February 15, 2016

Smartphone Immersion

Packed with commuters heading home, surviving the squeeze in the compartment of a rush hour local from V.T. is less about withstanding the crush with your might than it is about being oblivious to it.

While there's no "physical" escape from the crowded confines of train cars bearing Mumbai's burdened, there's however an escape for the mind.

Here, in an area where two commuters would be hard pressed to find comfort for their legs, four are plugged into their smartphones, each watching a Bollywood movie of their choice without moving their legs; to do so would upset the equilibrium of ‘settled’ space. To still your legs, still your mind and what better medicine to achieve the latter than Bollywood's bombed films.

Oblivious to waves of commuters entering and exiting the train car, they're immersed in Bollywood plots, most of which bombed at the box office but nevertheless live on in little devices offering much succour to harried office goers seeking to shut out their everyday realities in 4-odd inch screens.

February 08, 2016

Goa’s Roadside Crosses, Marigolds, And Fish Baskets

It was a grey August morning when I stepped out and made for the bus-stand for a bus to Margao. Clouds had opened up from before dawn and the light had taken on a desultory tone.

I had woken up to rain drops hammering corrugated sheets instead of the customary bird songs in the trees. If it wasn’t for an appointment to keep at the Three Kings Church in Cuelim I’d have returned indoors and waited out the rain. Instead I struggled with my umbrella and got into a mini bus for Margao.

The Kadamba mini bus was crowded and everyone who had climbed aboard dry soon gave up on fending off raindrops trickling from umbrellas as commuters packed tight in the aisle struggled to keep them from wetting fellow passengers. There were too many umbrellas and too little space to manoeuvre the hand in defence. Goan mini buses are mini in every sense of the term.

We set off for Margao.

As the mini bus picked up speed, the rain came horizontally at the windows. I had my task cut out between opening them when the drizzle thinned and closing them shut when skies sent a volley of mischievous downpour.

The mini bus began emptying out as passengers got off at the various stops along the way.

As it crested the hill in Borim, pausing by the St. Francis Xavier Church before the bridge over the Zuari, I got my first good look at the skies leaden iron from heavy clouds brooding over lush countryside.

Riding over the bridge at Borim enroute to Margao and back never fails to bring back memories of growing up in Goa.

In time, past Camurlim, and Raia, a familiar landmark at Fatorda emerged roadside, one I used to keep an eye out for as a child – the PWD office building – because it meant Madgaon was around the corner. 

Past the PWD building, the traffic slowed down as it approached the roundabout opposite Fatorda stadium. Three policemen stood roadside by a police jeep.

A blue Maruti Suzuki car stood in the middle of a roundabout, in front of a two-wheeler it had knocked down – the two protagonists in the collusion, a common sight on roads in Goan monsoons. I hoped it was nothing serious.

The mini bus made its way past the mishap, to the bus-stand where I would board a Cansaulim-bound bus on my way to The Three Kings Church atop a hill.


A light drizzle fell over Margao bus-stand as I stepped off the mini bus and went in search of another bound for Cansaulim. Mini buses were parked in two opposite rows, each servicing routes into and out of Margao.

“Cansaulim?” I queried a bus driver waiting by his bus.

"Last one," he said, pointing to the end of the line. I walked up to the mini bus and finding empty seats managed to squeeze into one toward the front of the bus.

It was nearing ten in the morning. An overcast sky lingered overhead, menacing scurrying passengers hoping to stay dry on their way about the day.

No sooner I had settled into the seat by the door, knees scrapping the backrest ahead, a man stumbled into the mini bus with a large jute sack of flowers. 

He returned with a second sack containing marigolds before hauling them both into the driver’s cabin. A fragrance of marigolds took hold of the bus and lent the morning a garden freshness.

Somewhere along the way the two sacks will be dropped off at some flower market or maybe they’ve been requisitioned for some event. Either way I’m glad I’ve marigolds for company.

