, with 16 students almost coming to the end of their training, the faculty and conveners of The Drama School, Mumbai are ready to take enrolment for its second year of the One Year Certificate Course.

With many learnings from year 1, we look forward to an amazing second year of operation at the Mumbai Marathi Sahitya Sangh.

For application details, to know about the new curriculum structure, and for fees and scholarship info, please go do the One Year Certificate Course page.



Connecting with the Natural Voice with Heisnam Tomba

Learn –

To work with movement, breath and the voice as one unity
To connect deeply with your natural voice
Nature-based principles of being and moving

March 18th – 23rd
Time : 8am to 2pm
Venue :Mumbai Marathi Sahitya Sangh, Girgaum, Charni Road East, Mumbai

Please send your C.V. and cover letter to info@thedramaschoolmumbai.in

We are Hiring

The Drama School, Mumbai Project Co-ordinator

Use your great management skills, develop new ones, and do it all while staying strongly connected to the world of theatre. Be the key person keeping all aspects of the One Year Certificate Course running.

The full JD here .

Send your CV and a cover letter at info@theatreprofessionals.co.in.

The interviews will start in the last week of March 2014.

The Curious Climb Of Cutter Chee: A Gangster Spectacle

English Play inspired by Brecht’s Irresistible Rise of Arturo Ui

Directed by: Ben Samuels (Artistic Director, Limbik Theatre Company, UK)

Performed by the students of The Drama School, Mumbai

Where: Dr. Bhalerao Auditorium, Mumbai Marathi Sahitya Sangh, Girgaum, Charni Road (East), Mumbai

When: 15th March @8pm and 16th March @4pm

Tickets available at http://bit.ly/1fLjLWf

Book now!


Tartuffe: A two faced Comedy

A new hindi adaptation of Moliere’s Tartuffe

Directed by: Daniel Goldman(Artisitic Director, Tangram Theatre Company, UK)

Performed by the students of The Drama School, Mumbai

Where: Dr. Bhalerao Auditorium, Mumbai Marathi Sahitya Sangh, Girgaum, Charni Road (East), Mumbai

When: 14th & 16th March @8pm.

Tickets available at http://bit.ly/1laPr6x

Book now!