January 07, 2014

Interview

“Passion for theatre runs in my family. During my childhood days, we would set up small stages & enact scenes from plays which our father directed back then” says Vijaykumar Naik.  His name is synonymous with the theatre movement in Goa. He has been actively working for last 35 years, determined to promote theatre in this small state. Widely known for his stint as the Chief Co-ordinator of Hauns Theatre Training Centre, a theatre training institute, he has also been on stage as a playwright, director, light & set designer. He has conducted more than 300 theatre workshops in Goa, Maharashtra, Rajasthan & Union Territory of Daman & Diu.

His choice of theatre as a career was a conscious one. “Being the son of Goan theatre doyen Late Vishwanath Naik, I had a culturally enriched upbringing. As I grew up, I managed company’s drapery, assisted in production in various capacities and while the plays were on, I would be sitting in the wings for prompting.” He laughs. “Though theatre was all around me, at one point of time I had to make a choice. I was selected for Goa Ranaji Cricket team too. I had to choose between theatre and cricket. Though the choice was obvious, it took me a while to take the final call.”

“I joined Goa Kala Academy’s School of Drama to study theatre. But after passing out, I had no readymade platform for launch myself. I wanted to take theatre to where it really belonged – the common man, children, teens and youth. I had to work to create my own space as the work I wished to pursue was neither common those days nor given much appreciation. So with support from my father, I founded Hauns Theater Training Center in 1993 to make people understand about various possibilities of theatre as a medium of personality development. These workshops helped me find a team which I was confident to work with, to do my kind of theatre, largely experimental.”

He started with theatre workshops for school children during summertime. Since there was absolute lack of such activities back then, the response he received for this initiative was tremendous. His summer workshops would go full house and still continue to be so. He focuses heavily on improvisations and on encouraging kids to discover their talents on their own instead of him telling them what to or not to do. Vijaykumar’s name has become synonymous with the children theatre movement in Goa.

“Working with kids has always been a joyride. It enriches me every single time. I have seen examples of kids who were low on self confidence but after they underwent training they performed fearlessly on stage. We used to improvise short stories that kids already knew and then perform them at various schools across Goa. We carried out a project called MEFT (Make Education Friendly through Theatre) wherein complex school concepts like digestion processes, simultaneous equations, geographical concepts etc. were enacted through stories which dealt with day to day life”,  he tells.

As a theatre trainer, Vijaykumar Naik has also worked with the children of The Deaf and The Dumbs’ School in Goa. He was invited to Daman & Diu to conduct similar workshops at the Umang festival organized by West Zone Cultural Centre, Udaipur. While narrating his experience with working with the differently abled students, he mentions that “their theatre is totally about body language as that’s their best gift to express themselves. Right from communicating with them to the performance, it’s all physical theatre. It has helped me a lot to develop my non-verbal theatre.”

Parallel to his ventures concerning the children theatre movement in Goa, he started writing one act and full length plays. He travelled extensively in his initial days in Maharashtra and Goa performing his one act plays in every possible competition and festival.

“Each new play is an experiment for me” Says the proud producer of variety of experimental plays like Mukhavate, Kheliyela, Eklavya, Ek Adhuri Kahani etc. “We just scaled up our craziness and staged a 45 minutes play called ‘Amoort’ wherein there was not a single actor on the stage. The narrative was totally conveyed through set, lights, music and a few recorded dialogues. In 2004, we got an original manuscript of a play titled “Ahilyotdhar” written in 1870 by the Goan saint Krishna Bhatt Bandkar from Dongri village which we staged & completed its 27 shows. Another such attempt we did was to present ‘Sarswat Champu’, a work of Champu Literature written by Ramkrishna Shenvi Kakodkar in 1915 in form of a play. Of late I have been experimenting with non-verbal theatre and we’ve staged plays like ABCD, The Art, Dhwaneet, Vasundhara etc which emerged out of various music compositions” he mentions.

His passion for theatre is multifaceted. He has initiated several projects to promote theatre. He began Creative Theatre for Children & Youth under which he produced plays like Diary, Tisrya Dolyacha Chasma, Tyancha Hoto Khel that dealt with problems of teens and college going students. He spearheaded the Rangvishwa movement, wherein he was instrumental in creating a platform for independent performers in the field of theatre, music, literature and dance to showcase their talent.

“We also initiated a cultural exchange programs with other theatre groups to exchange and share the kind of theatre we do. It has been an amazing experience. For past 10 years, we have been associated with groups from Rajasthan, Calcutta, Kanakavali as well as Goa through this project.”

With all these dedicated efforts, his students are making him proud continuously at various fronts. “Rajdeep Naik, Eknath Naik, Suchita Narvekar are totally dominating the professional theatre scene in Goa. Each of their play completes no less than 100 shows across Goa. Priyanka Bidaye and Avantika Kamat have appeared in films and television. Laukik Desai has been doing a commendable work in Theatre at Hyderabad. Mandar Jog & Nitesh Naik have been making a name for themselves as an actor in Goa and have won several awards and accolades for their performances. Aditi Barve, Ravindra Pawar, Vrushank Kanekar are some new age playwrights from Goa who were also my students.”

He has authored a book ‘Natak-Abhinay-Rangyatra”, an informative guide on various aspects of theatre such as playwriting, direction, acting, make up, production design etc. He believes that it will be a very helpful resource for young theatre aspirants. For last couple of years he is largely occupied with his new project, Rangyatra which is a theatre talent hunt for the students of College and Junior Colleges in Goa. It includes  workshops, seminars and theatre conventions. Each year the handpicked students are made part of a production which is performed at different venues in Goa as well outside Goa. The project has received a tremendous response from the interiors of Goa.

Commenting about the theatre trends in Goa, he says “Theatre of Goa has changed a lot for last two decades. It has come out of traditional notions and is becoming mature technically too. New playwrights are coming up with new subjects and forms of expression which is a positive sign. But they need a huge boost to keep the Goan theatre movement going. Goa needs small theatre spaces where amateur & experimental theatre groups can perform, more theatre training activities for youngsters, infrastructural support for existing theatre movement by the government & media. It’s only then that Goa’s theatre will be recognized at the national and the international level. ”

With so much work to his credit, Naik is still not a satisfied man! “My infatuation with theatre is a never ending affair. I’ve been doing that since my childhood and could never get tired of it. I am constantly in search of ideas to get more people involved in doing theatre. Working with youngsters and kids keeps my energy levels always high” he adds.

Interviewed by Kaustubh

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