Remember the time our faces were soaked with tears when Denzel Washington’s eyes sparkled with emotion in the 1989 film ‘Glory’? or how our hearts melted, making us jump out of our seats… squealing with joy when Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol got their happily ever after in ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai?’ Movies are meant to make us laugh, love and live our lives to the fullest. That is exactly how I feel everytime Alba Quadros and Huda Bhaldar manage to put up breathtaking performances and productions that are meant to hit us in a place that makes us feel. our hearts.
Being one of the creative forces of the performing arts institute “The Hive”, where children learn to not only unleash their inner potential but embrace who they are, let us dive into the realms of their innovative minds as they unmask the secrets of their creativity.
How did the passion and love for the performing arts begin? What is it about theatre that makes it so special?
Theatre helped me find my voice. Back when I was a science student planning to follow a herd of sheep pursuing a degree in computer science. I decided I had had enough of giving away my precious time to something I did not love. Language fascinated me so I opted for a degree in English Literature with a promise to give it my best. And that was the most rewarding decision for me. One thing led to another, I fell in love with stories. In my first year, a guest lecturer was conducting a class about dramatizing Shakespear for understanding and performance. Attending that session changed me. I suddenly felt empowered and couldn’t resist the urge to jump in right away. I pursued theatre outside college, chasing the experience and the thrill of watching and re-living age old stories on stage. I interned at The NCPA and performed 27 shows of a play around the city.
In Dubai, I switched from being an actor to a director and producer. I initiated new projects for stage and screen. Shifting from a marketing managerial role at an IT company to a full time theatre facilitator at the Hive was a great boost.
Theatre is special for me because it allows for experimentation, not just with the craft of acting, but with imagination, being, the mind, body and soul. It’s enthralling and gives a meaningful purpose to life. It helps one discover one’s identity by being another person. And the Director does this more than anyone else on the crew. Visualizing and communicating with actors, feeling anxious in the tech booth and seeing a scene or a dialogue land exactly the way you intended it to be or even better, is the best feeling ever.
Directing is an underrated art form. But I try to do full justice to it. I don’t think I have reached far in theatre, but as long as I keep working with stories, I am happy.
Be it nailing a particular dialogue or getting into the skin of a character, what according to you are some of the roadblocks that you feel your students struggle with the most? How would you encourage them to keep going?
The best thing about theatre for kids is that there is no pressure or sense of consciousness to throw you off, and that’s a great advantage. Sure, kids do have to deliver lines with particular emotions and more, but the way kids believe in stories and make the characters their own without the slightest of hesitation, it is incredible, it’s fun and energizing.
All I encourage kids to do is to make time for theatre, make time to practice everyday. Given their current lifestyles, kids these days are busier than a lot of adults. They are bombarded with a lot of extra curricular activities, which is great, but it is a lot to cope up with. In such a situation, drama comes as a tool to reconnect with emotions, feelings and learn empathy and care. So, making time for it is gold, for mental well being as well.
Also, I think the major roadblocks are not with learning but with trusting the process of learning. When kids or parents are anxious about the deliverables and ‘what is my child learning everyday?’ Those kinds of questions create doubt and distrust. When you start doubting the process of learning, you stop learning. Luckly, the Hive has been a safe place for kids to express themselves and be at home, so it’s not hard to overcome these challenges, loosen up and really jump into a character or a text with all your might.
How has the pandemic affected you and the Hive team creatively? What were some of the difficulties you had faced but managed to get out of?
The pandemic opened us up to a new vertical. Teaching drama online was suddenly the only way to go. It was a concern at first, but the team of Hive and the students took to it pretty quickly. The transition was pretty smooth.
Some difficulties were to maintain the same quality as on ground classes. It takes a lot more to make sure kids are just as engaged and paying attention online. But once the momentum was set, things got better and better. We even had a term of hybrid classes with some kids online and some on ground in the same class.
As of now, online drama and creative writing classes have become really popular as they are super focused and enjoyable for the kids. It’s all about getting used to a new format, learning and thriving.
The Hive just had a ten-day drama festival. Could you tell us about it and the roles that you specifically played?
A 7 day theatre festival but it definitely seemed much more than that! It was one of a kind experience, with about 17 plays and 200 + students on stage in a week. It was a rollercoaster ride but one that we had been preparing for 6 month. Still, one is never fully prepared for last minute hiccups in theatre, ones that show up out of nowhere to test your patience.
All’s well that ends well.
I was assisting with light design and handling sound for the entire festival. Most of the plays were co-directed by all teachers as the Hive.
But I really enjoyed directing ‘Final Solutions’ an Indian English play by Mahesh Dattani for the hive senior student. It is a play about communal tension and prejudices that inhibit our hearts and that show up in the most adverse situations. About being aware and fighting those inner demons. It was really powerful and received lots of admiration from the audience.
Do you also dabble in writing? Can you share some of the plays that you have directed and where did the inspiration for the story come from?
Alas, writing is my first love. I started off as a content writer, writing stories and scripts in Mumbai. Sadly, I don’t write very often now, I try to, as much as I can. I have written scripts for short films and for plays in Dubai.
At the Hive, we started a creative writing course in Summer camps, last year and this year which has been going great for me.
For my writing, I think I draw inspiration from real life. From the emotional turmoils and situations that humans around me (including myself) are going through, also unlived dreams and ideas that humour me. My short films are very realistic and talk about human relationships and pursuit for happiness.
A thing about writing is, it can’t be forced, just as any other form of creativity. Words come at their own will, so I have to wait patiently like a birdwatcher. But I do like reading, researching before writing, and getting to know my subject in depth, before words start to flow.
About films, I think they are the greatest form of documentation. It is what the future is going about. To have a strong core i.e. a strong script in films is a must. That’s something I aim to excel at. Hopefully the teacher will find time to become a dedicated student.