Mohit Takalkar is a medium between the writer, the text and the actor

Written by Gaurangi Dang

 

If we cannot handle the economics of theatre then what remains of it is a hobby, albeit a very expensive one. So maybe we don’t need theatre anymore and maybe somewhere we are all responsible for its slow death.

Mohit Takalkar has an ability that very few people seem to have- he can move people, to an extent that may even infuriate them. It’s hard to tell when and where it began, but one can see its trace present in his work. There is a little bit of him in each of them, his moods, his life, his loneliness, his growth and somewhere his genius in being able to channel it all through fragments and texts. If you were to ask Mohit, he’d probably describe himself as a medium between the writer, the text and the actor, not denying his presence but somewhere not acknowledging it enough. If you spend enough time with him, then you could probably see how his art consumes him.

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The Alexander Technique: 2-Day Intensive Workshop with Sarah Barfoot

The Alexander Technique

The Alexander Technique is a mind/body discipline, while achieving a proper understanding of the psychophysical self. As a performer, it brings about a sync of the body i.e. muscles, breathing and posture, in order to have better movement and deliver voice in an optimum manner. It also helps in keeping the muscles relaxed before, during and after a performance, and in the long run, helps keep you injury free and utilise movement and voice while avoiding inflicting stress and harm to both.

 

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We are all responsible for the slow death of theatre: Mohit Takalkar

By Gaurangi Dang

 

If we cannot handle the economics of theatre then what remains of it is a hobby, albeit a very expensive one. So maybe we don’t need theatre anymore and maybe somewhere we are all responsible for its slow death. The approaching death of theatre as we know it was the elephant in the room that nobody was willing to address. Mohit Takalkar sat down with Alok Rajwade at The Drama School, Mumbai on the 19th of August and addressed it.

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Acting Through Voice with Hetal Varia - A 5 Day Intensive Voice Workshop

Voice is an essential aspect of performance, and also regular, daily communication. Voice utilises the body and breath to deliver itself, and it is essential to understand how it all functions and to know how to use it well in order to have a better way to use the voice.

The Drama School Mumbai has a Acting Through Voice Workshop designed and instructed by Hetal Varia, one of the best voice coaches in the country in September, which takes you through all of this and helps you understand and deliver your voice better. This 5 day intensive workshop will help you embrace your voice, understand how the body and breathing come together for the voice, and through exercises, make you use your body and breathing to its optimum for a better way to use your voice.


Public Spaces in India: How performance and art can revitalize them

by Zohra Malik

One of the most distinctive ways that we choose to talk about cities is usually with reference to how how they warp time, how fast or slow they seem to move. It’s not just our imagination, fortunately, because studies show that the reason why cities warp time differently is because of the pace of social life. The pace at which people move around in their city, their rhythm, interaction all of these make up the pace of social life which is how we identify with our city and negotiate with our space. In this context, the central hubs that facilitate this construction of how cities move and breathe generally turn out to be public spaces.

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The Guru-Shishya Parampara with Sunil Shanbag and Sapan Saran

Written by Gaurangi Dang

The fourth instalment of Conversations@theDSM saw theatre thespian Sunil Shanbag, and writer, poet, actress Sapan Saran talk about their initiative Tamaasha Theatre, Sunil Shanbag’s plays, the changing trends in theatre, and the relevance of theatre in today’s world.
Continuing with the Guru-Shishya tradition, Sapan who has grown under the mentorship of Sunil Shanbag interviewed the latter on 8 July at the Purandare Hall in Sahitya Sangh.

I first met Sunil Sir two years ago, in class at The Drama School, Mumbai. He called me his problem child. Since then, not much has changed. I get flabbergasted and tongue-tied around him every time I meet him, and he being the kind man that he is, tries to deal with me as patiently as possible. In all this time I have accumulated a whole list of questions that I want to ask him. That situation was remedied to a great extent on Saturday, 8 July, when Sapan Saran sat down with Sunil sir at the Drama School, Mumbai for an illuminating discussion.

