MiSF!T – Level 1

Everything has a purpose. Every decision you take has a reason. What was my reason for joining MiSF!T?

‘Why do you want to join Level1?’ This was the obvious question that I was asked during my interview. I had two answers back then. And I was truthful to every word. One – ‘I feel being in touch with your creative side is very satisfying.’ Two – ‘I can feel some inner voice telling me to go ahead and join this course.’ And this is how it started. Now let me tell you something about myself. I had never been on stage earlier, except as a volunteer during college fests. Art form was something that I was miles away from. Some inhibitions or the other had kept me away. Far away. Whenever I used to see someone perform, be it a drama or dance or anything, I always used to think – ‘How lucky these guys are. Talented ones. I wish I could become one of them.’ But thinking never helps in these cases. What one needs, I believe, is to take the first step. Taking that first step is the most difficult, and the most critical one.

It was sometime in early 2009 that I came across a blog: anuragjain.blogspot.com. This blog contained information about upcoming events in Bangalore. And one day, I came across this info about an Acting Course for Beginners. Curious to know more about it, I registered for the online egroup, Misf!t Play Pals. I also sent a couple of mails to get the course details, all out of curiosity. And then sometime in April, I got this mail about a show, a public presentation by students of Level1. The show was titled ‘Shattered: Shaadi Ke Tukde’. I had never seen anything of this kind, apart from a couple of exaggerated dramas in college. Performance by students of an acting course, now this sounded something interesting. But I was undecided as I had my MBA coaching classes at Koramangala clashing with the show timings. I wanted to be there for the presentation. And I didn’t want to miss my class as well. I got into one of the 201 series BMTC buses which goes to MGRoad via Koramangala and I had to get down at NGV. 10mins. of journey, strong urges, an inner struggle and I had decided. I didn’t get down at NGV. Instead decided to bunk the class and go for the show at Tunbridge High School, Infantry Road. I don’t know what I did was correct or not but what followed that evening was simply magic. The performances, the energy, the ‘Take Hands’ before the show, and most of all a teacher supporting his students at every step during the audience feedback session, Mr. Ratan Thakore Grant. Combine all these, and this is what I realized much later, was my motivation for joining MiSF!T. The show ended, but it had started something very unique in me. An urge to be there on the stage. In front of public. And deliver a performance some day. I took the first step and got registered for L1. The classes getting shifted to Koramangala was a relief, but being there on one of the weekdays seemed difficult considering the fact that the two years of my life that I had spent in IT, all my projects had been Fixed Price Development projects, which meant stricter deadlines, late-nights and working on weekends. For the first time I had decided to defy the project norms. I will work and I will work hard. But one day of the week, I need to leave early come what may. I deserve the right to decide as to what to do with at-least one day every week of my precious life. These were the thoughts that were going on within me. And worst, I couldn’t share this whole thing with my colleagues because I knew people out there would get pissed off. An IT guy going for an Acting course!! Till date I get to see shocked faces when I tell people about it. Anyways, the first milestone had been achieved. And I reached my first class.

This was the first time that I was meeting people of so many varied professions under one roof. IT guys(even Managers), Models, Architects, Teachers, Entrepreneurs, Fashion Designers, Students. Huh!! Quite something to digest in the first place. This was the introduction class where-in we had to pair up with a batch-mate and gather information about him/her. Then we had to share the same in the class. And we had to listen carefully to each of the groups and note down our perception of the person, the purpose behind it we came to know much later. What I felt then was that my purpose of joining this course was not as clear as others. Almost everyone had a very strong reason for the same. Anyways, the sessions followed and we learnt the basics of Breathing, Voice and Concentration. The statue and the thief exercise, where-in you become a statue and others try to break your concentration without touching you, will always remain special. My concentration didn’t break and I got the first compliment- ’This guy is really good’. One simple line and it was the first boost of confidence. We went ahead with Dialogues, Stage positions, Stage movements, and then our first performance with the standard set of dialogues. It was interesting to see groups come up with such nice themes using the same set of dialogues. Then we went ahead with the definitions of Acting, the equation of Method Acting, Gestures, Mannerisms, and landed up in ‘Creating Characters’. For this performance we had to get out on the streets with partners. Say I found some person interesting as a character to be played, my partner would ask the person a couple of questions on any evocative topic. And I had to observe and perform like the person had replied to the questions. This was an important exercise in observation. Though the character that I performed on was not completely real, I got another nice compliment- ’It sometimes amazes me that a guy who sits so silently in the class comes up with such a performance.’ It was another booster. And that was the day I realized that Acting is addictive. I was developing a certain addiction for Acting, an urge to be there on the stage and perform. After that started the series of Improvisation sessions. I realized that the faster you think, the better prepared you are to perform. And this is what was and still lacks a lot in me. The creativity that was projected after those one-minute gaps between the situation we were given to perform and the performance itself was really amazing. We moved ahead with Mime, Pantomime and Using Space. And then came across the most-awaited Blind-folded/Trust exercise followed by sessions on Characters and Stage Management, the Stage Set-up and Stage Lighting. And now the time had come for an important landmark.