Just as the bus starts up, a speeding Maruti van comes to a halt at the door and a man leaps out from the driver's side before hauling a basket of fish packed in ice from the back of the van to the bus, leaving it on the steps as he returns for the second basket.

A fisherwoman hurries out of the van and requests the bus conductor, a lad in his early twenties, to let her haul her basket of fish into the mini bus. It's a delicate bargain, for it's not unknown for passengers to turn their noses up and glare at the bus conductor should the fish choose an inopportune moment to perspire the hell out the air inside a crowded mini bus.

“I’ll give you 50/- extra,” she cajoles him into agreeing. I suspected he'd agree without any blandishment.

Then a basket of ice lands over the basket of fish. One more basket of fish follows and soon the fragrance of marigolds collides with that of mackerels (bangde in Konkani).

The fisherwoman thanks the driver of the Maruti van and takes a seat at the front of the mini bus before gathering the three baskets by her feet. She’s soaking wet.

“To Majorda,” she tells the bus conductor, offering him the fare.

Her dress, unique to fisherwomen from Salcete, marks her out as a Christian, not that her Konkani accent or the Cross around her neck had left any doubt about it. She seemed hassled from the strain of transporting her baskets of fish.

It’s likely she had bought these fish straight off a fishing trawler that landed its catch that morning on some beach before travelling to Majorda to sell them roadside.

Soon after catching her breath and arranging the baskets around her feet, she thanked the bus conductor for helping her haul the baskets in, and turning to a fellow passenger she said, "There were no rickshaws available today (to bring these baskets) so I came by Maruti van.”

Chal ya, chal,” (Let’s go) the bus conductor called out over the hum of passengers, and the mini bus set off.

Soon after setting off, the minibus stopped by a roadside Cross located in a paddy field. Two women were working the field some way off.

The bus conductor got off the bus with a garland of marigolds, and stripping off his sandals he walked down the steps to the Cross bedecked with similar garlands offered by believers seeking blessings of the Cross.

It soon became apparent that the mini bus was making its first run of the day and the pious observance at the Cross was to seek blessings for the unfolding day, a ritual that seeks a divine shield against the vicissitudes of business and life, rather business of life or vice versa.

Offering prayers on the morning run is about seeking blessings for a “good day” and the well being of the driver and the bus conductor, and hopefully of the passengers as well.

The fisherwoman watched the bus conductor walk down the passage to the Cross shielded by corrugated sheets.

A candle-stand stood to one side, blackened by burned out candles and heaped with two marigold garlands that had probably made way for a new one around Jesus Christ. The two women bent in the rice field did not look up as the khaki clad bus conductor made his way to the Cross.

The lush green of the rice field contrasted with the grey of the monsoons. The countryside was quiet.

Once there, he hung the garland on the image of Jesus Christ and prepared to retrace his steps when the fisherwoman called out to him from inside the bus asking that he bring back marigold flowers from the garlands kept on the candle-stand.  

At first he could not understand her. Then he hesitated, for, the two garlands on the candle stand were offerings made to Jesus Christ by someone and probably removed by another worshipper to make way for his own garland. To mess with them would mean disrespect but the fisherwoman in the bus would have none of his hesitation.

She implored he bring her some flowers that had graced the Cross.

Soon passengers joined in. So he reluctantly picked up one of the garlands left on the candle-stand and returned to where he had left his sandals to put them on. 

He plucked two flowers from the garland and handed them over to the fisherwoman.

She smiled and touched them to her forehead before sticking them into her basket of fish, considering the basket suitably blessed by Christ.

A glow came over her. I imagined her day would go better now than when she started out in the morning, likely selling all her fish for a tidy profit.

The driver changed gears and we were off once again, but not for long.

He stopped at another roadside Cross and this time the bus conductor got off with two garlands – one for Mother Mary enclosed in a glass case and the other for the adjacent Cross.

A passenger alighted. The Sun has broken through and lit up the village in a warm embrace.

