Saurabh Nayyar Interview
Saurabh Nayyar started his theatre journey in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh. After moving to Mumbai in 2005, he went on to work with directors such as Manav Kaul, Sunil Shanbag, Atul Kumar, Akarsh Khuranna, Saurabh Shukla, Atul Kumar, Sheena Khalid and Puja Sarup. He has written plays such as GHATNAAYEIN, SUR VS ASUR, TRANSFER KID and SOS - STORY OF SPACE. His adapted plays include GOLDEN JUBILEE, JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH, and A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM. He’s also recently moved into theatre direction, with the plays GOLDEN JUBILEE and GHATNAAYEIN.

 By Divyani Rattanpal

Tell us about your earliest memories with drama?

I was a naughty child, and since childhood, drama was a big part of my life. I would get selected for school and community plays wherein I would play mythological characters. Never in my wildest dreams had I dreamt that I would pursue it as a career.

How did you get into theatre?

After completing B Com from Rani Durgavati University, MP, and later doing a post graduate diploma, I started working as a technical assistant at an educational institution. Kids used to call me ‘sir' but I felt that it was not my world. I met a man at a six-month rapid English speaking course (laughs!) He informed me about the Vivechana theatre group in Jabalpur.

I joined them and for a few years, worked actively in the theatre group. I did folk theatre and musicals and performed a lot of Harishankar Parsai's stories and Bundeli plays. But at the age of 23, I decided to move to Mumbai.

After coming here, I started volunteering for the Prithvi Theatre Festival, wherein I participated in a workshop with Complicite group, England.

Between 2005-2011, I was a part of Manav Kaul's aRANYA Theatre group. We performed shows like MUMTAZ BHAI PATANG WAALE, among others.

How did you start out as a writer?

To sustain myself, I used to write reality shows but was not getting the creative satisfaction. So, I would write poems and perform them at Prithvi Caferati. I would also do open mics in Bandra.

Then, I got a chance to write and perform a play at The Society for the Rehabilitation of Crippled Children (SRCC). The play was SUR VERSUS ASUR, and Sanjna Kapoor liked it so much that she requested other schools with whom she had a tie-up to host it too. Thereafter, started the journey of writing more plays.

I wrote Khapsa, a new language, for an adaptation of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM. Atul Kumar wanted to have the opening in a language which was gibberish but not really gibberish. I kept a mix of Hindi and Bundeli as a starting point, but made it sound like a whole other language.
Thereafter, I adapted and performed Harishankar Parsai's story, Film Katha into GOLDEN JUBILEE, a musical with 25-30 people.

I wrote GHATNAAYEIN in 2016, keeping in mind the space for Fringe, which was the intimate setting of Prithvi House.

What was the turning point of your journey as an actor?

I would say my turning point came after getting involved in the process of PIYA BEHRUPIYA with Atul Kumar. As an actor, I really enjoyed the improvisation which was a major part of the process. It allowed me to creatively let myself free as an actor.

You co-founded a theatre group, D for Drama at a young age. What was that experience like?

I co-founded D for Drama in 2012, in my early thirties. The combined energy of youth in the form of Ghanshyam Lalsa and me, along with the grounded wisdom of Kumud Mishra made it stand apart in the Hindi theatre scene in Mumbai. Kumud ji is a strong pillar of our theatre group, as a creative and financial support. He allowed us the freedom to let our imagination run wild.
In D for Drama, our approach as a group/actors is that we work with different directors.

Speaking of direction, you have recently ventured into that as well.

After GOLDEN JUBILEE and GHATNAAYEIN, I have gotten more confident as a theatre director. One must find the strength of each person who is a part of the group. For example, as a director in GHATNAAYEIN, I asked others also to pitch in with new exercises to get closer to the character. Like someone with physical theatre came up with an exercise, which was closer to their domain.

What's the mark of success for yourself as an actor?

My process has always been what the director wants. It's the same with whichever director I have worked with. I want to do complete justice to the text. At the end of the day, my motivation is to reach somewhere very close to what the director wanted.

As a triple threat of a writer, actor and director, what advice would you give to people?

I think it's best to know what you want to achieve through a theatre group. You should never feel ki ab kya karenge. Like, if you didn't get a role, then even watching a play while doing backstage can make you learn something. You should never feel fear. Or be tied down to one thing if you have it in you to explore multiple things. The best part is that in theatre, you can grow show by show.

*Divyani has worked as a journalist for The Quint, where she was also among the Founding Team members. While there, she also hosted and produced a podcast and fronted several standups. She's also worked for The Times of India group. She's now a theatre and film actor.

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