Oh my Sapien- Interview with Dhairyasheel Pawar
Q. 1. What was your source of inspiration?
First of all, in the beginning, it was just Arundhati and I. We just sat together in the canteen, and Arundhati had told me that she put forward the idea of participating in Firodiya to GIPE. We needed something strong to go ahead, and thus we needed to find a very good concept. One thing we had in our mind was that we had to do something different, aisa kucch jo pehle ya recent mein na hua ho (something that has not been done before, or recently) and a kind of unique approach towards a topic. So we started looking for things. Since I personally have been reading mythology and other things since childhood, we sat down and started questioning the nature of things. That’s where it started. We started questioning the facts of nature and the life of humans. I guess questioning the existence of things can bring out a variety of ideas and concepts. So questioning human existence made us think about how humans themselves are different.
These days, when we think of technology, we wouldn’t have thought 10 years ago that we would have this tech. I think the most beautiful and complex creation in this world is the human race. Certainly there is someone who designed humans, and the human species. So we kept thinking about that and came up with the idea, (that) what if someone was there who thought of designing a human. That’s how the play came to be.
Q. 2. When it comes to making art, there is always a fine line to be tread between relatability and originality, ie, it is important to be able to connect to the audience but at the same time, one should also have their own colour. How did you tread the fine line between this?
This was one of the things we were really worried about in the beginning. Will the audience connect with the play? We were worried it might be “too science-fiction”. We had to think about our target audience: students, parents and theatre enthusiasts. One good thing about the script was its mythological background. I think that God or mythology is something a large group of people believe in; that’s why they are called belief systems. So we used this plus point so people could relate to the script. And when you mix these two concepts together, one which is relatable and one we have to make people believe in, that mix and match works interestingly well. We had to find a point the majority of the audience would relate to and try to mix it with something of our own, and this gave us a good amalgamation that we wanted in our entire product.
Q.3. Sustainability, saving the earth and resource management is something that has been covered a lot before. How did you manage to make this different instead of repetitive?
We had one thing in our mind. We didn’t want it to be about posters, and slogans, just like any street play. Therefore we had to make it more character driven and emotionally sustainable. We put focus on the relationship between the daughter and her mother which was sort of a symbol for the relationship between humans and the Earth. This wasn’t the main focus but something we could relate to, as a foundational pillar in our life is the mother. This also goes for humans and the earth. So we tried to put it in the entire plot. Even though we were using mythological concepts, we tried to show the Gods in a modern light. The gods were not the typical golden cloth clad gods, and the audience was able to relate to them. They saw something fun and were able to connect it with the three Devs (the legendary three gods in Hindu mythology – Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh), they were able to recall what they already knew about those gods and relate those traits to the modernised versions of the Gods on stage.
Q. 4. This was a first time effort by our Institute. How did you manage to put together an event of this scale in such a short time? Are there any key takeaways? Is there anything you would do differently?
That was the greatest task. When we started we just had 15 people. Initially, when the audition forms were sent, around 150 students responded. However, students living in Pune then were only around 25. And only 15 showed up for rehearsals on the first day. Once the workshops started, some students realised it would take a lot of time and started leaving. We were left with around 12 to 13 people so we asked the students there if they could ask their friends from other states to join and they would be provided accommodation.They could stay at someone’s house, hostel, or even the GIPE hostel. Even GIPE helped with accommodation. Later, when college re-opened some more people joined. We were a team of nothing in the beginning. Other colleges had 60-70 people participating, with 30 people performing and 30 doing backstage work. So only our dedication drove us. We had to ignite the fire – (that) we took up this project and we have to finish it. The team was really there for each other. Each one from the team had a unique bond with someone else. I think that this is very important when participating in theatre, from making the play to performing in front of the audience; it is very important to have an emotional connection.
Q.5. One of the main aspects of the lead character is her high EQ. The world has traditionally looked down on emotions, whether it is their realisation or expression. How did you manage to make it a focal, and acceptable, part of her character in a way that it would be well received by the audience?