Each time the minibus stopped at myriad stops to take in passengers, mostly women going about their morning tasks, the fisher-woman would smile and wish them, apparently regulars on the bus.

Talk would turn to fish and the fish business. She lamented to them that fish prices have gone up and buyers balk at buying them in quantities they used to when they were affordable.

Earlier in the day, soon after getting into the bus, she had requested the bus conductor to drop her before a regular stop in Majorda, seeking assurances he would help her offload her baskets. He had nodded in the affirmative. And as an incentive, she had said she'd give him 50/-.

When the bus stopped at Majorda where the Konkan Railway line ran close, he helped her offload her three baskets of fish and ice, much to her relief. She was getting on in years and a long day awaited her.

He didn't remind her of the 50/- she had "promised" him, instead he smiled when she looked his way and said "Dev Borrey Korum," (Konkani for May God Bless You) before jumping back onto the foot-board. And we were off again.

A faint smell of fish from offloaded baskets lingered on amidst fragrance of marigolds as the bus trundled toward Cansaulim.

Her blessings to the bus conductor stayed with me as I prepared to get off at the Florists shop off Cansaulim Church and await P for a ride up to the Three Kings Church.

January 17, 2016

Bimal Roy Retrospective At Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan

It’s been a busy winter for film retrospectives of Indian Film Directors of yore.

Not long after Liberty screened a week long retrospective of Shyam Benegal’s classics in December 2015, Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan followed up with a retrospective of Bimal Roy’s films that ran between Jan 11-16, 2016.

Organised by Bimal Roy MemorialCommittee (BRMC) in collaboration with Cine Society, the retrospective was held to commemorate the 50th death anniversary of the legendary filmmaker.

Ashutosh Gowarikar and Shabana Azmi inaugurated the retrospective. It ended yesterday with the screening of Bandini (1963), finding little or next to nothing coverage in the mainstream press or online!

Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan’s Auditorium or Bhavan’s Auditorium as it is commonly known is a relative unknown as a hub of cultural events compared to other, better known, venues in this part of Bombay.

The auditorium is within walking distance from Wilson College located across the road from Chowpatty beach toward the Walkeshwar end.

Before the television boom sidelined the primacy of Doordarshan (DD) as the television channel of choice (or compulsion as many would remember it) that stretched well into the 1980s, DD would serve up classics via film retrospectives of its own from time to time.

It was a time before the advent of CDs and when VCRs were not easily affordable to most.

So the venue was your drawing room, and screen space, a small TV occupying a pride of place in the scheme of the room where visitors were entertained.

The scale of a large screen and the community of film goers seated around you were missing, but the import of films that straddled the parallel cinema movement struck a chord among film lovers and those who were on the way to joining them in their love for films.

To the generation from before, the screenings on DD brought nostalgia, renewing sentiments of their origins in the hinterland. To the new generation, the films introduced them to the older generation and the mores from where they came from, and as a consequence, to an India somewhat removed from the realities of drawing rooms in towns evolving toward a homogeneity we see now.  

That’s how I first saw Bimal Roy’s Do Bigha Zameen in addition to Ritwik Ghatak’s oeuvre, Ray’s classics and a host of others.

The Bimal Roy Retrospective opened early this week with Do Bigha Zameen, his signature film.

While we hoped to watch them this week, work and other commitments meant we did not find our way to the venue until the fag end of the retrospective, the day they were screening his Parakh.


We returned from Chowpatty beach as the Sun began to dip and the first lights came on across the street from the beach in Girgaon.

Traffic streamed both ways on the sea-facing road named after Netaji Subash Chandra Bose – toward Walkeshwar on my left and SOBO on the right. The temperature had dropped by a notch. Policemen gathered on the pavement watching traffic halt on signal turning red.

Café Ideal lay directly across the road while Sukh Sagar Veg Restaurant lay at a diagonal, along the road (Sardar Vallabbhai Patel Road) that branches off the sea facing road we had just crossed, and runs through Khetwadi, Dongri and beyond, ending on P.D. Mello Road that runs along Mumbai Port Trust docks. Beyond that is the sea, again.

