Ravi Mishra Interview
It started as a dream and 25 years later it is an icon. When theatre enthusiast Ravi Mishra decided to give a life to budding stage actors little did he know that 25 years he would help a leg up to scores of young men and women who were equally passionate about drama. Astitva started with street plays as a non-profit organisation and today are the first to initiate digitizing one-act plays.

 By Jahnavi Pal

The organisation has evolved over the years and now progressed to even conducting e-forums, creating blackbox pocket theatre that supports aspiring talent.

The brainchild of Ravi Mishra it was flagged off as a local event and now it has gone global and still growing. Sharing this long and passionate journey Mishra says, "Astitva was established in 1996 with a view to promote street play competitions. We slowly moved on to conducting workshops, seminars, inter-collegiate drama competitions in both Hindi and Marathi. I had just completed my post graduation when I was prompted by an idea to create awareness not just through a play but by conducting street play competitions. We began with 21 groups participating and today we have lost count! In 1997 there were no open category competitions for aspiring actors. There were only Inter-collegiate competitions and hence amateur actors needed a platform which was the main idea behind Astitva. I started with the help of various theatre enthusiasts helping on various levels.

"Of course I have faced several challenges but my love for theatre kept me going. The biggest challenge we have faced is lack of funds. I have had a long journey. I have been performing experimental plays at Kala Ghoda since the past seven years. We run the play for a year thereafter and then shut it. I also realised that not many people are going to theatre so we should take theatre to people. And that’s when we started the concept of pocket theatre.

"There are several small cost theatres available in Mumbai which we helped the owners to modify to the bare minimum blackbox set-up. We then curated plays from across the city and then created a revenue share model with the theatre owners. So this helped the groups not to spend for rentals and this concept is now a great boost for amateur theatre groups. We have done about 700 shows in the past few years but with no revenue generated. I come from a corporate background and do understand the economics of this game. But I am only driven by passion. I never wanted to commercialise it. In fact I have given from my pocket. "

Spelling out the future plans for Astitva he says, "Going forward Bhavik of MTG and Astitva will concentrate on live streaming. If performance is happening in one corner of the world people can buy tickets for the show and watch it as if they are watching any live show. New plays will always be there and platforms will get larger than what they are now. There are many other initiatives that we are working on. I am sure that the blackbox will become larger than what it is now. I am as a consultant on the board of many other theatre events where I have been doing many unique events. An interesting concept is the multi-art play where groups have to use music, dance, painting, culture and acting. This is the third year when we are doing this and people have loved the concept. "

Astitva has given theatre many talented actors and Mishra proudly states that one of the actors in the hit film SAIRAT was a talent that we got through one of our competitions. "What started with a one-man army has grown in stature in the past 25 years and today four of us Kiritkumar Naik, Sandeep Mishra, Riti Mishra and myself are the backbones of this organisation. Despite having garnered so much success our biggest challenge is lack of financial support. It is an ongoing struggle but our passion and commitment has kept us going," he concludes.

*Jahnavi Pal is a journalist, writer and theatre buff

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