Sapan and Sunil sir have been collaborating over the last few years. Their first project together was the play Club Desire and in 2015, they co-founded the Tamaasha Theatre. In some ways one could say, that Sunil sir is a mentor to Sapan, like Satyadev Dubey was to him.

Let’s rewind a little bit.

The year was 1966. India had already seen three Prime Ministers in January itself, and a young eight-year-old Sunil Shanbag was boarding train by himself to go to Rishi Valley School in Andhra Pradesh. Then one day in class, his teacher mentioned that he’d be directing a play and asked them if anyone of them would like to be in it. This information came as a revelation to a kid trying to blend in. Despite not knowing anything about theatre, Sunil Shanbag’s hand immediately shot up into the air. On show-day there was an accident where the curtain rose while he was taking still his place on stage. It was awkward and they had re-do the bit, but from there on everyone in school knew who he was. “After that I was in every play that my drama teacher directed.”

After school, he returned to Mumbai and began to do theatre in the city. Dina Pathak, whom he had worked with back in school, got him in touch with Satyadev Dubey. “I kept thinking if only I had joined him five years earlier. Dubey had directed Andha Yug. The critics say that was when Dubey was at his peak.” Later, while answering a question from the audience mentioned every play and every period is important. Having said that Shanbag Shanbag was blessed to join Dubey at a time, when he was regrouping. His core group of actors had moved away and begun to do their own work and he was looking for new talent to work with. Before he knew it, Shanbag became an integral part of Dubey’s Theatre Unit, so much so that his parents felt like they had given their son to him. He went from (doing odd jobs, to) acting in his plays, to assisting him till eventually he was allowed to conduct rehearsals by himself. Dubey was an eccentric man. When you worked with him, “his friends became your friends and his enemies your enemies.” Other than noted theatre stalwarts in the city, the NSD was out of bounds for Shanbag because Dubey hated the NSD. And so, Shanbag was stumped when Dubey went on to direct plays there!

Each theatre group back in the day had it’s own core crew, and you were expected to work with only your group. While Shanbag understood that, he also wanted to be able to sit in on other people’s rehearsal and process. He soon realized that while the theatre circuit was filled with great actors, they had very little technical knowledge. So he began designing and operating lights for other groups. This allowed him to move around freely without being constantly chided by Dubey. Eventually, he was thrown out by Dubey and asked to run his own company. In 1985, he set up the theatre company Arpana.

Almost everybody that did theatre back then, also kept a day job. Most people worked in banks, for a banks had reservation for the arts and had fixed timings, so post five you were free to do whatever you wanted. Shanbag on the other had assisted Shyam Benegal and worked as a documentary filmmaker on projects such as Yatra, Surabhi and Bharat Ek Khoj. This was before the privatisation of television. In 1994 he won the National Award for his documentary film Maihar Raag, on the Maihar Gharaana in Madhya Pradesh.

Whether it’s Maihar Raag or Cotton 56, Polyester 84, there is a specific social objective. He says that it has something to do with where he comes from and why he is an artist. You have to know as to “why do you want to do this play?”

There is a lot more, so watch the video, and be there for the next talk with Mohit Takalkar and Alok Rajwade on the 19th August, at The Drama School Mumbai, at 5 pm.

 


Conversations@theDSM: Mohit Takalkar and Aalok Rajwade

 

The August instalment of Conversations@theDSM will be the fifth. So we thought we will step up and do something interesting to mark the occasion. So we got  internationally renowned playwright and director Mohit Takalkar, who will be interviewed by his colleague and friend, a young director and actor, Aalok Rajwade.

Mohit has had an immense experience internationally as well. Not only have Mohit’s productions have gone abroad, but he has also worked on the directorial aspect of international productions with the likes of the legendary Tim Supple. Aalok, on the other hand, has been making heads turn with his out of the box, socially aware Marathi plays. Be it experimenting with format, presentation or content, Aalok has all the feathers in his cap.

