Nimmy Raphel
Nimmy Raphel has studied Mohiniyattam and Kuchipudi dance at the Kerala Kalamandalam from 1995 to 2001. She joined Adishakti after that and is a resident actor, dancer, musician and puppeteer there. She has been part of Adishakti'sproductions such as BRHANNALA, GANAPATI and THE HARE AND THE TORTOISE. She has operated lights for IMPRESSIONS OF BHIMA since 2008. In 2010 Nimmy received the APPEX Fellowship, which took her to Bali for a month. She collaborated with Indonesian dancer Sardono W. Kusumo to create a theatre production called RAMA, HANUMAN, RAWANA which premiered at Adishakti. The production also went to The International Conference on Ramayana: Reinterpretation in Asia in Singapore. In 2012 she was part of an exchange programme held in Korea between Adishakti and Performing group Tuida. As part of Adishakti's three-year Ramayana Project, in 2011 she created a play called NIDRAWATHWAM which she wrote, directed, and also performed. She was also part of NATYANUBHAVA, directed by film-director and writer Sharada Ramanathan. Nimmy was the recipient of the Junior Fellowship from the Ministry of Culture for the year of 2012-13. She is currently performing in the play THE TENTH HEAD and SITA, directed by the late Veenapani Chawla.

Ahead of the performance of Adishakti's play GANPATI in the city, we catch up with her about her journey with Adishakti, her strengths as an actor and life after the demise of Veenapani Chawla.

 By Nishtha Juneja

Nishtha Juneja (NJ): You have been with Adishakti since 2001. What made you join the company and what has been your personal experience since?
Nimmy Raphel (NR): I was training to be a dancer at the National Academy of Arts in Chennai when I met Veenapani Chawla and Vinay. I had heard about Adishakti and the kind of theatre they did. I was curious about it, but never considered doing theatre. I had never even seen a theatre production by Adishakti before. Veenapani encouraged me to try the medium and join Adishakti. She even gave me the option of returning back to dance if things didn't work out. I was excited, but hesitant as well to join a theatre company that is of such a fine repute and is very well known.

During the time I spent at Adishakti, I grew as a person as well as an artist. I feel blessed to be part of Adishakti. I feel artists need nurturing in a proper sense where they can get a glimpse of the potential they have. I got a proper direction very early in my life. One of the most interesting qualities about Adishakti is the fact that they nurture the talents of their students. Also the kindness Veenapani showed me made me more confident. I feel extremely lucky to have been given this opportunity and will not trade this experience for anything else.

NJ: Adishakti has laid a lot of emphasis on breath and movement in its practice. How does that translate into performance?
NR: Yes, we employ breathing and motion movements in the performances. During performance it should be focused towards the craft. If the craftwork of an artist is perfect, then he or she will never fail during the performance.

Suppose you have an idea, and you work towards it. One bases their practice on that. Performance is an extension of your daily practice. The breathing, motion, movement practice, is not theoretical. We are not academicians. You practice it every day. Only then does the craft evolve. It gives you more information, gives you more material.

NJ: What are your three strengths as an actor?
NR: I am an insecure actor. I have not even thought of it. What others have told me is that I don't feel and look like a male or female on stage. I don't have a gender.

There are certain qualities about Veenapani ji that I like to imbibe in my daily routine. The first and foremost is to have discipline. I want to be clear about what I want as an actor, and refine my skills every day. Another important aspect will be to work towards your artistic life. Another quality I liked in her was that she was a considerate artist, who was not self-obsessed. She embraced others.

NJ:How must an actor prepare according to you?
NR: An actor should prepare on a daily basis. Every single day is a preparation for me. There is no difference between rehearsal and performance, apart from the fact that when you have to perform in front of an audience, you are in a heighted state.
I am extremely excited, nervous and thrilled to perform in Mumbai.

NJ: Vinay (Kumar), Arvind (Rane) and some others along with you, have spent a lot of time with the late Veenapani Chawla and have been an intrinsic part of the ''laboratory''. What is your vision going forward with Adishakti?
NR: The vision is simply to carry Veenapani ji's work forward. When she passed away, we were not prepared for such a drastic change in our lives. When you look up to someone, you believe them to be immortal and never to leave you. I never thought she will pass away. When I heard the news, I was shocked and did not realise it immediately.

Last year we sought to keep Adishakti together, supported it and found avenues of sourcing money to keep it going. Now, everyone understands each other more and is way more considerate. Since we do not have spaces such as Adishakti in the country, we have to keep it going as much as we can. Now, concern from the self has shifted to a collective concern for the institution.

GANPATI will be staged on 20th February 2016 at 6 pm and 9 pm at G5A Foundation, Lower Parel.

*Nishtha Juneja likes to act and write about theatre. Nishtha Juneja is passionate about dance and food and has completed a post-graduate diploma in Journalism from the Xavier Institute for Communication (XIC).

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