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… anything that’s well rehearsed and worth the time of the audience. Best part of being on stage is, without a doubt, the attention. 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. And this attention can exude so much energy that you may either outperform or sweat out of nervousness. However, professional theater artists are seldom distracted by this energy and are capable of their natural performance no matter what. Think of it like Virat Kohli playing defensive 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 an angry dog charging towards you and before you could do something about it, the dog bites your leg! So 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 owned by the most beautiful girl you have ever seen? Would it be different if the dog was owned by some random dude who looks like he has no life? The dog bite hurts the same irrespective of the dog owner but our reaction may 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 and so on.” 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…
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 – Learn to play many roles, to be whatever the moment requires. Adapt your mask to the situation – be protean in the faces you wear. Bismarck played this game to the perfection: to a liberal he was a liberal, to a hawk he was a hawk. He could not be grasped, and what cannot be grasped cannot be consumed.
You may also watch some of my stage gigs from the school days –
Office Office (2002) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxKPPV5B0s8
BrainFiesta (2004) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ulk9V1x16wA
Badalta Bharat (2004) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lATCFE2khhc