|ARTS TRIBUNE||Friday, June 16, 2000, Chandigarh, India|
actor, film maker
by Amita Malik
Director, actor, film maker
WITH more than 17 years of theatre behind me, I now combine the related avatars of director, actor and film maker. That is Vikram Kapadia, a multi-media personality who was in the town recently conducting a summer workshop in theatre acting for children at the Strawberry Fields School.
Having graduated from Actors Studio, Bombay, headed by Roshan Taneja, former Principal of FTII, Pune, Vikram enterprisingly rose in his careergraph through conducting workshop with famous international theatre experts like Peter Brook (of Mahabharat-the Play fame), Maria Irena Fornes, Steven Berkoff as well as Indian stalwarts such as Habib Tanvir, Naseeruddin Shah, Pearl Padamsee, Pt. Satyadev Dubey and N. Muthuswamy.
In order to comprehend and interpret an intense medium like theatre, Vikram suitably equipped himself by educating in western classical ballet and ballroom dance under the expertise of Tushna Dallas (RAD, London). Not only this, he also trained himself in tap-dancing under the celebrated film choreographer Oscar Unger. Vikrams drive for jazz was encouraged by his trainer Farida Pedder. Among his notable stage performances are the following productions: The Good Doctor (1984); As You Love It (1987); The Measure Taken (1988); and Caine Mutiny Court Martial (1993).
The year 1987 was significant for Vikram as he launched his own theatre group with an assortment of like-minded professionals called Masque. It also marked his directorial debut with Luigi Pirandellos Six Characters in Search on an Author. In a span of 13 years, Vikram has to his credit an impressive folio of well-known directorial productions. To name just a few, Ken Jenkins Ruperts Birthday (1990), William Shakespeares Julius Caesar (1922) and Romeo and Juliet (1955) and Makrand Deshpandes Musk Maiden (1999) which got premiered at the Prithvi festival last year.
In the recent past, this free-spirited artiste has also given the medium of television a glimpse of his bearded self in prominent serials like A Mouthful of Sky, Banegi Apni Baat, Rishtey, Saturday Suspense and Just Mohabbat.
While in Chandigarh, Vikram shared his views and apprehensions on the contemporary scenario of theatre in India. It is very young in terms of its evolutionary age and quite semi-professional in its approach. Consists broadly of a mix n match of seasoned and amateur actors. However, it lacks a sense of quest and has stagnated at the level of block-based drama. Basically, the understanding about theatre as a medium of art is rather sad in our country. Not an encouraging situation, according to Vikram.
Regarding his experience with children during the workshop, the bindaas Mumbiya observes: The thought of doing a kids workshop in itself was nostalgic since over the years I have directed numerous plays with school and college kids. But, I must confess that children here are lacking completely in any kind of theatre exposure. They are otherwise terribly smitten by TV and film entertainment like children elsewhere. They possess the potential to do theatre, but require training in this regard which is only possible if the medium by and large is recognised in a slightly more serious a manner than as merely doing nautanki!
And were there any hurdles while handling these tiny talents?
Well, language barrier did pose a problem initially since spoken English with many is definitely an efforted exercise. But once they were told to use Hindi or Punjabi and leave English out, they opened up totally and enjoying doing whatever it was that they fancied expressing dramatically. Also, I felt the need to work on their pronunciation, which was strangely not so correct considering that they came from highly educated and affluent backgrounds. Any sort of theatre exercise with kids is an experience in itself. For examples, while making them improve their speech, introducing them to mime and movements of space, the feedback one gets is absolutely amazing. Their flights of imagination run with such innocent enthusiasm that the entire labour of familiarising them with dramatics appears to be nothing less than a pure delight, elaborates Vikram.
As a result of the fortnightly exercise, the participants of the workshop put up a brief production, The Highway Man, on the sprawling lawns of the school. Besides, the kids, satisfaction of having performed, it made their parents feel proud of having a theatre sensitive ward. The laurels for which must be duly conferred on Vikram, the pied-piper of the show.