Both these Punekars will grace the DSM with their presence on the 19th August, with the talk starting at 5 pm.

 

About Mohit Takalkar

Mohit had his first exposure to theatre at Progressive Dramatic Association (PDA) before setting up his own theatre group Aasakta in Pune in 2003. He has been active in various aspects of theatre for the past eighteen years earning a reputation for the group and him, with his works; widely acclaimed by both the audience and the critics. His plays have toured the length and breadth of India and have also been invited to National and International festivals.

Since his first play, Girish Karnad’s Yayati in 1999, Mohit has directed other notable plays which include ‘Mein Huun Yusuf Aur Ye Hai Mera Bhai’, ‘Uney Purey Shahar Ek’, ‘Gajab Kahani’, ‘Garbo’, ‘Kashmir Kashmir’, and ‘Chotyashya Suttit’. He has directed plays in Marathi, Hindi, Urdu, English, Rajasthani and Kannada.

He was invited at the Lincoln Centre in New York to participate in The Directors Lab and at the Performing Arts meet in Yokohama, Japan. He assisted celebrated director Tim Supple in his version of Midsummer Night’s dream performed all over the World.

He has been awarded the prestigious Homi Bhabha Fellowship, Bismillah Khan Sangeet Natak Award, META, Aditya Vikram Birla Kalakiran Puraskar, Sahitya Rangbhoomi Fellowship, Zee Gaurav Puraskar, Maharashtra State Award etc.

 

About Aalok Rajwade

Aalok Rajwade has played an active and contributive part in the Marathi experimental theatre scenario for the past nine years as an actor as well as a director.

With critically acclaimed plays like ‘Geli 21 Varsha’, ‘Mi…Ghalib’, ‘Natak Nako’ ,’Sivacharitra ahi Ek’, ‘Tichee 17 prakarane’  and ‘Binkamache Samwad’ as his directorial ventures,  he is considered to be an upcoming director with an eye for the aesthetics and a vision to go beyond the obvious. As an actor, he has performed vivid roles in the plays ‘Bed ke neeche renewali’, ‘Dalan’, ‘Ashadhatil ek diwas’ and many more.

In the past, he has got the opportunity to showcase his skills at  prestigious theatre festivals such as ‘META’, ‘Jashn E Bachpan’ and ‘Bharat Ranga Mahotsav’ at ‘NSD’, ‘Summertime Festival’ at Prithvi, ‘Thespo International’ as well as in ‘Universo Theatro Festival’ and ‘Rosobastardo festival’, Italy.

He is a proud holder of the Vinod Doshi Fellowship, Damu Kenkre Puraskar, Nargis Datta puraskar AND Lakshmikant Berde puraskar which has only helped him work on his skills even more.

 

About Conversations@theDSM

Conversations are a tradition in theatre. And so, the DSM brings an entire series of discussions, talks and conversations, curated for the first weekend of every month. Our purpose in these conversations is twofold. First, we celebrate the bond between guru-shishya. Teachers in school, professors in college, coaches at the gym and directors in the rehearsal hall – all mentors have taught you something through conversations. That something makes you the person you are today.

The second purpose in these conversations is to celebrate Rekha Sabnis.

Rekha Sabnis was a one-woman theatre army. She ran theatre group Abhivyakti from her house. She took care of sets, costumes, bookings, transport, tickets as well as acting and directing. Abhivyakti starting performing at the Mumbai Marathi Sahitya Sangh, the same building that houses the DSM today. Rekha Sabnis was a key force behind the DSM-Sahitya Sangh partnership. And this partnership makes our work forging a new generation of theatre-makers, possible.

Rekha passed away in September last year, studying elements of the Natya Shastra till the very last.

Conversations@theDSM started in April. It is our small way of paying tribute to a great spirit who made theatre a little bit better for us all. These conversations form part of an ongoing series of talks between theatre-makers young and old. The entire series has been curated by Yugandhar Deshpande and Anuja Kale of Theatre Across.


DON'T PANIC: GST and its Impact on the Performing Arts

DON’T PANIC! 

