Born and raised in Chandigarh and settled in Kolkata since marriage, thespian and actor Ramanjit Kaur is among the frontrunners in the city, who have taken theatre out of the proscenium and turned it into a more participative, organic and intimate affair with active participation of the audience.
Recently, her latest production Beyond Borders, was performed at the 8th Theatre Olympics, one of the most prestigious global theatre events, by 29 women. The play, whose score has been composed by tabla maestro Tanmoy Bose, explored the inclusivity beyond the boundaries of nationality, religion, caste, creed or gender. “It was an intimate play using all the elements of contemporary theatre such as, video art, installation art, photography, creative sound design and deconstruction of text,” tells Kaur, adding that as many as seven languages including English, Hindi, Punjabi, Bengali, Marwari and Garhwali were used in the play.
But Kaur, whose plays have received accolades in India and abroad, is now busy exploring cinema as a medium of her artistic expression. I have already shot a short movie of five minutes. It’s a lyrical and poetic expression with only one person present on screen but no actor as such. I always was apprehensive of cinema as a medium and how to cut frames, but when I thought of this movie, I just knew what shots I exactly needed,” says Kaur, whose movie is in post production stage now. She wants to first send it to the festival circuits to reach the right kind of audience before releasing it online.
Though this is the first time Kaur is wielding the camera, she has been in front of it for a few movies including Deepa Mehta’s Fire, Earth and Heaven on Earth. Recently, she also finished shooting for a short, Mango Shake by an SRFTI student.
So, how different was shooting a film than staging a play, we ask Kaur, looking pretty in a red and black kurti, with her long mane falling like a cascade, caressing the sides of her long face. “It isn’t much different, just another medium of expression. Theatre has its charm in its temporariness, while cinema’s beauty lies in its posterity and permanence,” reflects the thespian while sipping her cappuccino in a cafe on a rain washed afternoon.
Having trained under many a famous playwright including Clive Barker, author of Theatre Games, Kaur conducted her first theatre workshop with special children at Doon school, when she was only 15. Her desire to train and work with children in theatre, took formal shape in 2002, when she formed The Creative Arts, a performing arts institute for children and adults in Kolkata. Since then, the institute has been imparting systematised lessons in acting, voice training, expression, music dance and production design and help children build confidence and learn team work. “Back then the city had very random and sporadic workshops for children. This is perhaps the only institute to offer a parallel course for 12 years. More than 2,000 students have been groomed since then and are now either acting or successfully working in production houses,” says Kaur, with a glint of pride in her eyes.
Kaur feels that the days of drawing room drama or realistic theatre are over, with theatre becoming more physical and Kolkata is still lagging behind Bangalore, Kerala, Mumbai and even Delhi. “There is a lack of proper training here. Theatre has a very serious methodology and my concern is that some of the people who are teaching drama, how well are they trained in the art,” asks Kaur, who loves the work of Suman Mukherjee, Kaushik Sen, Bratya Basu and Manish Mitra here.
So, what’s Kaur’s next plan to take the cause of theatre forward? “Besides training children, I have an all women’s theatre course, which is one of its kind. The women get trained by national and international artistes including extensive vocal and physical training that go into holistic development of an individual as an artist. We also have masters visiting our centre and teaching them martial arts including Japanese Butoh and Kalaripayattu.
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