Up Close with Kaushik Bose – Director, Theatreworms
Theatreworms Productions, a theatre troupe that has been breaking the mould on its unstoppable run of beautiful theatre, has come up with plays that have touched on topics as bold as gender fluidity and as sublime as the failed flights of many to stardom.
Our editor, Deboshri Paul, connected with Kaushik Bose, the passionate director of Theatreworms – a man who isn’t daunted when it comes to taking a theme by the horn if need be.
Deboshri [D]: Your Facebook page mentions Theatreworms was founded in the canteen at the Sri Ram Centre, Delhi. There seems to be an interesting story there. Can you shed some light on the origins of Theatreworms?
Kaushik [K]: It was Facebook that got us together. I have been doing theatre for the last 15 years and had staged a very successful adaptation of Mahesh Dattani’s 30 Days in September in Bengali in 2011-12. The play went on to win several awards too. However there was a lull after that. After spending a few restless months, I decided to start something in Hindi/English. That is when I called in to form a group over Facebook – of theatre enthusiasts and aficionados who would like to work together on weekends. Over 40 individuals of different age groups and background turned up at Sriram Centre, and that is how it all started.
D: How did you come to be involved in theatre? Was it something you discovered in yourself by chance, or was it a deliberate choice to blend career and passion?
K: I have been involved with theatre in Bengal since my early childhood. Later on I trained under some well-known theatre personalities. After I moved to Delhi, for a while I got busy with building a career for myself. Soon, however, I realized I was losing touch with a part of me. Hence got back to it over weekends to keep the fire burning. Of course now it’s really satisfying to see the group staging original plays and taking up new challenges – constantly pushing the envelope.
D: What is the inspiration behind each play you choose to direct? Does your own personality reflect in the way you direct and give a final shape to each production? As in, is there a general motif flowing through all your plays?
K: I must say the inspiration for our current play Compunction came from a book called Sibius Knot written by my friend Amrita Tripathi. But of course, it’s not an adaption of the book. It is an original play with a very strong storyline. Thrillers are not easy to stage and not many groups have performed the genre across India (which are not an adaption of renowned English play). I have always loved this genre. It is after a long long time Delhites will get to see a psychological thriller on stage.
I must say the inspiration for our current play Compunction came from a book called Sibius Knot written by my friend Amrita Tripathi. Thrillers are not easy to stage and not many groups have performed the genre across India (which are not an adaption of renowned English play). I have always loved this genre. It is after a long long time Delhites will get to see a psychological thriller on stage.
The selection of plays that Theatreworms stages definitely reflects what I believe in. The team believes in staging something which has not been explored before. We are a small troupe but with young energetic people. Every member holds a gold mine of ideas. Every production starts from an idea and then germinates into a fantastic offering where each member of the team makes an active contribution. Directing each play has been a whole new experience for me because they are all from different genres – modern to social drama, period drama to a thriller. All of them have different moods and tone. General templates do not work as such.
D: The mettle of your troupe and crew has been lauded with each production of yours. Theatreworms has already run 3 successful productions. How has the group evolved since you started with Among The Stars in 2012?
K: We are a group of almost 30 individuals. Many of them were freshers when they joined and a few with a lot of stage experience. The evolution took time as workshops were conducted to build the team, make them learn new things and unlearn a few. “Delhi’s theatre scenario is fantastic but not many tread unsafe territories like gender issues related to transvestites or do a thriller.” – KaushikThe group has evolved in its maturity of performance and understanding of the depth of the subject they are dealing with.
What has worked well for us is that every member of the team has owned up and delivered on their responsibilities. One thing that we have successfully done is to create a sense of belonging. Some of the members have been working with me for over a decade now. On the other hand, there are others who have joined us over the last few years and yet hardly ever feel that they are new to the group or do not hold the same stake as older members.
D: Your last production Flesh was a runaway success, where you used the crowdsourcing platform indiegogo to fund the production. What was the experience like? Any takeaways?
K: Flesh was a big production and we would not have been able to fund it unless we took the help of crowdsourcing platform like indiegogo. We are extremely grateful to each individual who contributed to make the play possible and a runaway success. Flesh will be back on stage again soon!
The experience was phenomenal and once again it was more of a team effort. The Indiegogo idea germinated from one individual, and was took up as a challenging project by the team with a lot of gusto.
D: The second production Rang Reh Jaata Hai was written by the eminent playwright Manoj Mitra. Flesh was based on Devdutt Patnaik’s book The Pregnant King. Is there a design here to stick to well-known scripts?
K: Rang Reh Jaata Hai is a classic play of Manoj Mitra and ran over 700 shows in Bengal. But Flesh was different. It took me almost 8-9 months to script the play, collaborate with Dr. Pattanaik (author, The Pregnant King) and give it a final shape. It is challenging to make a 2-hour long play out of a 500-page odd book, but we managed to do it successfully.
When I decided to do a thriller, I could not find any interesting storyline or script. Most of the plays available are whodunits and are adapted from popular plays. So I had to ideate and write the script for Compunction, which I am confident people will find intriguing.
D: Flesh had great stage effects including lights and background music. The list of actors was also huge. Is this a conscious effort to move away from the performance-oriented theatre made popular in India by the NSD brigade?
K: Honestly, we consciously try to move away from that trend, and stage something different from the rest. Whatever it takes! Delhi’s theatre scenario is fantastic but not many tread unsafe territories like gender issues related to transvestites or do a thriller. NSD is an institution and has the liberty to fund plays on a grand scale. If I have to draw a parallel, they are the Broadway and we are the off-Broadway productions. But, at the heart of any good play lies great performance. You cannot escape that.
D: What can we expect from your upcoming production Compunction?
K: The story unfolds in a way where the audience will be drawn into it right at the beginning. “NSD is an institution and has the liberty to fund plays on a grand scale. If I have to draw a parallel, they are the Broadway and we are the off-Broadway productions.” – KaushikThen it’s a race to understand where the story is headed. From the start of the play till the final act, there is information to analyse, clues to decipher – it’s a race between the audience and the protagonist of the play to solve the case.
However, we are dealing with the human psyche of guilt – or the lack of it. Hence the script should not be seen as a whodunit. There is a lot more to it. But we have avoided any gimmicky scare tactics to freak out anyone. It’s a fear that plays subliminally throughout.
D: What’s your vision for this immensely talented troupe, and your own trajectory in this challenging world of theatre?
K: We will continue to do good work. In whatever small possible way, we will contribute to enrich theatre in the country. But such small groups do need support to thrive and grow. I hope your readers will come forward and make this play as successful as our other plays.
A dekko at the upcoming production of the troupe, Compunction:
A flair for the written word, an eye that seeks colors, real relationships, innocence, nonconformity - and a heart that leads me onto the open roads ever so often, forever looking for ways to flee. A technical writer by day, and a creative content editor by the light of the moon.
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- Up Close with Kaushik Bose – Director, Theatreworms - November 22, 2015