GST and its impact on the Performing Arts

Written by Zohra Mallik & Hina Siddiqui

The Goods and Services Tax was finally rolled out on the 1st of July 2017 at the stroke of  midnight. After all, our Government does have a flair for the dramatic. But what really, is the fuss and mayhem about? Over a hundred and fifty countries have implemented  GST (roses by other names) over the years and their populations came through the capitalist scourge just fine.

India’s version of an overarching goods and services tax has been 17 years in the making. It’s faced a lot of resistance, as you might guess, from various lobbies and people wary of what a uniform tax could mean for their business. The powers that be, speak of it as a way – the only way – to reduce corruption (wait, what was demonetization for then?), prevent tax-evasion and improve the overall efficiency of the system. And as we are settling into the first month of its imposition, with vendors and suppliers showing no signs of stopping to use it as an excuse for delays – let’s re-examine the alarmist outlook towards ‘one nation, one tax (sans momos)’, shall we?

Disclaimer: This is in no way an attempt to downplay the implications of the GST, no one’s saying this is a hoax created by the Chinese (not yet, anyway), but let’s look at all the facts and figure out what the GST means (for the theatre and arts community at least).

 

Taxes on Art prior to the GST

Artwork such as folk paintings, ceramics and antiques were levied with VAT, but were also exempt in certain states. Entertainment tax on movie tickets was 8 to 10 percent, with Maharashtra being an exception ranging from 15-45% (some kind of vengeance for past crimes, we believe). Regional films, however, were exempt. Dance and music events were at a cool 10% (NH7, you listening?). And theatre was exempt.

And now…

A uniform art tax of 12% may or may not be a slight improvement. One side speaks of a danger to the livelihood of artists and artisans at the lower rungs of the pyramid. On the other hand there is skepticism about whether people will stop buying art because of 12%.

As of 11th June, the GST Council places movie tickets under Rs 100 at 18% and anything above that at a ginormous 28%. No exemptions. We’ll just let that sink in for a bit.

Performances – whether they be the Maganiyar Seduction or the your neighbourhood community theatre’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream – are all going to be treated as one. Tickets to dance performances, music concerts and plays that are priced above Rs. 250 is at 18%.

But here is the cincher. CA Chintan Shah, who was part of a discussion conducted by United Kalakar in Mumbai, GST 4 Artists, clarifies that unless a theatre company has a turnover of over 20 lakhs per year they are not liable to pay GST. Thus, GST laws do not apply to the average practitioner and this in itself, is an exemption of sorts being given to those within the performing arts community.

But what about the bigger question of arts (and artists) being exempt from paying taxes? It’s the principle of thing, after all. We asked Noshir Dadrawala of the Centre for Advancement of Philanthropy to weigh in. According to him, “Performing arts and performing artists are of all kinds. But, let’s say, performing arts where India’s National culture or heritage is being preserved or promoted, there should be a GST exemption.” This of course does not allay the woes of contemporary practitioners, who struggle for funding, resources and a fair share of the market while doing the critical work of developing artistic discourse in the country.  

Chintan Shah offered a couple of solutions to those who cannot escape the burden of GST. Unfortunately, both of these entail writing to the government to change the terms under which GST can be levied. Firstly to demand that GST only be levied on tickets priced above Rs. 500 and secondly, to amend the law so that amateur theatre groups may start off by only paying 12% GST for, say, the first three years. 

What amateur means in the Indian context though, is highly debatable.

A performance at Jagriti (Image first appeared in the Deccan Chronicle)

Jagriti Theatre, a multifaceted space for the performing arts in Bengaluru has taken the lead on the idea of petitioning the Government to gain exemption from taxes. They, in fact, are demanding a complete exemption for the performing arts. This is not completely unprecedented. Several European countries offer tax exemptions to the arts, even going as far as granting rebates on property tax to cultural centres, arts organizations and related institutes. The primary concern in the Indian context, according to Jagdish Raja, founder of Jagriti Theatre, is not for the audience as much as it is for the theatre practitioners who may have to forgo necessary expenses for the production in order to stay within the Rs. 250 budget.

