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Lights, Camera, ADA—Sitting Down With the Cast and Crew of ‘Daldal’

ADA Dramatics is one of the forerunners when it comes to theatre in Manipal.  They have won several accolades by participating in various events outside Manipal. During the pandemic, ADA has produced an online theatrical production named ‘Daldal’, a truly unique and incredible feat considering the circumstances. This production was acted out and directed from different cities in India with immense dedication and hard work. The interview comprised of a few of ADA’s team members—Ishaan Srivastava [IS], Akanksha Kimothi [AK], Aman Goyal [AM], and Shouryha Bhardwaj [SH].

This is your first online production, and it must have been pretty challenging for you, given the lockdown and the fact that you are in different cities. How did the team pull it off?

AK: In ADA, we always encourage new ideas, be it in terms of acting, direction, or scriptwriting. When this opportunity for an online production surfaced, everybody was very excited. We had an incredible team that worked tirelessly for the project. We did face a lot of challenges, such as technical issues and untimely disturbances from family members. There would be times when we would join the sessions after a tiring day when we were not in our right mental space. We had to build everything from scratch without external sourcing help, but it never really felt unachievable because we always had the support of our seniors and juniors. The amount of bonding we had within the club helped us. Theatrics is typically an art form where you need a live audience to gauge and perceive their reactions, so this was something new, exciting, and a great experience overall.

The cast and crew of ADA in an online meeting [Image Credits: Ada Dramatics]

The sheer amount of distance between the actors must have affected them when they tried to bring the characters to life. What measures did you take to improve this aspect?

AM: Acting is a transfer of energy. The dialogue delivery, tone of your voice, and every complex expression must be precise. It comes to you very naturally on a stage with co-actors. However, here, it was a completely new experience for the actors involved. As everything was online, it became more or less a monopoly of imagination. We used to get on Google Meet for a couple of hours a day and tried to get our emotions, lines, and even the position we sat in right. Our directors, Akanksha and Geetankar, helped us a lot in this process. We were shooting at home, so lighting or the additional noise the earphones picked up was always a problem. It took a lot of work and practice from the actors’ side, to be honest because we wanted to make it look great on screen.

How did the actors audition for their roles from different places?

AK: We held recorded auditions. The people auditioning for it were given specific dialogues to deliver and also certain parts of the play for them to act out. They were required to make a video and send it to us as direct online auditions would have been too difficult, given the occasional internet lags and various other discrepancies. The best actors among the entrants were chosen.

What is the inspiration behind the story of Daldal?

SH: The person who brought up the idea and the story remains a mystery. We decided that there was going to be an online production, and when the team members pitched in Daldal, all of us loved it. The play is set in the futuristic landscape of India in 2047 and it follows a vindictive murder by five people with different motives. While in jail, the conspirators contemplate which one of them deserves the noose in this dark and thrilling satire of what could potentially happen to our country in the future. The scriptwriters put in so much love and dedication into each line of the script and we are incredibly attached to it now. To any viewer or reader, it might seem like a few lines of dialogue that could be read out in a couple of minutes. But for us, it represents the thirty to forty minutes of work we put into each line to make sure we offer the viewers the utmost satisfaction. We also wanted to make sure we weren’t disappointed with ourselves and put 100 per cent into every single line.

How difficult was the direction?

AK: The direction was a funny and tricky aspect of this online production. We always had to keep our laptops switched on—otherwise, we got our fair share of reprimands. The actors had to be in a place where there was no noise, but this was not exactly feasible because we were in our homes which were always eventful and loud.

As we were not face-to-face, it was all imagination and trying to get the actors to think with a different perspective. Speaking strictly as a director, we cannot precisely tell the actors to bring out a particular emotion. We can only tweak the way they think about the specific scene. Bringing in the imagination and inspiration for the character was their job. However, in the end, it was the actors who understood their roles and brought their characters out. Sometimes, we had to shoot scenes at three in the morning. It was a risky business because a lot of our dialogues involved us shouting, and with our parents sleeping close by, it wasn’t easy to pull off.

Video editing is an integral part of any online production. How precise and perfect did you have to be in this aspect?

IS: Video editing was essential to ensure that we could synchronize the entire play. The editor, Shreyans Jain carried it out. He is very good at what he does, and he kept us updated continuously whilst asking for suggestions and feedback every time he did so. He would even bring up ideas in meetings specific to the editing. The actors had to get technical too­. There were particular angles we had to sit in and specific lighting we needed for the scene. And all of this was discussed by the directors and the editor beforehand. This meticulous process helped in making the whole thing more realistic.

What is one thing from this production that will always be close to your heart? 

AM: I think with this experience, we got very close to each other and our bond became stronger than what it was when we were back in Manipal. Each one knew about everything that was going on in every department. This bonding that Daldal helped us develop is what we will always cherish. I think this is the part closest to my heart. I hope we get the opportunity to make some more online productions in the near future.

Featured Image Credits: ADA Dramatics

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