A master’s degree from Narsee Monjee Institute of Management, a plush corporate job with an investment bank and yet he couldn’t ‘help it!’ In this Green Room Diaries we come across the efficacious Rajeev Siddhartha, who decided to leave it all behind, and walked straight into our hearts with his alluring performances on stage and film. Be it classics like Aadhe Adhure, more contemporary plays like Gauhar, Merchant of Venice, Wedding Album, or even children’s plays like The Dancing Donkey and new age mediums like CinePlays, Rajeev never fails to impress. A heartthrob of the digital audience, his performance in Four More Shots Please! and the more recent Hundred are proof that he has a lot to offer than what meets the eye. And whats more, Rajeev was one of the first actors to portray a gay character in Romil and Jugal, way before it was considered cool to do so.

The acting bug bit him pretty early but actualization took its own time as he made his way through acting groups in college, an MBA in Finance and his voyage into the big corporate world. With a stage (and screen) presence that is both remarkable and effortless, the realization soon dawned on him that he had to act.

He is honest, candid and super charming! In this episode, Rajeev tells us more about his journey, what propelled him to pursue theatre, followed by a series of successful web shows. He talks about the different mediums- film and stage, and the greater highs in theatre. He does not miss on the practical outtakes, he knows the factors that will make the craft more lucrative for aspirants and the scope of improving Indian theatre.

Rajeev is optimistic and hopeful of the future, as he knows that great writing and diverse content is making its way and it will transform the Indian theatre-scene as we know it.

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!”

Still from Merchant Of Venice | Source: Aadyam

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.

Still from Gauhar | Source: Primetime TheatreCo

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. 

Still from Khamosh Adalat Jaari Hai | Source: CinePlay

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. 

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