Aarushi Thakur is a budding theatre personality of Jammu & Kashmir. She is daughter of Padma Shri Balwant Thakur, a renowned theatre personality of India. Here is a conversation with Aarushi:
- You’re a rising theatre icon of Jammu, please tell us in brief about you.
I graduated in Political Science from St. Stephens College. I’ve done Masters in International Politics from the University of Leicester, London. I’ve done theatre from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, London. And right now I’m working in Natrang and yes, I’ve participated in Directors’ Workshop in the National School of Drama in addition to various other acting and direction workshops.
How different is theatre–culture here in India from that in the west?
It is the same in some aspects and in some there are huge differences also. Like the method of instruction and teaching is very similar but the way people perceive and receive theatre is a lot different. In London, people are ready to spend even £20 for a theatre ticket which is not possible here in India. People there take theatre as seriously as films but sadly it’s not so here in India.
Any comparison between theatre–culture in Jammu and the rest of India?
The people in Mumbai, Kolkata are coming forward to invest in theatre; they’re getting sponsored which isn’t the case here in Jammu. Everywhere else in India, they’re realising that they’ve neglected theatre for long and they’re ready to pour in money to save theatre. Though my father has been trying to get sponsors in Jammu and has succeeded in roping in big–wigs like Airtel etc. yet we’ve to put more efforts.
How do you feel about the recent Jammu & Kashmir Festival that took place in London?
It was a great initiative. The people abroad have misconceptions about J&K; like while I was studying in London, people kept asking me if I’d encountered terrorists and bomb explosions! The people there have no idea about the state the kind of diversity that we have here in J&K.
Besides there’s a trust deficit in the various regions of the state due to political and social unrest; so in order to coalesce them, such festivals are greatly significant. The artists while portraying the composite culture of the state in a foreign land definitely feel the connection among themselves and acknowledge the unity in diversity that our state has exhibited for centuries.
How instrumental has your father Mr. Balwant Thakur been in guiding you to take up theatre as full time career?
To be honest! He never interfered in my choices, be it in academics or career. He never interferes while I’m on a project and he never watches my rehearsals. He gets to see my performance with the rest of the audience only. And yes he does give me feedback as a viewer once the show is over.
You work with kids as well as with adult actors. Who are you more comfortable working with?
Acting–wise, I prefer adults as they’re easy to communicate with. Adult actors grasp ideas and concepts quickly and have thorough idea of almost everything. While acting with or directing kids, one has to enact every scene as they’re young and have no idea about a lot of things. Besides I don’t like to scold kids.
What exactly is Natrang’s goal?
Our prime focus is on producing professional actors and directors. It is secondary whether they choose theatre of films at a later stage. A lot of actors from Natrang are acting in films, TV series etc. We do provide periodic courses for casual and hobbyists but we’re dedicated to producing professionals only.
In times ridden with Bollywood, how do you avoid the temptation to become a Bollywood heroine?
(Laughs). I don’t want to be stereotyped with anything. In future, I wouldn’t mind directing and acting in a film myself but I’m not hell bent on becoming a heroine; being an actor would be sufficient for me.
Acting or Directing– If given a choice which one will you choose?
That’s a tough one! I think I’ll go with acting as it is less demanding than direction. While acting, everybody else– be an actor, a set designer, the director or anybody, contributes to your performance. Everybody helps you bring out the best from your character. But while directing, you have to work on every aspect of the play, from actors, to set design, to costume, lights, sound… Direction is tough!
What are your short term and long term goals?
Right now we are working on a Hindi adaption of The Twelfth Night. I am writing the script. The show will be presented in Jammu by the end of this year and then again in February, we’ll perform it in Delhi.