I guess emotions are something that are very important in terms of bringing out the best in you. It’s been said that even if somebody has a very high IQ, without an equally high EQ, they cannot choose between what is ethically wrong or ethically correct. This is important as most of what the main character played was based on ethics. She made a humanoid but did not introduce it to the human world as it was a different species. So, ethically, she can’t consider herself a God to introduce a new species on the earth. The core part of the play is that humans have stopped believing – believing in someone else, a family, God etc. If you don’t have beliefs you start becoming self centred and ego-centric. If you become egoistic above a certain level, you lose your emotions. You become a self centred person in four walls. The main concept was that man is losing his beliefs and becoming self centred and cares only about himself, not even about the people around him. The main character, however, was different. She had actual feelings and emotions which were very crucial for being compassionate, to love someone, or to even hate someone. So I guess emotions are the foundations for everything that happens. If you don’t have the aspiration to make something, nothing can happen. Such as if we didn’t aspire to win Firodiya strongly, we wouldn’t have.
Q. 6. How much of a responsibility did you have, considering this is a big platform and people who are your audience are of the age group where thoughts are malleable?
The main point of our play was to put forward what we think. It was a good platform to portray what we have to say. The entire plot of the play is designed in a way that a person can take away a lot from it. Such as God is the ultimate power, or technology is our saviour etc. A lot of things come together very differently, even when the play is developing and is finally put together a lot of different perspectives come about from which it can be seen.
Yeah, so I would say this play had layers and layers of different thoughts. When we think of thoughts of other people, it is very subjective of what the person takes from the play. Every person interprets it differently. That’s what is special about this piece.
Q.7. What advice would you give budding directors and writers?
The main thing I would like to say is that try to show what you are, and what is unique to you. Know your strengths, and know what is unique. We personally found out that, what made our play different from others, was the thought behind it. You cannot represent what you are or what you want to say using big sets, movie remakes, cliche topics, etc. When a competition like this provides a beautiful platform to present your say, you should think of the best you can give and what makes you stand out.
Q. 8. What advice would you give to people who don’t know what their unique strengths are or don’t know how to use them for good ?
Your thoughts aren’t really thoughts until you express them. Until you present them to the people, they don’t make a difference in the community. Just decide you have to do something, and then you can do anything. At some point even I wanted to put a stop to the play due to the lack of human resources. But at the end of the day after practice (which was often frustrating), we would tell ourselves we would say to ourselves “Let’s do this”. And we would return to work the next day. Then the show really rocked, and we realised our potential.
Most people know their strengths, they just don’t know that it’s unique. To find out, just love what you do. If it is unique for you, you will love it. If you love it, then try to perfect it. Just keep doing it and try to attain the closest to what you think is perfection. Be true to yourself, and be better than yesterday. You will definitely stand out if you keep getting better and better everyday.
Q. 9. Since the shadow play, the dance, and all the aesthetics were such a huge hit, how did you manage the technicalities of it with not enough human resource?
Initially, since we were just 15 people, we were really confused about what we were doing. There were 10-12 people in the group who had done theatre before and people who participated in theatre when they were in school and also were a part of theatre workshops as kids. About 2-3 of the participants also took part in “baal naatya” (kid’s theatre) as kids. This was the set of experienced people and there was another set of people who were completely new to this. And the people who were experienced were also confused because whenever they had been a part of theatre they just had to do the acting and presenting part and not start everything from scratch. And when it comes to Firodiya, it is all about multi talented people. And the participants had never done anything like this before. No dance, no live play and for that matter no events in the play. And because of this reason they all started losing their patience since there were a lot of technical things and there was a time loop (a focal point of the stage). And the technical part of the play took about 10-12 minutes of our time including the entire setup. So 2 people constantly used to do that for 20 minutes and it was very frustrating and we all were constantly taking care of the loop. That rush of doing something new was so exciting and our aim to bring the best was what bound us, and the entire play together. It was very hectic but there were times when we used to work for shadow play the whole night and at this time we used to get good ideas and good effects. After that, we used to get the spirit of ‘let’s do this’. So yes, it was a roller coaster ride with its own ups and downs.