A big cause for concern is that registration under GST brings with it the need to hire a Chartered Accountant and that’s an expense that majority of artists may not be able to afford. According to Noshir Dadrawala, “GST compliance involves several layers and what may apply to one artist may not apply to another.” And that essentially translates into getting professional help. 

A moment to reflect on the bigger picture…  

It would be a little extreme to state that this move by the government is penalizing art. But it certainly is commodifying it. And at one end those of us, who looked at our first tax returns as the real entry into adulthood, are thinking – maybe this is a good thing. Because if you are taxing what I do, then I won’t have to spend a lifetime convincing my parents, in-laws, friends, clients, audiences et al that ‘theatre is a real job’. This tax could be a real paradigm shift in the way people view and consume art of all kinds and somehow, ironically, a tax, will finally reveal the true value of art. But on the other hand, where is the associated education of the proletariat that should go hand-in-hand with this proposed change? Where is the support that takes the burden of turning profits away from individual practitioners and places the responsibility on the consumer of the practice? And who needs to talk about this – the ex-engineer climbing her way up the Open Mic circuit or the practitioner who commands the headlines?

 

Well, there is always room for interpretation and if there is one thing this sector believes, it is that no one truth can save us all. And yes, while it is true that unless you are turning 20l or more each year, you can more or less proceed with life as in (albeit paying more for tampons and the next Avengers movie), there are still a few things we should start doing:

  1. Sign Jagriti’s online petition here. In a country of over a billion, this petition only asks for 5000 signatures.

  2. Consult your CA. That’s Chartered Accountant for all you anti-capitalism types. If you don’t have one, get one, especially if you run a registered company or proprietary firm. Check here if that helps.

  3. Financial planning is not a bad word. But you don’t need to do it alone. Collectivism is a strength, let’s leverage it. Workshops for financial planning, discussions like the one United Kalakar spearheaded, online communities to compare notes and seek advice – these are all things we can and should do for all of us.  

  4. Let’s talk about money, shall we? We live in a culture that doesn’t talk about money. We live in a time when we often find ourselves living beyond our means for reasons we don’t fully comprehend. Let’s push past the silence and discuss money, bank balances and salaries. There’s evidence to show that talking about what you get paid actually helps everyone earn more.

  5. And let’s chop up that credit card while we’re at it.   

 

A towel may not help, but don’t panic. We may not be economists, but we are artists. We can envision solutions and taxes or not, that’s where the future starts.


References: 

http://indianexpress.com/article/business/economy/art-tax-gst-cess/

http://www.financialexpress.com/industry/gst-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/703946/

http://time.com/money/4212413/financial-advice-for-artists/

https://www.glamour.com/story/why-we-need-to-talk-to-our-coworkers-about-our-salaries

Tax Incentives for the Creative Industries edited by Sigrid Hemels, Kazuko Goto, Springer, 2017

A Handbook of Cultural Economics edited by Ruth Towse, EE Publishing 2003

For a complete list of GST rates, exemptions and brackets, look right here. 

Pai Paishachi Goshta: Play@theDSM

People have changed with the changing times. The parameters of happiness have changed. Also the approach towards the practical and financial affairs has changed. An old lady summarisesthis change in her own words.

A story of an old lady “Pai Paishachi Goshta”

Pai Paishachi Goshta is based on a story by eminent writer Dr. Vijaya Rajadhyaksha. Adapted and directed by Vipul Mahagaonkar, the play had its first show in 2015, and has had numerous shows across the country.

The play has also won a lot of awards including a 2016 Zee Natya Gaurav for Best Actress to Ila Bhate, a veteran actress in Marathi theatre and film.

Production House :- Taleem

Actor- Ila Bhate

Story – Dr.Vijaya Rajadhyaksha

Adapted & Directed by- Vipul Mahagaonkar.

