Arnesh Ghose
Arnesh Ghose

Arnesh Ghose likes to shake up his audience. "I am not here to entertain them. I want them to feel uncomfortable, ask questions that they commonly don’t," says Ghose, the writer, director and producer of Andheri, a play that tells the story of struggling actors in the city, with a dash of black humour. While brainstorming on the subject, he was surprised that something as integral to the industry as this, the subject was yet to be approached in theatre.

"As a film journalist and as someone who runs his own theatre company, I work with struggling actors all the time, I know their stories. I have seen how they spend a week at CST before figuring out an address. If you ask them to go to Aram Nagar and audition, they have no clue where the place is. Also, an actor doesn't have a map. When they are starting out, they are directionless. But, the dream doesn’t give a damn about that," says Ghose whose play delves into stark realities such as the casting couch, the frustration that comes with foolish optimism, the hardened exterior of a struggler.

His process of working with actors is particularly interesting, wherein they have to come up with back stories of their characters, and the story needs to date back to their grandparents. "That is how much I require them to internalise their roles. Only then, will they be able to live it."

Most of what unravels in the play is an extension of Ghose's own experiences and observations as an industry insider. But, because of his familiarity with both struggling actors and established stars (thanks to his credentials as a film journalist), he's able to bring in multiple perspectives. "Take for instance casting couch that people tend to be so judgmental of. I am not justifying it. But, think of the casting director, who perhaps feels that everyone uses them as a stepping stone. That's a kind of loneliness that no one talks about," he says.

Is portraying their own kind on stage easier, we ask Ghose’s actors. "Every struggler has their own story. My character is an eternal optimist, who is always bright and hopeful that the phone will ring. In reality, I may not be that person, which would make it harder for me to portray," says Akash Ahuja, one of the cast members. Surabhi Subramonian, another actor adds, "My character is so hardened by her own reality, that nothing affects her anymore. 'Baba guzar gaye, toh guzar gaye' Getting into that stone-cold space was not easy for me, as I am not that person at all."

The play is one hour, 40 minutes long, and unlike Ghose's previous works like Asylum and Charpai, the risque content, we are told, has been tempered. "That’s where humour comes in handy. These are people who can laugh at themselves, which softens the blow," Ghose signs off.