With the Eastern Freeway operational, P.D. Mello road has shed its quiet for traffic streaming along the freeway, a route of choice for commuters travelling to the faraway suburbs of Vikhroli, Kanjur Marg, Bhandup and Mulund, and beyond.


I was keen on a bite at Sukh Sagar so we crossed the road and found ourselves a seat in the restaurant.

After tucking in a spread of Bombay Pav Bhaji, Vegetable Grilled Sandwich and Nescafe (they don’t serve tea) we stepped out and took the turn that led us down Hughes Road, past the Mercedes Benz showroom. Traffic was light on Hughes Road.

Soon, streamers of glowing light bulbs descending from a building at the corner of K.M. Munshi and Pandit Ramabai Roads announced Bhavan’s Auditorium. The decorations were part of Bimal Roy Retrospective underway at the venue.

A standee placed outside and visible to everyone on the street listed the films scheduled for the duration of the retrospective. Each screening got underway at half past six in the evening.

Up a short flight of steps led past a table at the entrance stacked with copies of Bimal Roy’s biography.

We had landed at the venue half hour after Parakh commenced so we meandered in the hallway looking at displays put up, including those supporting the event, Zee Classic and CMC among others.

Each day, the poster of the film scheduled for screening is put up by the entrance to the auditorium.

On a stand-up board, a sketch of Bimal Roy was accompanied by signatures of Bollywood Dignitaries acknowledging their presence at the retrospective.

“Asha Parekh was present at the start of today’s screening,” a man manning a temporary stall of DVDs of Bimal Roy films set up on a table told us as we lingered by the sketch. Sure enough she had signed in her presence at the bottom.

Apparently, each day of the retrospective was graced by Bollywood figures associated with Bimal Roy. 

I find the designs of posters of yesterday year films charming. They’re uncluttered, expressive without being angst ridden, and project an innocence of a time long past.

Ranged on the table for sale were a mix of films he produced and directed and those he produced.

Of the films he directed, the following were on display – Do Bigha Zamin (1953), Devdas (1955), Sujata (1959), Parakh (1960), and Prem Patra (1962), each priced at 120/-.

Of the films he produced but were directed by others, the following were on display –  Apradhi Kaun? (1957), Parivar (1956), Madhumati (1958), Kabuliwala (1961), Usne Kaha Tha (1960), priced 120/- each.

Also on sale were collections of these titles at different price points.

To those who came of age in the era of his films, the titles on sale would guarantee a trip down the memory lane, reminding of events in their own lives where woven with these films.

We stepped into the hall. The screen flickered with a scene from Parakh. Much of the hall was full and where seats were vacant, toward the back, viewers were boxed tight at the entrance to the rows and unwilling to make space to let latecomers pass.

A cursory look at the audience seemed to suggest that most of them belonged to the generation familiar with the mores of the time Bimal Roy’s films were set in, or at the very least they likely grew up seeing his films.

We stepped out of the screening and made for the DVDs, purchasing Parivar and Benazir.

Benazir because K felt a love story set in Lucknow would make for interesting viewing.  

And, Parivar because I felt it’d be interesting to see how a story of a joint family of five brothers and their families “living and sharing each others’ joys and sorrows” would pan out after “an argument breaks out over a glass of milk, and the entire family is thrown into chaos, and the only resolution seems to be nothing but dividing the entire property amongst the brothers and their respective families.”    

We stepped out into the night, passing a compound home to a cottage standing all by itself, a rare but welcome sight in a city overrun by buildings.

Up ahead we stepped into Westside where K made a quick purchase before we set off toward Gamdevi, settling for dinner at By The Way: The Parsi Kitchen.

That was an experience in itself, a story for another time.

January 16, 2016

Day Out At Khidkiyaan Theatre Festival

We reached Sathaye College in Vile Parle just as the Open Mic session of Day 2 of the theatre festival, Khidkiyaan, kicked off on a small elevated stage overlooking the short passageway leading from the entrance gate to the small auditorium built by the college.

