A group of individuals passionate about theatre, took the tough road ahead and decided to dedicate their time and talent in building a group which would perform plays which are honest and different and appealing to both the masses and the eclectics. Seven years later, Natak Company stands tall as one of the best theatre troupes in the country, even with an average age of a paltry 25 years.
Their fuel being their unwavering passion. The happiness that they find from their work being the additional push. Natak Company was formed in Pune, in 2009, as a Marathi theatre group comprising of young and like minded individuals. Since then, the Natak Company has gone on to conquer many a tough battles, and has won international recognition, and national prestige.
The awards have kept rushing in. Be it, the Rossotobastardo festival, or winning the Jury Award for Best Play at UniversoTeatro Festival at Benevento, Italy in 2010, or the Audience choice for best play at Prague, 2011, Natak Company members, Ravi, Kshitish, and Gandhar, fondly remember their experiences back in foreign lands.
But being awarded the Tanveer Sanman to produce a new play was by far the most illustrious moment in their already distinguished career. Natak Company has the unique distinction of being the first theatre group to receive this award, which is generally offered to individuals who’ve excelled in their fields. “We felt out of the world when we heard it” is how Gandhar recalls the moment.
Their content generally tends to revolve around a question – an occurrence which shapes up the fate of a person – If this would have happened or if this would have not? An overwhelming indulgence on youth-centric features, such as comedy or crisis, is one of the discernible feature of their plays.
‘Geli Ekwees Varsha’ or ‘Chakra’ being one of the most prominent. “Geli Ekwees Varsha’ literally translates to The Last Twenty Years” and these were also the two productions which won them awards at Italian and Czech theatre festivals.
When asked about their content, Kshitish, the director of I.T.E.M, shared with us some of their outlooks when it comes to their productions.
“The Idea needs to connect with us in the first place”.
On most occasions it is driven by an incident, or an impression which strikes their chord. Such as their upcoming play, “Item”, which is about the commodification of women in Indian Cinema, and how the artist tends to take the backseat, and her sexual appeal is the most important interest in the audience members.
“The play is the period, that’s how contemporary ITEM is. It directly comments on how the society functions at the moment.”
The journey of a thespian, or an artist at large has never been a walk in the park. Be it the financial difficulties, the limited scope, or the tough competition for a place in the stars – an artist, anywhere in this world, has to pass a tremendous amount of hurdles before reaching the finishing line. Natak Company has had it’s share of struggles, and it’s still persisting. Although it fails to leave a scratch in their teeming passion and love for their craft.
“Although it’s pretty difficult to earn your livelihood from just theatre in this country, we’re happy with our limited financial resources, and even if ten years down the line, we’re at the same spot, I’d not have any sort of a problem with it, because I’m happy, and I’ll be happy as long as I’m doing my craft.” a cheerful and satisfied Gandhar remarked.
Natak Company’s profile matches with the best in our country, and the number of shows that they’ve done all over India is a testimony to that statement.
“One of our shows has had a 70-night run till now, and it still opened to a full house last week, even without heavy promotions” – Ravi.
Natak Company ‘s experiences in Europe was a startling reminder of how far the Indian craft is lagging behind. Both in terms of the infrastructure and the general mindset of the society when it comes to arts, we’ve a lot to catch up on. An artist in Europe receives the amount of respect that he should, and he doesn’t fall back in line to the engineers and the doctors Indians are so kind towards.
The society in India refuses to promote it’s art, and culture. It doesn’t recognise the need to promote cultural awareness in this country, and the necessity to boost it’s artists. Not only is the Indian artist underpaid, but he also lacks the scope for bettering himself. The current predicament is a shocking revelation and the audience, the enthusiasts, and the artists themselves need to work together to bring about this change.
The Natak Company is all set to perform their 7th show of ‘ITEM’ at Gyan Manch, Kolkata tomorrow, as a part of the National Theatre Exchange chapter 2. This cultural exchange started around last year April, with AmyGo productions coming down from Mumbai with their play ‘The E.Q’. This time it’s Pune and Kolkata sharing their expertise at a common venue over the span of two days.
Like The Natak Company members aptly put it, every city has it’s own distinct flavour and style which leaves an imprint on the audience, as well as on the artists. In a cultural exchange like this, not only do the audience and the thespians get to learn and watch new experimentations and techniques, but it also broadens the horizon of artform in a city. Norms are shattered, and the influx of new ideas come together.
The humble lot – Gandhar, Kshitish, and Ravi described their organisation in a simple sentence – “We’re extremely mad people”. Definitely so! Since, only the mad-men follow their passion for something till the end, but these crazies are the ones who carve a new road out of a seemingly blocked zone ahead.
Natak Company has a performance scheduled from 7pm tomorrow, with a lot of hopes from the audience in Kolkata. They even went on to the extent of saying – “Bura ho, bhala ho, please aake zaroor batana.” Now whether the audience in Kolkata will warm up to these crazy and passionate folks is something one can only find out after their performance.
Till then a quote from Anita Roddick’s oeuvre would be apt :-