Aahana Kumra: Cannot wait to be back on stage

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Aahana Kumra (Photo: Twitter)

By Siddhi Jain

New Delhi– Having embraced theatre going digital, film and theatre actor Aahana Kumra says she cannot wait to get back on stage to perform, and laments Covid-19 affecting the sanity of theatre community and snatching away “so much joy from all of us”.

Kumra is known for her roles in ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ and ‘The Accidental Prime Minister’, and has starred in the recently-released action thriller ‘Khuda Haafiz’. She started as a stage actor, and still holds the medium very close to her.

“I don’t think a lot of people really earn too much through theatre. But I don’t think any of us do theatre because of making fat paychecks. We do it because we really find joy in traveling together, in rehearsals, in food. Food is such an integral part of the theatre community. Like everybody binds together with food and you can ask any person who does a performance how exciting it is to even get sev puri in between the shows or getting chutney sandwiches and cold coffee in NCPA is something which we all love,” Kumra told IANSlife in a candid interview.

Recalling her time on-stage, she added: “I can’t wait to go back and perform on stage, the spiraling staircase of Prithvi, green rooms, the smell, the excitement, the butterflies in our stomach. There are so many things the adrenaline rush when you’re on stage, the fun of give and take with the other actors, the fun of give and take with the audience.”

Kumra feels that Covid-19 has “really snatched away so much joy from all of us” and “affected our sanity because the theater community really remains sane because of this community work, this feeling of belonging to some place and somewhere.”

Iterating that even after entering mainstream film industry, she always wanted to do at least one new play every year, with one new production, because “it really keeps you in the loop of staying fresh, staying in touch with your actual roots, with who you really are and with your commitment to theatre”. As per Kumra, that was starting to not happen, once shoots got hectic.

After watching in person parts one and two of ‘One on One’, a play by Rage Productions, when Kumra was invited to be a part of its lockdown edition, it was no-brainer for her to join in. ‘One on One – Unlocked’ premiered last week on Paytm Insider’s recently announced theatre initiative, Front & Centre. Featuring ten monologues in English and Hindi, written by nine accomplished playwrights, directed by eight well known directors and performed by some of India’s finest actors, including Kumra, the play captures our lives during the lockdown through its diverse stories.

Kumra’s piece – ‘Haan Nandu Bai’ directed by Gurleen Judge and written by Rahul da Cunha – is one among the these 10 monologues of people from different walks of life, some humorous, some really sad, some very in the face about what everybody has gone through during the lockdown.

Her ‘Haan Nandu Bai’ is a story about an actress who is in isolation and what she is feeling because she’s completely out of work. As per Kumra, she’s not somebody who’s very social media savvy, and has been affected by everything that has happened during the lockdown. “When I was doing the piece, I could relate with everything that she was saying because I have felt this at some point in time and it just became real,” she shared.

How did a digital intervention like this happen? “We conducted our rehearsals on Zoom with Rahul and Gurleen watching while I would perform. And then there would be a collaborative effort to put the piece together properly. Gurleen and her husband came home and they shot the entire piece for me while I was in a costume and makeup. We figured out a place where we would shoot the entire piece without cutting the camera at all. And we shot the entire 9 minutes piece in one position and one place. The camera could move, I could move, but they would not cut. So it was shot like a play. It was shot like a monologue like I would perform on stage. And I think it was pretty exhilarating.”

Embracing theatre going digital, Kumra asserts that at the moment, this is the way forward.

“I’m sure every artiste who has ever performed on stage misses being on stage and we miss our staff who help us put our entire production together. But the joy of doing theatre is community. It is community interaction. It is community work. It is giving each other feedback, to be able to take each other’s feedback and put that into our next show or our next rehearsal. And to be able to really discover the joy of the process. I think more than just the shows, we’ve all really had fun in the discovery of the process of making a play together,” Kumra signs off. (IANS)

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