Abhishek Majumdar

Arts Practice

Grant Period: Over eight months

Playwright, Theatre Director, Teacher and Actor, Abhishek Majumdar is the Artistic Director of the theatre group Indian Ensemble in Bangalore. Abhishek is a graduate from LISPA (London International School of Performing Arts) and has trained at Yatrik, Mahesh Dattani’s Studio and the Adishakti Theatre Lab. He has received various scholarships and grants including the Charles Wallace and the Inlaks scholarships. He is a member of the Young Vic Director’s Network, London and the Lincoln Center Director’s Lab 2011, New York. He is the recipient of the first Shankar Nag Rangakarmi Award given by Ranga Shankara, Bangalore for his contribution to theatre. His notable plays include An arrangement of shoes, The Djinns of Idgah, Afterlife of Birds, Rizwan and Kaumudi to name a few. Indian Ensemble is not a typical theatre group that works like a repertory of actors or a company theatre. True to its name, it is an ensemble of theatre professionals working in their own fields across cities in India, who come together to work on productions. This nature of the group allows them to approach a specific text from various points of view and that has been their process as well as strength so far. Usually this is done through a series of workshops that lead to the design and production of the theatre piece. Through this project led by Abhishek they want to venture into a direction they feel is the next logical step to their practice.

Their plays have started to attain a multilingual and often multinational audience. Language of the text often has been a barrier for the audience to fully understand the play. There is a tendency to depend on the text as the starting point for conceptualising the production and physical expositions come only towards the end of creating the work. In this series of workshops they want to explore various nonverbal physical modes of exposition for a play. The idea is to develop a set of physical alphabets that would put physicality as one of the major concerns from the very beginning. That is to say, the physical restraints of the actors and the limits of the human body will be a major component in framing the play itself. Abhishek wants to look at various modern and indigenous forms where physical or nonverbal forms of exposition are already present and will try to imbibe that into their practice. They feel it is more convenient to work with epics where the story is already known and there is no need to explain the plot to the audience; a method already present in various Indian and oriental forms. Identifying themselves as practitioners ‘spoken word theatre’, they wish to approach ‘total theatre’ with text still as their backbone, but enriching their practice by experimenting with physicality.

Over a period of eight months Abhishek in collaboration with actor Sandeep Shikhar would develop the material that will be further worked on with members of their group in two month-long intensive workshops. They will systematically read and analyse a large number of texts and will look at recordings and live performances to deconstruct them. He proposes to approach text they read , ‘as sound, as light, as design, as idea, as plot, as elaboration, as argument and write it all down systematically and almost create a manual / lab observation book that analyses these hundreds of plays / performances/ rituals/ live occurrences’. They would take specific scenes from the Ramayana and approach them from the point of view of the various crafts of theatre making and other art forms. They would then place these in the rehearsal arena of the workshops with other collaborators and test out the physical or scenographic alphabets that they develop. The first workshop will thus be about nonverbal and physical elaborations of textual themes as the starting point. The second workshop will develop the material created in the first one. He also wishes to call other artists into the workshop from time to time depending on the need of the process but the costs of doing so is not included in this grant and he will raise separate funds for that.

This grant was made possible with support from the Bajaj Group.