So, what is in the offing for this theatrewallah?
Well, I have three productions lined up already, The Lord of the Flies being the first of these. And as I simply love the city of Chandigarh with its architectural gems of the Secretarial Complex, Nek Chands Rock Garden, who knows, Masque might plan one of its future ventures here, he replies.
Much-needed look at Arab
Seldom have I watched the live coverage of a contemporary event with such fascination as the BBCs day-long relay of President Assads funeral. I think it is no secret that our media coverage of the Arab world is mostly through American eyes unless someone like Saeed Naqvi (and he is a loner in this respect) makes an occasional visit to that part of the world and gives us an un-biased, first-hand account of what goes on, enlivened by interviews with the very dramatic leaders who decide the fate of millions in that ancient civilisation and culture.
What was absorbing was the interesting international and national reaction to the death of the controversial Syrian President. Jacques Chirac of France was there, very gracious and dignified, speaking earnestly to the Arab leaders present, but not Clinton, who was represented by Madeleine Allbright in a black picture hat and black stockings..Ditto, ditto Tony Blair, who sent Foreign Secretary Robin Cook. The long line of Arab, Iranian and other neighbouring dignitaries, including Yasser Arafat, no great friend of Assad, lining up for the customary pecks on the cheek of the very tall bereaved son and potential successor to Assad. The elaborate diplomatic ritual in the vast Peoples Palace, with tiny cups of black coffee being passed round by deferential waiters, contrasted with the moving tributes by packed crowds on the streets of Damascus, including some incredibly beautiful women, all very disciplined and orderly until the coffin reached the mosque in his village, the emotional outpourings of grief thereafter leading almost to a stampede. Then the beautiful tree-lined avenue leading to the family mausoleum, an architecturally modern, futuristic edifice.
The BBC was at its best, as is usually the case in what used to be known as the Middle East. Some years ago, I was told by professional media-watchers in Cairo that Egyptians like the BBC so much because they have middle-aged experts who really know the region. On this occasion, the BBC lined up its best middle-aged experts on the region besides taking the help of local media people fluent in English. As a result we got detailed analysis and got to the bottom of all the political and social nuances, and even the delicate Shia-Sunni problem. I only fault the coverage for not identifying the African leaders present, and it was inevitable that we were not told who represented India at the funeral. But I suppose the USA, Europe and the Arab world were much more important in this context. In the event, the momentous meeting of North and South Korean leaders on international channels and Rajesh Pilots tragic and untimely death on our local channels found their own place and viewers. Not to forget Jaswant Singhs visit to Sri Lanka. Here I must mention that though the usual star reporters flitted across the horizon, I liked the down-to-earth reporting of Bobby Nair and Sunil Prabhu,normally based in Kerala and Tamil Nadu for Star News, who reported with quiet competence, avoiding distracting fireworks.
And that reminds me. I
have received a number of complaints from Star TV
watchers during the past few months. One recurring
complaint is that its star performer, Prannoy Roy the
flag-bearer of the channel, is hardly seen these days and
the succession of over-confident, aggressive juvenile
greenhorns who are filling in as anchors (with exceptions
such as Vikram Chandra, Rajdeep Sardesai and Arnab
Goswami), lack both the authority and the screen presence
of Roy and they wish he would anchor programmes with some
degree of regularity. Several viewers maintain that Star
News has been going down steadily in quality as a result.
The second, equally recurring complaint is typified by
the visiting viewer from Andhra Pradesh who came up to me
at the India International Centre to voice a common
complaint. He said: You have not written enough
about the outrage Indian viewers feel about the arrogant
and presumptuous way in which junior reporters and
anchors address distinguished personalities, including
politicians, editors and professor by their first name.
This is India and someone should teach them some manners.
I repeat, this is a common complaint which I gladly
endorse. The worst offenders in this respect, by common
consent, are Abhigyan Prakash and Vishnu Som, who should
familiarise themselves with the terms sir and madam, like
their more experienced colleagues.