Produced by- Ujwal Mantri

Music by Prabodh Shetye

Costumes- Vinaya Walawalkar Mantri.

 

About the director 

Vipul Mahagaonkar

Vipul Mahagaonkar has directed two of the best experimental plays currently running – Khidki and Pai Paishachi Goshta. Both adaptations, done in his own special way. Both absolutely poles apart in terms of content and execution and even emotions. That has given us an idea of how versatile this man is with his handling of plays. And he intends to take theatre to every nook and corner of the country, especially the inaccessible ones. With such talent and such a remarkable thought of taking the art form everywhere, he is easily one of the best that experimental theatre has.

About the actor

Ila Bhate

In her stage career, Ila has played more than 25 roles. Her most popular plays are ‘Mi Majhya Mulancha’ with Vikram Gokhale and the widely acclaimed ‘U-Turn’ (2008) with Girish Oak. U-Turn, which treated the subject of companionship in the elderly age, has been played more than 500 times, which is rare for a drama that has only two characters. It received numerous awards including honour from the State Government of Maharashtra. In fact, we can proudly say the U-Turn is the only two character play to complete 500 shows with the same cast throughout.

 

When?

29th July, 7 PM

Where?

5th Floor, The Drama School Mumbai, Girgaon, Mumbai – 400 004

Tickets?

Rs. 200/-

Book tickets here.

 


Acting Shakespeare: Two-Day Intensive Workshop with Paul Goodwin

 

The Course Director for MA in Acting at the Drama Centre London, Paul Goodwin, brings decades of experience and expertise on Shakespeare and acting for Shakespeare to India. The Drama School Mumbai has managed to get a couple of dates from the man and arranged a workshop on Acting Shakespeare.

The 2-Day intensive workshop will delve into the various aspects of voice, breathing, movement, and the verses that will help an actor unlock his true potential in Shakespearean acting.

The workshop will be held on the 13th and the 14th July 2017, from 8 am to 1 pm.

About the Instructor
Paul Goodwin
Course Director, MA Acting at Drama Centre London
MA in Voice Studies, Central School of Speech and Drama
Artistic Director, The Shakespeare Edit (a classical theatre company), London

Paul has been teaching and directing Shakespeare for professional actors and students for more than 30 years. He is the Course Director at the Drama Centre London, alumni of which include: Tom Hardy, Michael Fassbender, Colin Firth, Pierce Brosnan and Emilia Clarke, to name a few. Prior to the Drama Centre, Paul has worked extensively in Text, Voice and Artist Development at the Royal Shakespeare Company. He is currently working on directing a dramatised version of Shakespeare’s narrative poem – LUCRECE, to be performed in London as well as a production of Twelfth Night at the Vakhtangov school in Moscow

Workshop Takeaways
Open and widen the horizon of the voice and the imagination.
Find the impulse for breath and vocal and physical gesture.
Be free to play within fully explored verse structures.
Use practical tools to unlock Shakespeare for you as an actor

Workshop Structure
Day One: You will be given a piece of Shakespearean text, and through a series of practical exercises explore – through the body, voice and rhythm – the clues that are contained in the text, that lead towards an understanding that can then be communicated to the audience through a soliloquy.

Day Two: Building on the exploratory text work from Day one, you will work on a scene, and with a partner, explore the action in the scene. What characters want, and how, as in life, character is revealed through action. “Suit the action to the word, the word to the action” Hamlet’s advice to the players

Through this 2 day workshop, you will gain practical tools that will unlock Shakespeare for you as an actor, and provide you with a working method that will allow you to be more confident when you approach heightened poetic drama.

Dates: 13th and 14th July | Time: 8 am to 1 pm
Venue: Bhalerao Auditorium, Mumbai Marathi Sahitya Sangh, Girgaon, Charni Road East, Mumbai.
Fees: ₹4500/-

To Apply :
To Apply : Email a recent C.V. with a cover letter that tells us why you want to participate to info@thedramaschoolmumbai.in

www.thedramaschoolmumbai.in
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+91 9619336336