The proceedings on Day 2 of Khidkiyaan Theatre Festival were scheduled to begin with an Open Mic session with Piyush Mishra and Manu Rishi Chadha while Sudhir Mishra, Makarand Deshpande, Richa Chadda and Sushant Singh Rajput graced the event as Guests of Honour for the evening, enough star power to have the place buzzing the far corner of Sathaye College.

The only plays we’ve attended before at the Sathaye College auditorium were those Mujeeb Khan staged of Munshi Premchand’s stories, casting his students learning their craft at his IDEA Theatre Group. Prem Utsav is an annual fixture at Sathaye College in the monsoons and we’re annual fixtures at Prem Utsav.

Khidkiyaan seemed to follow the same script except for the choice of plays, an eclectic mix ranging from Gunno Bai (Director: Chittaranjan Tripathy) and Old Munk (Director: Dheerendra Dwivedi) to Koi Bat Chale (Director: Ramji Bali).

Unlike Khidkiyaan, Prem Utsav hasn’t structured an Open Mic with Star Power component into its scheme of things. Mujeeb Khan has a different idea and ideal.

Organised by Mukesh Chhabra Casting Company, Khidkiyaan 2016 is the first edition of the theatre festival, a welcome addition to the growing theatre scene in Mumbai.

Scheduled to run five days, starting Jan 13, the new kid on the block picked Vile Parle to stage its first avatar, a welcome change from the usual suspects, South Bombay, and Bandra.

Mukesh Chhabra Casting Company has associated with Bombay Times to bring Khidkiyan Theatre Festival to life. Hola Chef is listed as Food Partner though I saw no food of any kind on offer at the venue. 

Khidkiyaan ends tomorrow, Jan 17, with Poetry Reading and Performance by Ayushmann Khurrrana (5 pm), followed by Piyush Mishra (6 pm) before giving way to the Festival Director, Mukesh Chhabra, for his talk “Insight into Casting” (7 pm).

Anurag Kashyap, Nandita Das and Tigmanshu Dhulia will grace the evening as Guests Of Honour before Koi Baat Chale, a play directed by Ramji Bali, and scheduled for 8 pm, brings the curtain down on Khidkiyaan theatre festival.

If what we experienced on Day 2 is any indication, tomorrow will be another cracker of a day at Sathaye College.


Each day at Khidkiyaan, with the exception of the last day, sees Open Mic followed by a play staged twice, 6:00 pm and 8:00 pm, with free passes given out at a stall outside the entrance, half-hour before the play kicks off.

A young student at Mukesh Chabra Casting Company volunteering at the stall giving out the Theatre Festival schedules and free passes repeated over the din of the queue growing outside his stall, “Only after people with passes issued prior (via online registrations) have settled in the auditorium will we give out passes for seats that remain vacant.”

“Make two lines, please”, he called out over the jostling crowd of mostly youthful North Indians.

“Those who don’t mind watching the 8:00 pm re-run, please leave the queue as we only have a few passes to give out and most of you won’t get the passes for this show (6:00 pm),” he informed the crowd before repeating, “Most of you in the queue won’t get passes for the 6:00 pm show. Come back for the 8:00 pm show.”

The din in the queue and arguments breaking out over queue break-ins prompted another volunteer into quieting the crowd, “The Open Mic is on, loud chatter here is drowning out voices on the stage,” she berated.

I was squeezed for breath in the queue, holding fast to my footing in face of overt and covert edging by potential claimants to limited entry passes.

Trust Mumbai to throw up demand to overwhelm supply.

Eventually, he gave out 10 passes once he got word from inside the auditorium. I got the last one of the lot. It meant that only one of us could get in to see Shadow Of Othello directed by Ishteyak Arif Khan; it would be K who had just finished with attending Open Mic while I was in the queue for the entry pass.

