The director of Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra explains what it takes to be a good theatre artist
Shobha Deepak Singh is the director of Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra, one of the oldest cultural centres of India, and a producer-director of thought-provoking productions on themes drawn from Indian mythology. The government awarded her Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian award, in 1999 for her contributions to arts and culture. Namrata Kohli interviewed Shobha Deepak Singh during the staging of one of the longest-running plays in independent India titled ‘Shri Ram’.
You run a successful institution that trains theatre artists besides other art forms. Which are the various aspects one can be associated with? What are the key attributes required for becoming a good theatre artist?
There are certain significant aspects that a theatre artist has to be equipped with. A good understanding of theatre with dance and music background. A good understanding of the production values such lighting, sets, costumes etc. I received training in dance, music and theatre for about ten years, which enables me to incorporate and share my cumulative knowledge in all of my productions without any compromises even now.
What are the old and new ways in which theatre continues to enthrall the audiences? Any departure from earlier formats?
Earlier, the dancers used to dance on top of buses. They gradually progressed to present themselves on a stage that matches the trends year after year to something that can be seen today.
Technical elements are of a considerably higher calibre, including lighting. Every year, the stage is set that is compatible with the episodes, costumes are designed, and appropriate jewellery and ornaments are made in-house. The music itself includes contemporary sounds like synthesizers and other modern equipment.
The ongoing 66th edition of ‘Shri Ram’ by Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra at the Kendra Lawns, Copernicus Marg in Delhi, has lured audiences from all age groups since its inception. What makes for a successful play according to you?
I believe that Shri Ram’s production, which becomes better every year and consistently exceeds the production values anticipated, is the reason for its success. In fact, every aspect of the production is given careful consideration, including the creation of the sets, costumes, lighting, background music, animations to provide equal opportunity to all of the skilled and well-trained dancers and so on. All this goes into the making of Shri Ram thus transforming the production into an amazing audio-visual presentation.
What does the audience want?
For all these years, the show of Shri Ram has been making its mark among viewers who wish to feel a connection to divinity and follow Ram’s life as it relates to situations and difficulties that we encounter in our everyday lives. From the challenges that Ram faces in the episode of Ram’s 14-year exile, we can learn how to defy all odds and deal with the circumstances that occur in our life.
With its visual appeal and seamless sound effects that complement each episode, the show is conceptualized in a way that captivates viewers and appeals to their preferences.
How should a beginner train oneself for theatre?
There are plenty of theatre schools available where they train to utilize creativity, application, engagement, and performance to deliver. I personally learnt dance and music about ten to twelve years ago. I undertook a course in theatre, which enables me to incorporate all my learnings in my productions that you see on stage.
One of the best institutions for doing theatre courses is the National School of Drama (NSD).