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Backstage rockstars

Updated on: 27 March,2019 08:16 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Snigdha Hasan |

On World Theatre Day, we shine the spotlight on some of the city's young and talented names in production, set and light design, and music

Backstage rockstars

Adi Shastri

You never see them on the proscenium. When the curtain rises, they quietly slip behind the wings and get down to business. They, literally, train the spotlight on the actors and yet, remain at a distance from one themselves.

Anadi Nagar, 25, composes music for theatre. He knows his music cannot overpower the play. "People need to come out of the theatre appreciating the play, not the music alone," he says, "But there is something about theatre that makes me want to do it." The show must go on. And on World Theatre Day, we speak to four backstage heroes who play their part to make sure it does.

Adi Shastri, light designer
Having grown up in a family of artistes, theatre came as second nature to Adi Shastri. The 21-year-old student of filmmaking started out as a stage manager, and being around light designers helped him pick the latter as his calling. "Lighting is a kind of directorial cue," he says, adding how he continues to learn on the job. "I keep asking [senior light designers] Arghya Lahiri and Yael Crishna a lot of questions. I have realised that there are no stupid questions." Having worked with artiste Sujay Saple, he recently designed the light for the album launch of Sound of the Sufis, which was held at the Royal Opera House. Like Nagar, Shastri tells us that lighting can never be the highlight of a play, and that, to depict the passage of time or other transitions, the process must be seamless. "If the audience doesn't notice the lighting of the play, I have done my job well," he says.

Vivek Jadhav

Vivek Jadhav, set designer
Having acted in plays in college, JJ School of Art alumnus Vivek Jadhav couldn't imagine parting with it when it came to taking up a job. So, he employed his training as an artist in the world of theatre and became a set designer. Two decades later, Jadhav, 48, has worked with several companies, having created sets for period dramas to experimental plays with minimal design. "I begin with giving the script a thorough read, and then speak to the director about his vision and the venue for the production to gauge the scale," he says. No stranger to working within the limited means of the medium, he laments the lack of basic infrastructure for set designers. "When compared to the West, we have no dedicated spaces for trial and error."

Rohit Das

Rohit Das, music composer
In 2007, alternate fusion rock musician Rohit Das was approached by theatre director Bijoy Mandal to compose music for his play, Andha Yug by Dharamvir Bharati. "I enjoyed it so much that there was no looking back," says the 31-year-old, who went on to work with Sunil Shanbag, Trishla Patel and Hidayat Sami, among other well-known artistes. "You may play for five minutes or there may be no stopping till the curtain call. Each play requires a different approach and that's what makes it challenging and fun," says Das, who defines his music as electronic western with a tinge of Indian classical. "Nothing gratifies the soul more than playing for theatre."

Saatvika Kantamneni

Saatvika Kantamneni, stage and production manager
At a workshop Saatvika Kantamneni conducted two years ago, she asked the participants to jot down the first word that came to their mind when they heard "stage manager". "Jugaadu creativity was one of the responses, and perhaps the most apt one," says the Mumbai-based thespian who takes up freelance production and stage management projects across the country. She heard about Thespo, the youth theatre movement, when she was a student in Delhi. "I wanted to do something in theatre that wasn't acting," Kantamneni, 28, says recalling her journey, which began with an internship at QTP. She then did her MA in Collaborative Theatre Production and Design in London. "A stage manager runs the ship; taking care of timelines, actors' availability, props... And once the play premieres with the director's vision, he/she takes on, ensuring each show is the same," she says. There aren't enough people who do her job at the moment — something companies are beginning to recognise.

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