Theatre has always been perceived as an art form which does not have a profitable career aspect, and only meant for the passionate and privileged ones. Here is a group in Bengaluru, who aims at not just making theatre sustainable, but also a career for the passionate.
In 2006, a post on Orkut bought 2 theatre enthusiasts together with a dream. Today they have succeeded in their dream of starting a theatre company which is par from the ordinary. WeMoveTheatre was started by Abhishek Iyengar and Rangaraj Bhattacharya. From it’s initiation to this day, the duo has aimed at breaking the stereotypes attributed to the field of theatre.
The dire need for someone to pick the story of contemporary world and making sure it is heard by people was the main intention why they started their company conveys Abhishek Iyengar. He says, ‘The theatre I knew never told the story of the contemporary times. What is happening now around us is important part of the literature or the history. Suddenly there is a void when there are no writers; obviously there are no readers too. So we wanted to do theatre which actually told today’s story.’
Both Abhishek and Rangaraj juggled with their IT jobs when they started their venture. With rehearsals in the evenings and weekends their journey was of course not a cake walk. Those were the times when people didn’t have open opportunities for a common man to join theatre and do shows. “We weren’t given a platform to perform. I have personally waited in front of gates of people for almost weeks together just to get a chance to write and see theatre rehearsals, it wasn’t even for films. Getting into theatre was very difficult and filled with nepotism”, shares Abhishek. Exploring the arenas in theatre, lacked opportunities and WeMoveTheatre decided to bridge the gaps with their company. Without cribbing over the lack of opportunities, the duo started rehearsals for their play in public spaces like Lalbagh and Cubbon Park. “There is no road in Bangalore where we haven’t rehearsed”, chuckles Abhishek. He further says, “No one used to give us rehearsal space and neither did government have a set up for people who wanted to pursue theatre in those years and sadly its more or less the same today.” The team started with about 3-4 shows a year, by picking up plays written by legendry playwrights like T.P. Kailasam etc, who wrote contemporary stories.
“Wemovetheatre is one of the biggest platforms for youngsters to come explore and run theatre. The joy of creating a platform actually drove us; there was never a time where we thought why we should do this? We built a platform for anybody to take up theatre and I think it’s worth the struggle”
Picking annexes from life
In 2010, the team was rehearsing for a play ‘Malgudi express’, an adaptation of R.K Narayan’s Malgudi Days. The metro work had began in Bengaluru and the development phase was ironically withering civilization in a way. “We were rehearsing in front of CTR, under a tree. One of the actors asked – have u ever imagined what will happen if tomorrow if we come and the tree was gone and there is Namma metro board here in front. This moved us greatly. That Place was very sacred to us. Based on that I wrote the play called ‘Namma Metro’, shares Abhishek Iyeangar. Namma Metro; a story about 4 different people with Bengaluru being the protagonist, is WeMoveTheatre’s 1st original play and also has been one of the most famous play, even today.
If theatre for all can be achieved, then there lies a future for theatre.
The major aim of WeMoveTheatre after Namma metro was to make theatre sustainable. ‘Theatre for all’ became the motto of WeMoveTheatre. “By then we knew what theatre is? the business of theatre, the passion of theatre. We knew there is a market for theatre if we explore it in a right way and not exploit it. We wanted to explore this new market that was emerging for theater. Theatre was growing across Bangalore”, explains Abhishek Iyengar. “Theatre was perceived as just art for intellectuals. But we knew theatre as a simple art that any person can reach out to; a neighbor who watched serials very devotionally, if she comes to a play she should understand and enjoy the play as much as she can enjoy the serial”, adds Abhishek.
Abhishek believes that Theatre is an unformed art. He calls it unformed art because unlike other classical art forms, theatre doesn’t have a Guru-Shishya discipline. Hence, he is of the opinion that theatre as an art form was built for the common man to express and take it as a medium they can hold or revolutionise. Abhishek reckons that, “Theatre was built as an independent art form which is devoid of any procedures or protocols. Being this unformed art that theatre actually was people did not understand that theatre can also earn. Also this art form was divided into rather sophisticated and either rural/politically motivated”.
All the plays of WeMoveTheatre have been based on the Black Box concept.
Abhishek Iyeangar reckons, “We don’t have to show everything to the audience. Theatre is to play with the audience imagination. All the productions are set with the black box concept. The beauty of this is the fact that if the acting is good, people will not point at anything else. We never change the setup in between. We believe that once we lose the audience attention, we lose it forever. That’s the USP for us”.
A for profit art company
In the course of time the team realized that there exists a business aspect to theatre. They presumed that a well packaged blend of corporate aspect and creative art of theatre would be accepted by the common man. And then began their journey with the full time theatre company WeMoveSolutions.
WeMoveSolutions ramifies to theatre for education, theatre for corporate, charity and lot more. By 2014-15 the team realized that theatre can be surged into various streams.
WeMoveTheatre has performed more that 170 shows across the country and few shows abroad. They are all set to have their own chapter in California, USA in the days to come. Actress of Rangitaranga fame, Radhika Chetan is a part of WeMoveTheatre.
WeMovieTalkies, is a separate registered production house which does short films. They have a flag ship festival called as White Wall Short film festival. “We do this because we think that like theatre, short films do not have a platform. People do short films, with lot of passion, money and heart into it and there is no earning back. There is certainly a void in it”, shares Abhishek.
White wall film festival was started in 2015, by just projecting the short films on a white wall. Today it is organized with a organized screening and discussions. People from the industry like Adarsh Eshwarappa, RJ Pradeep, have hosted discussions during the varioue episodes of the short film festival, which has helped in building the platform for budding directors and producers.
Connect the dots, Building the gaps.
“We move is an ensemble, a repertoire” – Abhishek Iyengar
WeMoveSolutions has expanded into various other avenues. WeMove180 is one venture largely to curate stage events. WeMoveCampus is another venture where the team urges to give opportunity for theatre groups in universities and college. “We pick a theatre group from college and give them a platform to perform in a good auditorium like Rangastala. That would be a huge stage for them. Similarly government colleges might not have the needed facilities, but if u put them in a good place and provide facilities they can do amazingly well, so we provide platform for them”, shares Abhishek.
The company also has a platform for people to venture and explore theatre. ‘Big step’ is a theatre workshop which includes two platforms: one day workshop and an intensive course. Interested people can explore theatre with a one day workshop and then shift to the intensive program.
Future of theatre – A crazy dream
The scalability of theatre is something that the team is aiming at. People are of the opinion that theatre cannot grow and any progress would have disadvantages. Abhishek questions this.
He asks, “Why stop progression of theatre? Even test cricket became IPL. Why not something huge for theatre? This is something we want to do. We want to have a production house. We want to employ people. Theatre artists should not have to worry about capital anymore”.
“We want to build a theatre studio, where artists meet, produce quality content. We want to groom directors, have many writers. We want to make it a profitable venture and come out with a high quality product. Imagine having a company having multiple directors, producers, actors. This is for theatre and not movies. This is my craziest idea”, exclaims Abhishek.