Offstage frames

Updated: May 25, 2020, 10:46 IST | Prachi Sibal | Mumbai

A popular theatre conversation series receives a digital revival with behind-the-scenes footage from green rooms around the country

Sumeet Vyas in Season 1
Sumeet Vyas in Season 1

Theatre is not possible in isolation,” says Saurabh Shukla, in a video that released last week. It resonates with the times we live in but was shot over a year ago. It is now part of a series titled Green Room Diaries, produced by Hyderabad-based Break A Leg, a content platform for theatre and allied arts. While it received much traction with its 15 short videos between 2017 and 2019, maker Ankit Bakshi who had shot 30 of them back then abandoned Green Room Diaries for other pressing projects. “It was the lockdown that reminded me of all the footage we had and how I’ve always wanted to post it but couldn’t find time to,” he shares.

So now, Green Room Diaries has seen an unexpected digital revival where 15 new videos (shot between 2017 and 2019) will go up weekly in a new season of the series.

Saurabh Shukla in Season 2
Saurabh Shukla in Season 2

Names featured earlier include the likes of Nandita Das, Shweta Tripathi, Anu Menon, Atul Kumar, Sumeet Vyas, Puja Sarup, Sujay Saple and more. The upcoming videos will have Vinay Pathak, Amey Wagh, Shivani Taskale, Yuki Ellias and others in conversation.

The series wasn’t imagined in a green room and its location was sheer coincidence. “For the first episode, we were to shoot Atul Kumar at the hotel he was staying in in Hyderabad. I had the time fixed and was getting ready for the shoot when I heard from him that the cast had travelled and had been up all night. He requested me to come to the performance venue and speak to him there instead. The conversation happened in the green room, and it became an interesting set-up,” Bakshi says. Since then, he has travelled to green rooms in Hyderabad, Chennai, Goa and Mumbai to shoot bite-sized episodes with theatre actors behind the scenes.

Adhaar Khurana in Season 2
Adhaar Khurana in Season 2

Involving a simple two camera set-up, Green Room Diaries focuses on the basics. The actors talk about their first theatre experience, the form and what they can do to revive the art. The duration is three to four minutes and despite a uniform set of questions, the revelations are varied. “When asked if theatre is a dying art form, every single person had a different answer. Shukla speaks about paying for theatre as opposed to films, Subodh Maskara talks about digitising the medium and Lillete Dubey talks about the importance of original content in Indian theatre,” says Bakshi. The episodes also keep from talking about specific productions and periods in the thespian’s life. “The intention, however, was to not keep the footage hidden for so long. I did want a more generic approach and relevance beyond the date they were shot on,” he shares.

You might also notice a common thread between the names that have been featured. Most of the theatre artistes in the series have played prominent on-screen roles too. While that wasn’t intentional, Bakshi admits he received flak for it during the first season. “We weren’t looking for actors who did both; it just happened. But I don’t see the harm in it. Theatre does not have a problem with sustaining an audience but that of bringing in new ones. If familiar screen names can introduce new people to the world of theatre, it can’t be a bad thing,” Bakshi explains. The second season however, has a better mix.

Nandita Das
Nandita Das

The videos are interspersed with stills from the actor’s work on stage and provide relief from the otherwise stationary set-up. The interviewer (Bakshi) doesn’t face the camera; only the artiste speaks. Their faces light up when talking about their first experiences with theatre and they speak of the form with childlike fondness. The art may change form and medium (as in lockdown times), but the joy of make-believe remains intact. And it is this joy that renders it timeless.

Ankit Bakshi
Ankit Bakshi

Log on to green-room-diaries.breakaleg.in

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