Being born in a family and growing up with people that don’t shy away from stage, it wasn’t an earth shattering achievement to win a city-level mono-acting competition at the age of 7. In fact it was only the beginning of what could have been a very different journey than my present one.
I love being on stage. Performing something. That something could be anything that’s well rehearsed and worth the time of the audience. The absolute best part of being on stage is, without a doubt, the attention. This is when every single person in the audience is glued to you and interested in everything right from your appearance and costumes to the way you are walking, from your expressions and gestures to your voice modulation. This attention can exude so much energy that you may either outperform or sweat out of nervousness.
Professional theater artists are seldom distracted by this energy. Sometimes they can channel it correctly. Nonetheless, they possess the capability to deliver their natural performance no matter what. Think of it like Virat Kohli playing defense on a wicket-taking-delivery in spite of the thousands in the stadium chanting for a Six!
But let’s get off the stage, you and me, all of us, we act all the time! Consider this, you are taking a walk in the park on a lovely Sunday evening. Out of the blue, you see a raging dog charging towards you. Before you could do something about it, the dog bites you! Now you have a dog bite on a pleasant Sunday evening for no apparent reason! What would be your reaction? Will you kick the dog? Will you kick the dog’s owner? Will you scream for help? Will you start crying? Will you get down and kiss the dog?
Your reaction could very well depend on the dog owner. What would be your reaction if the dog was being walked by a cute child who is now concerned? What if the dog was owned by the most beautiful woman you have ever seen? Would your reaction be different if the dog was owned by some shabby dude who looked as if he didn’t care? What if the dog owner rushes to attend you, apologizes, tells you that the dog has been inoculated against rabies and offers to take you to the nearest hospital? The dog bite hurts the same irrespective of the dog owner but your reaction could be different.
Let’s not call this an act because its just human nature and all of us are so darn good natural actors.
Here’s something a mentor told me about acting and I find it mostly true, “We are all switching characters based on who we interact with – parents, spouse, siblings, teachers, manager, subordinates, colleagues, friends, strangers.” Substantiated further by the following couplet of Urdu poet Malikzada Jawed,
ज़िंदगी एक कहानी के सिवा कुछ भी नहीं,
लोग किरदार निभाते हुए मर जाते हैं…
Loosely translated as,
Life is nothing more than a story,
People play characters all their life…
Robert Greene in his book ‘48 Laws of Power‘ includes a gripping paragraph on acting,
You may also watch some of my stage gigs from the school days below,