Simran and Aabha (third-year students at GIPE) who took care of the sand art joined the play very late, about 15-20 days before the play, but they picked up that thing so quickly and they did it very well. So hats off to them. They even received a prize for that. Usually in Firodiya there are a lot of events and the first college which was in the competition, who also won the first prize, had a lot many events. We looked upon our strengths again, the script, the dance, the music and everything and we decided to portray it in the best way to win.
Q. 11. What was your idea behind a corporation running the world and did it come from real life intentions?
So, I gave a part of this answer before that we kept thinking about the existence of humans or how such a complex structure might be created by someone and there must be some technical person up there who created it, as an invention. That is where the entire concept started to be developed. We wondered if there are actually any inventors with a startup and if there is like a huge company having a lot of projects. If there is a project earth and they do inventions upon it (as can be seen in the play).
Q. 12. Does the writer think that one person is capable of changing the world and what are your views on this mentality?
Initially, when we were working on this concept we thought that the girl’s name should be “Kalki” but then it would have contradicted the entire concept of the Kalki avatar which was gonna be the end of the world. So the kalki avatar is not someone who will save the entire earth but it is the end but unless there is no end, there can be no start. So we avoided the kalki part for that matter because when you say that one human is gonna save the world, as a matter of a play if we see carefully, everyone is god there and they represent god and the swarg. And when we call a human there, she is the representation of human beings, and the entire 4 walls that we have built there. She is the human representative. And again it depends on what the audience has to take from it. However, as a writer, it usually becomes easier when there is a representative for something. So that human, if you relate to her, it’s each one of us, it’s right in the audience. So it becomes your moral responsibility to save it. She just represents you in the story, but actually you have to be her. If you believe in the swarg corp, or the tri-dev or the other beliefs, you are her. So she represents the humans and it is the moral responsibility of everyone to get inspired from her. And yes, that’s what movies do to us, they inspire us, the characters inspire us and we try to find ourselves in the character, like how is that character relatable to us. So when we find something like this it impacts the entire audience.
Q. 13. Where do you think the stakes are higher, live audience or film audience?
So, again it’s very subjective. It changes from audience to audience, from person to person. My opinion is obviously, theatre. Since, if you decide to preserve something or bring about a change in something. Like nowadays, the audience directly prefer to go for a movie because it is visually more appealing and mind-blowing and they just have a lot of action and all those things and that is exactly what people need these days. However, finding what the audience is craving, and preserving what is our culture, changes and bringing about those changes and sticking to it is equally important. And that is what has been passed on to us. It is our moral responsibility to preserve it and take it ahead. Obviously you can’t get a certain happiness and an actor would not know if the audience has applauded his entry in a film in a movie theatre but in the normal theatre, the entry, the dialogue, the responses you get, it all makes you happier and more energetic. We are representing gods, but we have a certain ‘that’s what she said’ pun and when I say it, the audience goes crazy. They start laughing and they applaud, this is what gives you the actual happiness, which you cannot get in movies. Theatre is an entirely different feeling. It’s people living the actual life, watching the person move. My friend says that she likes to go watch movies more than theatre so she has never watched my play and she said that she is not interested and that it’s not her thing. However she came to watch our last show and she was mind blown. Her whole perspective has changed and the immediate and on-the-spot efforts are appreciated more by the audience. There is a person-to-person connection.
(Disclaimer: Views and opinions expressed here are entirely the interviewee’s and are in no way a representation of the 8:10 or any of its members.)
-Sanya Phogat Mann
FY. BSc. Economics
FY. BSc. Economics