Sonali and Arun Bhatia (November 30,2019)
When you go to watch a theatrical performance, you would generally expect the hero (heroine) to be someone famous, and the actors to have learned their lines by heart. How about a performance in which members of the audience (maybe even you) are the protagonist, and there are absolutely no scripted lines? RajeshP.I. and The Actors Collective bring Playback diaries to Lahe Lahe each month.
Gently steered and goaded by Rajesh, the members of the audience warm up by mentioning how they are feeling, go on to describing particular conflicts they are facing and finally tell full fledged stories that the actors then bring out on stage without any discussion or break for thinking. Emotions are thus immediate, raw, and spontaneous. Take the performances we have had the pleasure of attending so far. One of them began with a member of the audience saying that 2019 had been superb so far because her dream had come true. The actors immediately converted this thought into gestures, movements and repeated phrases to exactly capture the emotion she had expressed, The evening went on with conflicts… and the young man unable to decide how much to keep clinging to his parents and how much to grow up, move on, and make his own decisions. This conflict and other conflicts facing various audience members were played out by three or four pairs of actors who symbolized the dual aspects of the conflict in various ways.
Then came the full fledged stories. Stories can be manifested by playback actors in myriad ways like tableau, encounters, and so on. As the audience member narrates the story, Rajesh interrupts to get vital clues so that he can guide the actors which format to use. Once the narration is complete, he announces his choice of format and the actors take over. The first story at our recent Playback evening was that of a chap who twisted his ankle on the way to the bus stop for an important presentation in office. There being a transport strike, only buses were available and with his hairline fracture, he hobbled mistakenly on to the wrong bus. The story unfolded with a kind hearted lorry driver finally helping him home. Upon watching the rendition, of his anecdote, by the actors, the young man stated, that he had gained some new perspective. This sentiment was echoed by all the people who had their stories enacted that evening.
The evening ended with the actors summing things up as a group and stating what those two hours had meant to them as individuals. A truly heart-touching experience.