Shadow Of Othello is a drama set in “a small village in staunch northern rural area of India” where “some unemployed, loafers, half-employed and confusingly employed people, who get inspired by a Hindi feature film ‘Omkara’ to the extent that they start planning to recreate the film. But, soon they realise that to make a film is not their cup of tea and they all decide to make a play.

The drama or “Dramedy” as the brochure categorises it, is how they go about realising their “Omkara” inspiration.


Open Mic is open to all and is staged in a small open passage leading in from the entrance gate to one end of the Sathaye College campus.

While waiting for Open Mic to commence, Sudhir Mishra, the maker of Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin (1996), a film I saw years ago, one that introduced me to alternative storytelling and turned me into a Tara Deshpande admirer, floated around quietly with a mug of steaming something, obliging attendees with selfies, barely registering a change in expression the entire time.

He answered patiently the questions a camera crew of two women put to him, something to do with his culinary prowess of the lack of it, and other aspects of his existence.

At the same time that Sudhir Mishra was taking questions from the camera team, Richa Chadda was striking a pose for the rest of the press who had ranged around her, forsaking the gaunt Sudhir Mishra.

Later, every camera on view, including yours truly, gathered around Richa Chadda and Sushant Singh Rajput as they struck the customary pose framed by Khidkiyaan logo.

Mukesh Chhabra wound his way into the mix.

A small band had stationed inside the entrance and every once in a while they would light up with band music, most likely on cue from someone in the organising committee.

And when they did, all heads would turn to the entrance searching for a familiar face from the entertainment world being accorded a welcome.

The music band only stopped their short intense bursts of welcome once Open Mic got underway with Piyush Mishra taking the stage.  

With space barely two cars wide and six car lengths long, the crowd attending Open Mic was parked tight.

From the queue, I could hear Piyush Mishra ease into songs after a brief tête-à-tête with a charming host; his voice rendered the late afternoon melancholic.

The 'feeling of an emotion' is decidedly different from the 'emotion of a feeling' - the audience sensed the former as his poetry brought the latter to the fore, so much so that his occasional bout of coughing failed to break the rhythm the lyrics laid into the approaching evening.

He alternated between songs and poems though it's difficult to distinguish between the two, occasionally relapsing into explanations that drew laughs.    

Streamers ran above. Lights, camera crews, a music band and youthful enthusiasm added to the festival atmosphere.

Theatre and Bollywood enthusiasts, and aspirants decked out smartly, holding their poise and manner, formed the bulk of the attendees.

Smiles abounded as introductions were made, old acquaintances renewed. If I looked hard I might’ve been able to count stars in the eyes of many gathered there.

From the t-shirts sporting the Theatre Festival logo, an outline of a window, it was apparent that students of Mukesh Chhabra Casting Company were a significant presence.

Some were volunteering at the stalls, one of which had on sale Piyush Mishra’s book of poems, Kuch Ishq Kiya, Kuch Kaam Kiya, written over a period of twenty years. Published by Rajkamal Prakashan, it was released at the New Delhi World Book Fair. His other book on sale was Mere Manch Ke Sargaam

This was only the second time I was seeing Piyush Mishra on stage. The first was at the Times Literary Festival at Mehboob Studios (Bandra) some years ago.

His demeanour, atleast to my eyes, was unchanged, alternating between direct, dismissive, thoughtful, curt, condescending, casual, bored, and expansive, a mark of someone who only relents to being in the thick of things even as he chaffs at it, a hint at idealism at play in an unforgiving industry wedded to glam sham.

Above all, Piyush Mishra seems to exude restlessness of a restive soul, a peculiar intensity of a North Indian brahmin wedded to the arts.

He was quoted saying Kuch Ishq Kiya, Kuch Kaam Kiya “is a work of restiveness”, from a period “when I was an alcoholic,distraught and wanted to destroy myself.

If his seeming pre-occupation with his phone for much of the evening except when on stage, taking and making calls, receiving and answering messages or merely scrolling through them in the middle of selfies with adoring fans attempting conversations, short interviews in-camera for networks, and customary photo-ops framed by Khidkiyaan logo, were any indication of restlessness or bechaini then his book of poems will make for an interesting reading.

