Please tell us about yourself
Theatre personality Sharanya Ramprakash not only observes the world with an artist’s eyes, but also interprets words with multiple meanings. This is reflected in her directorial style, through a gesture, silence or touch. “Words are just sign posts. The director has to portray unwritten emotions that make a script rich.”
Most artists, according to Sharanya, have an interest in the world. “They can see beyond the apparent. They see the world with a constant sense of detachment and with a desire to discern symbols for what they are.”
Sharanya chooses scripts that move her. “There should be something to it that compels me. You want to tell the story because it resonates with your life. The director is the captain of the ship who brings a script alive. And so, it is his or her responsibility to understand the essence of a play.”
How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?
Sharanya’s tryst with theatre began as a child. “I have been involved in theatre as far as I can remember. I have some crazy photos from kindergarten acting in a Christmas play!” A graduate of Manipal University, Sharanya worked for four years in a management firm before pursuing theatre full time. She began work with Dramanon, one of Bangalore’s most prolific theatre groups, and developed it from scratch.
“Dramanon slowly began to get noticed. We got good press and more audience for our plays, which encouraged us to do our best.”
Tell us about your career path
For Sharanya , funding for her passion came through freelancing as an actor for other production houses as well as conducting workshops for firms like Dell and Radio One. She quit her management job at The Fuller Life to manage her theatre company Dramanon that she formed 2006. “If a show does well, actors get paid anything between Rs 10,000 and 15,000,” she says.
Dramanon began as a theatre group, run exclusively by the students of Manipal University. Sharanya and her team professionally nurtured it in Bangalore. “Dramanon, while it was run in Manipal, brought the student community together. We did a lot to bring it to where it is today. As the group grew, more people from Bangalore joined it,” explains Sharanya.
Sharanya’s first production, William Sebring’s “The Original Last Wish Baby” involved experimentation, and it was a grand success. “It was an hour-and-a-half long choreographed, devised production with live music composed by Anurag Shankar. There were minimal sets and an audio-visual that were a combination of videos we had shot. When I look back on it now, I can’t believe that was the first production that we chose to pull off. That set the tone for a lot of things we did later.”
Indeed, Dramanon has gone from strength to strength, with productions such as “Elling” and “This”. The latter production saw many successful runs, drawing audience by the thousands.
Theatre, as the cliché goes, represents life. “Theatre is a way to understand your life better. The experience of watching a slice of life being enacted on stage is moving and deep. Anyone who has an interest in understanding things beyond the surface should watch a play. Theatre answers our essential questions on life. ‘Elling’, for example, is set in Norway, but it has a universal appeal. All art unifies. Anything that separates or divides is not art; it is, in fact, anti-life.”
Sharanya, needless to say, has inborn talent, but over the years, working with other theatre artists such as Prakash Belwadi, Padmavati Rao, Arundhati Nag and Arundhati Raja have helped hone her skills. “I have also learned a lot from the set and light design workshops that Ranga Shankara organises.”
What are the skills needed to be a theatre artist?
Although training is important in theatre, Sharanya doesn’t consider it essential. “I don’t discount it. But then, rubber meets road — it’s best to put one’s training into practice. It’s better to do theatre on one’s own. Training and experimentation are complementary.”
Not many know that Sharanya is also an avid and professional photographer. “Unlike theatre, photography is lonesome. It’s just you and your camera. Theatre is an outward experience, it’s about collaboration. Photography allows me to be with myself. I bring some of theatre to photography and some of photography to theatre. I am always able to find the dramatic moment in photography and the photographic moment in theatre.”
Sharanya had photo-documented temples at Pattadakal in Karnataka. “It’s a UNESCO world heritage site and I did the project on behalf of the Archaeological Survey of India.” She also worked on a project in which the board of directors of a French-Polish company had come visiting India. “They wanted a travelogue of their experience. They visited Kerala, Delhi and other off-beat places. It was interesting to see my country through their eyes.” Wedding photography is among her other favourites. “Wedding photography is tiring but I love it. I like to capture those little moments where the bride and groom exchange intimate glances.”
What are the challenges?
Getting sponsors, as most theatre enthusiasts would tell you, is the biggest challenge. But Sharanya feels blessed by the unexpected help she has got along the way. “I remember how kindly a corporate head had given me Rs 10,000 ten thousand rupees for one of my productions immediately. Rehearsal spaces are hard to come by, but that problem has been resolved with my uncle lending a part of his office space for us. We get assistance from unexpected sources.”
Sharanya contends that Bangalore’s theatre scene is poised for a refreshing change. “Festivals such as the Great Galata and Short and Sweet brought the city’s various theatre groups together.” What still needs improvement is the culture of relevant theatre critiquing. “Objective critical feedback adds a vital dimension to theatre.”