A One-Woman Show―Sitting Down With Aarti Tiwari
Aarti Tiwari is a talented theatre artiste who is skilled in verse, prose, as well as acting. She has been a part of various national and international theatre groups. She is also a founding member of a Pune-based art and culture initiative that intends to encourage women to tell their stories through different mediums. At this year’s edition of m.i.l.a.p., she delivered an outstanding performance in the solo play Mansha ki Shaadi which she performed at the TMA Pai Auditorium on 9th November 2019. The play was about the emotions and dilemmas faced by a mother when her daughter runs away right before her wedding. Aarti Tiwari brought great depth to her character in a performance that tugged at the heartstrings of the audience, who responded with resounding applause. The MIT Post had the opportunity to speak to her on the relevance and impact of theatre in today’s society, her foray into solo-performing, and more.
What do you think is the importance of theatre in our society?
I did a musical in the U.S. where the actors were a mix of professional theatre artists and regular people from various walks of life. The age group ranged from five to eighty-five years, and the performers came from different backgrounds. Everybody came together to put forth a thought with a lot of effort, hard work, and love. I think that changed something within them. Also, children who are trained in theatre from a young age have a completely different and open perspective about the world. Personally, I think theatre is a medium to raise questions. The output isn’t completely in our hands, but it enables us to raise questions that concern us. Since theatre is about life, it lets you be ‘comfortable with being uncomfortable’. This excites me a lot.
How does the acting process of theatre differ from that of cinema?
In theatre, everything is live. A play performed in one way today may turn out different tomorrow. Things are constantly changing, so it’s like an experiment. In movies, you can always have multiple takes of the same scene. Moreover, cinema is more of a director’s medium.
What made you choose solo theatre?
I wanted to do something that challenges me and makes me uncomfortable, which is why I chose to do solo-theatre. I also wanted to do something alone and reach as many people as possible while still making it economically viable. Usually, only people who have access can watch a theatre performance, but I wanted to reach people who didn’t have this access or awareness. I realised I could travel to remote places and reach people with this solo play.
How has the taste of the audience changed over the years and how has theatre adapted to this?
Earlier, theatre was very dependent on the technicalities like sets and lighting. Now, there’s a lot of experimentation going on where there’s nothing on stage and people still tell a story. There have also been a lot of silent performances like mimes. People no longer rely on adaptations of old plays. They write their own plays now, and the youth is coming up with amazing ways to put their ideas across.
What impact do you intend to bring from your work?
I want people to raise questions, resonate with what I have to say, question themselves, and think. That’s my goal. It’s definitely more than just entertainment. Theatre has the capacity to change lives when done over a period of time. I’d like people to raise opinions and make them think about what we’re doing with ourselves, how things are shaping up, how sensitive and passionate we are to each other―essentially, thinking about being human. Theatre teaches you to be human before being anything else.
Do you think theatre is threatened by digital content platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, which make content easily accessible?
Yes and no. Theatre has its own challenges. Very few people go to watch theatre as it’s not very well known. The audience base that we have is constant, and it can only increase. But its reach isn’t as wide as that of cinema. The major challenge is to try to create an economically viable infrastructure to make theatre more accessible. Now there are a few dedicated channels that live cast plays from all over the world, so the effort is being made. But most people still don’t come to watch theatre. The only way to change this is to improve the infrastructure for both performers and the audience. These two mediums are very different from each other, and the audience loves both. Cinemas and digital platforms have an extensive reach while theatre doesn’t. There is a team called ‘SMART’ led by Sanjana Kapoor. They’re trying to improve management in theatre to make it accessible to as many people as possible. Such work must be carried out on a larger scale.
What advice would you give people who would like to take up theatre as a profession?
It’s important to listen to your inner voice. Listen to it as early as possible. Don’t delay and spend a lot of time contemplating it. If you’re sure about it, just do it. Things will eventually shape up. If you wait too long, then it gets more difficult. You have to be very sure and passionate about it.
Could you tell us a little about some of your upcoming projects?
I’ll soon do a solo act based on an excerpt from Ismat Chughtai’s autobiography Kaghazi hai Pairahan. I’m also going to do a dramatic reading performance based on the theme of death. Birth is inevitable, and so is death, but nobody ever talks about it. Thus the purpose of this performance is to explore how people perceive death.
Featured Image Credits: Mumbai Theatre Guide