The Grading, the test of what we had been learning since the last couple of months. Because of some circumstances, my grading got screwed up. But the words- ’From the snippets that I saw, if I had to grade Amit, I would give him a 10+.’ was a relief. One important thing which got registered that day was the fact that you cannot stop while performing till you reach the end. A play is a ‘Single Take’ thing. There is no scope for pausing once you have started. Post-Grading started the preparation for the final landmark, the Presentation. Gosh!! This was the moment I had been waiting for. A public performance. Finally the moment had come. At the same time my project had also reached a very critical stage. For the last two months, I had been leaving office every Tuesday at 5:30PM, reaching back my office at Electronic City at 10:30PM, working till midnight and then returning back to my room in Madivala. It was stressful, but it was Acting that had helped me persevere. And the last week before the presentation will always remain memorable. The studio had shifted to Bannerghatta Road and I didn’t have a bike back then. So travelling from EC, reaching the studio at around 8PM, rehearsing well past mid-night, reaching back home at around 1-3AM and then getting back to work the next morning. Frustrating at times because of lack of sleep. Frustrating even more because the fellow actors stop reacting to your performances as they see the same thing every day. You start thinking- ’Why are the fellow actors not reacting like they did the first day? Has my performance gone down?’ And these thought made me realize one very important aspect – Never stop improvising. Each time you perform, keep scope for improvisation. Do not be mechanical. The first day of the rehearsals, I could hear reactions as my team was seeing my act for the first time. We got praises. And we were so held up by those appreciations that we stopped improvising. We wanted to keep the same thing for the audience. And it became so very frustrating doing the same thing, trying to replicate. Not Act. One very good thing was that the last week made us come even closer and prepare together as a group. I also realized that as a performer, I could have any number of rehearsals and still project the energy. Juggling with work pressures and rehearsals finally came the day for which I had waited so long, the day of the Presentation. Our Presentation was titled- ‘The Disgraced’. Waiting for the audience to get seated, ‘Taking Hands’, getting into Character – it was a journey through all the phases with utmost satisfaction. We pulled off a pretty good show. And I had achieved what I had started for. This was the first time I believe that I had desperately wanted to do something and achieved it. Performed in front of an audience of 85 people. I believe if my work pressure was a bit less, I could have done a better job. But as we say, no excuses. This show also meant much more because some of my friends were not convinced with what I was doing. And the only way to make them understand was to make them watch a presentation. And I believe their perception certainly changed after this show. We were lucky to get a responsive audience. And I realized how the small responses of the audience charge up the Actors and the performances reach unforgettable limits. One of the audience feedback touched me a lot- ‘It’s always good to see what people love to do.’ A simple statement but got me completely bowled over. Apart from the performances, my friends were also touched with the same fact that I had observed during ‘Shattered’ and they ended up saying, – ‘Hats off to your teacher. He was supporting you all at every stage.’

I took a path that none whom I knew six months back, had taken or had any plans to take. It was a completely dark path with a small glimpse of light at the end. I could see the light but not the underlying hardships. As I proceeded, I opened new avenues for myself. There were moments of high as well as moments of low. Moments of happiness, sorrow, anger, frustration, exhaustion and surprise. Somehow I managed to survive and reach the end. Which in fact is the beginning of another journey. A more difficult one though. Level 2.

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