He was curt but never insulting, a persona that goes with sharp edge he brings to his work, one that is refreshing and original. His songs in Gulal is a case in point.  

After he was dragged, reluctantly it seemed, for a short in-camera interview with a duo of bright, pretty, nervously smiling anchors looking for light hearted sound bytes on cooking skills and the like, they asked him what he thought about Khidkiyaan Theatre Festival.

If they expected him to launch into a long monologue, a bullet list of pros a theatre festival of this nature brings to the table, or praise for the organiser, they had asked the wrong person.

“It’s good, has to be good,” he replied with a mildly taken-aback look that seemed to say “it can only be a good thing isn’t it? Why isn’t it obvious to you?”.

By all measures, Khidkiyaan 2016, was a success insofar as the buzz it generated for the event.
K messaged me from inside the auditorium that the entry pass hadn’t fetched a seat, likewise for about 50 others.

I remarked to the youth who had heaved a sigh of relief on the queue dissipating that if the first edition is any indication, the next one will need to look for a larger auditorium to accommodate the audience.

Lights had come on and groups of festival attendees had formed by the stalls, the entrance gate, on steps, and the stage as they awaited their turn for the 8 pm re-run of Shadow Of Othello.

Behind me, a youth in red was going on about his experiences answering calls for auditions. His friend with a distinctive hairdo, not a strand out of place, listened in silence, only occasionally interjecting the other’s narration to move it along.

The evening had cooled to Mumbai winter standard and only the urge to visit the washroom interrupted his narrative as they made for the washroom for relief.

I watched as introductions were made, smiles exchanged. Conversations veered around acting, opportunities and entertainment industry gossip.

With Hindi drama serials ruling the roost on the telly, it was not uncommon to spot familiar faces in the mix while teams working behind the scenes were not as easily apparent, Ranpreet being an instance.

Ranmeet sat on the edge of the small stage waiting for the clock to strike 8 pm. She was with friends from the industry when I first heard her raise her voice in mock authority and turn to her friend, laughingly, “Thappad Marungi. Main U.P. Ki Sardarni Hoon.” They dissolved into smiles.

She’s an Assistant Director and has assisted Directors of films and television serials. After we got talking she spoke about the struggle inherent in the entertainment industry, and of the need to be visible all the time to get work.

“If you take a long break, it’s difficult to get back in the things again,” she commented. “Once I build a reputation for being a good Assistant Director, things will get better,” she said, implying that the grapevine is critical to get word of reputation and work ethic around. It cuts both ways.

“But I absolutely love this field,” she said, her eyes outshining the lights blazing down on the patch by the stage.

“When scenes are crafted on the sets, I try and anticipate the Director’s sequencing of the scene for the camera. And when I get it correct, I’m happy as it means I’m learning well to be able to get it right,” she enthused, her eyes lighting up.

From where I sat, I saw no quiet corner. The night buzzed in that low tone that corners lit up by light insulate those they shelter.

Shadows shortened, lengthened and disappeared as attendees moved about, seeking assurance for hopes, aspirations, failures and the like. Only in such gatherings can these assurances play out.

While breaking into Bollywood films remains a tough ask, the opportunities television serials offer means casting companies will continue to see aspirants flock for training, and most importantly placements.

And theatre is where they can hone their skills, and network for opportunities.


Combining the business of casting with the business of theatre production, Mukesh Chhabra has hit the sweet spot with Khidkiyaan, ensuring the combination scheduled for the duration of the event remains relevant to the aspirations of the bold and the beautiful while providing a platform that raises visibility for the intersection of the two.

I expect Mukesh Chhabra will touch upon it in his talk tomorrow – Insight Into Casting.

The building of the brand has only just begun and if the response to the first edition of the Khidkiyaan Theatre Festival is anything to go by, it’ll see a long run.