While the saying goes “Two’s company, three’s a crowd”, in the context of a theatre festival in Mumbai, going solo is the ultimate choice. Though the very thought of performing solo on stage may give jitters even to an experienced artiste, the actors associated with Solo, a theatre festival, share a different perspective. “I have the entire stage to myself; I can improvise impromptu. The entire action-reaction bit rests on me. Besides, one also gets the entire attention of the audience, which is unlikely when you are performing with a group,” says Abhishek Deshmukh, one of the eight actors to gave a solo performance at the four-day theatre festival by Expression Lab that was held at Sudarshan Rangmanch till March 27.
Altogether, the festival showcased eight solo acts by former students of Expression Lab – Anand Kshirsagar (Story of Man), Tushar Gunjal (P.T.O), Amruta Deshmukh (Gul Makai), Vinayak Lele (The Tale of a Tiger), Ghanshyam Rahalkar (Hodi), Dr Harshawardhan Shrotri (Maa Ma Ho Maa) , Laxmi Birajdar (Awaazein) and Deshmukh (Karve…By The Way). While The Tale of a Tiger is in English, Birajdar’s act Awaazein is in Hindi. Barring Story of a Man, which does not have any dialogues, other acts are in Marathi.
Pradeep Vaiddya, founder of Expression Lab, was the brain behind this unique theatre fest, which was conceived last year. “I wanted to do something that could make my students more responsible towards their theatrical skills. Every time they approach a theatre director seeking opportunity for a performance, the work they get is bound by a script; it’s difficult to get a role that will challenge their caliber. Then I came up with the idea of a solo performance, which tests one’s abilities on stage to the extreme,” says Vaiddya. He announced a solo performance contest for his former students in October last year and 22 students participated. Besides Vaiddya, the students were guided and groomed on the know-how of solo acts by renowned theatre personalities such as Atul Pethe, Mohit Takalkar and Ashutosh Potdar. The 22 students presented their final stage performance in November, which was judged by Takalkar, Ajay Joshi and Rajashree Wagh. Out of the total performances, while three acts won awards, three received special mention by the jury. In addition to this, two outstanding acts were selected by Vaiddya. All the eight acts were selected for three shows of the theatre fest Solo, the current show being the first one.
A solo performer, according to Vaiddya, has to shoulder bigger responsibility vis-a-vis an actor performing with a group. The actor has to judge what the costume, light, sound and other elements can add to his/her performance. “Although there is a lot of insecurity because the actor cannot depend on anything or any other actor; if you are not prepared, it will be noticed instantly. There is also an advantage. The whole game of make-believe becomes stronger; the actor can work on finer nuances. Logistically, it is easier,” explains Vaiddya. His repertoire of works includes acclaimed plays such as Uney Purey Shehar Ek, Tichi 17 Prakarne and Gajab Kahani.
The acts deal with themes that are different from each other, says Vaiddya. For instance, Deshmukh’s Karve…By The Way is inspired by activist Raghunath Dhonde Karve’s work done in the area of birth-control awareness in the ’30s, Shrotri’s Maa Ma Ho Maa is based on a collection of Marathi poems by Nitin Kulkarni, portraying a man caught in a post-modern life and his inner conflict. “Some of the acts are written and directed by the actors themselves while a few are based on pre-written works and directed by others,” adds Vaiddya.