How and why Theatre?
When I was in class 3, I remember they were doing this play called The Stone Soup. I got a very very small part where I had to walk onto stage and sit down. One of my teachers in the audience said “You know, you’ve got some presence…” I was 9 years old, so obviously you don’t take all of that so seriously then. I went to St. Stephens, Delhi and was part of the theatre society called The Shakespeare Society. There was no plan ki bhai I’m doing this right now taaki future main something happens, nothing of that sort.
Then I did my MBA in Finance, believe it or not! Post which I worked at an investment bank for a year and a half but soon realized- what’s the point? We all say we have one life and I had that mental clarity that if there’s something that I want to do for the rest of my life, I better enjoy it. I had to face a lot of pressure from all corners but I stuck to my guns. My entire family lost it, they were like you’re such a good student, padhai main itne acche number aate the…kya kar rahe ho?
After one and a half years I went to my boss and I said “Sir I’m leaving. I mean I want to quit.”
I don’t know why but he said “Kyuun? Hero banna chahte ho kya?
I said “Haan hero hi banna chahta hoon!”
Bitten by the Acting Bug
Just like any other MBA graduate I would apply for job interviews and wait to get it. And that’s exactly what happened. Acting was the last thing on my mind. I just feel that during the course of that one and a half years, there was a voice inside me that said “Just act!”
I don’t know why I was feeling this way because there weren’t any external factors asking me to get into acting. At the same time the feeling was too strong to resist. I resisted it for 3-4 months when one of my friends told me “You know Rajeev? You know why I think you want to act? Because you can’t help it.”
And I think Yes! I can’t help it. That’s why I act.
According to you, what is the scope of improving the Indian theatre scene?
After the initial rehearsal period is over, you have show dates and you rehearse for 1-2 days before the show, so its possible for a person to look for work in TV or film. I think the high of performing in front of a live audience is so much that you always keep coming back to it.
Theatre needs a lot of financial support, where people can focus solely on theatre rather than feeling a bit insecure back at home. Obviously, if you don’t have food to eat at home it’ll be difficult to perform on stage. More initiatives by big business houses and by patrons of art could be one of the way. People will then not be in a hurry to leave theatre and get into TV or film and never come back.
Is Indian Theatre dying or evolving?
It’s an evolving art form. Absolutely! Because so many people in our generation are actually leaving their well paid jobs and corporate jobs and turning into their passions. In that sense I think there’ll be many more people who will be coming into acting and who’d be serious about their craft. Hence, they would like to start it off with theatre because that’s where you hone your craft.
Also, we are doing classics from the past but few years but there are also very good writers coming up. People have innovative ideas and they’ll take some time, probably 4-5 years where new content will come and theatre will only just be on its way up. I’m very optimistic about that.