New Order

Time Out profiles 25 actors under the age of 35 who are lighting up the Mumbai stage

Best known for A supportive wife in Makrand Deshpande’s Joke (2009)

As a little girl, Abir Abrar was a self-confessed drama queen – an early sign, perhaps, that she would end up on stage. However, by the time she appeared in school productions in Bangalore, where she grew up, she found herself stuck with the smallest parts. When a friend told her that she would grow up to become an actor, her reply was, “Yuck”. Abrar laughs at that episode now, recognising that she was fated to be on stage. The niece of Hindi film actor Kumkum and cousin of English theatre director Rehaan Engineer, Abrar joined Nadira Zaheer Babbar’s Ekjute while studying politics and economics at Sophia College. She immediately landed three parts in the children’s play Sone Ki Machli. She also trained with Daisy Irani, learned kathak, and later enrolled at Kishore Namit Kapoor’s Acting Academy. Abrar’s résumé includes productions with Rangbaaz Theatre (Bade Miyan Deewane), Quaff Theatre (Satellite City) and Akvarious Productions (Super 8, Rafta Rafta). She stood out in Ansh’s Joke as the wife of a whimsical writer (Makrand Deshpande). “You are always nervous before going on stage,” Abrar said. “But the way I am nervous before Joke shows even today. It is so hard to keep up with [Deshpande].” She has had a few decent film roles – she appeared as Hrithik Roshan’s sister in the movie Jodhaa Akbar – but relishes the “luxury of theatre”.

On acting “Sometimes it’s a great part, a great co-actor or a great director – you take so much from each experience.”

Best known for The title role in Garbo (2009)

Radhika Apte may be a familiar face from her roles in the Hindi films Shor in the City and Raktacharitra, but she has been in theatre for a decade. Since her time as a student in Pune’s Fergusson College, she has been associated with Aasakta theatre group, to which she was introduced at one of Satyadev Dubey’s workshops. Aasakta’s young artistes and particularly director Mohit Takalkar shaped her sensibilities. Apte continues to be part of the group, sometimes even just doing backstage work. “It is not just a training ground but it is the place and group I want to work with primarily for all the coming years,” she said. Her roles in Aasakta’s Tu (2006), Matra Ratra (2007) and Garbo (2009) have earned her a reputation as a sensitive performer. Her roles in Lillete Dubey’s English version of Kanyadaan (2007), Anahita Uberoi’s Bombay Black (2008) and Rehaan Engineer’s That Time (2007) showcased her versatility. Apte’s only formal training has been in dance (she has learnt kathak and contemporary). Her abilities as a dancer are reflected in the plays Purnaviram and Tu – the latter gave her the challenging role of a woman who is smothered by an intense relationship. Apte also treasures her role as a non-conformist woman in Aasakta’s production of Mahesh Elkunchwar’s 1970 script Garbo. “The play was a responsibility,” said the 26-year-old. “We had to live up to that reputation.” Apte made a fine Garbo, gracefully carrying off scenes of physical intimacy with her co-artistes. She is currently acting in two Tamil films, and has just finished a multilingual film The Bright Day directed by Mohit Takalkar.

On acting “Since school days, I was fascinated by actors, and not because of their popularity and fame. I liked their aura, confidence and experience. I found them very attractive human beings.”

Best known for The clown Fido in Hamlet – The Clown Prince (2008).

The suave yet friendly Neil Bhoopalam was the youngest Indian radio jockey when he joined Radio Mirchi in 2002 at the age of 19, later becoming a VJ with Channel V and, more recently, a performer with Adam Dow’s Improv Comedy Mumbai. His acting résumé has filled over the past decade with stage and screen roles that include the impressionable lead in Rehaan Engineer’s The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek, a bigoted soldier in Richard Twyman’s Djinns of Eidgah, and a mercurial Parsi in the film Shaitan. He made his debut with the monologue of a wife-beater in Voices, a production that was created when his principal at NM College allowed director Atul Kumar to use the campus for rehearsals in return for training aspiring student actors. Bhoopalam’s most dramatic theatre moment occurred while he was in the audience of Kumar’s Noises Off, and “the actor I was understudying dislocated his shoulder, and I jumped on stage in the third act”. The 29-yearold has a gift for farce whether playing a charming cad in Quaff Theatre’s The Real Inspector Hound, a moon-walking clown in Rajat Kapoor’s Hamlet – The Clown Prince or a madly grinning pirate in Q Theatre Productions’s Project STRIP. He is currently rehearsing for Rahul da Cunha’s The Bureaucrat, which will open in April.

On acting “I took up acting professionally a few years ago. I was in so deep I realised there isn’t anything else.”

Best known for The daughter of a maths genius in Proof, which won her an award at the 2008 Thespo festival

It would have been hard to miss Preetika Chawla in 2011. The 25-year-old actor was seen in Akvarious plays such as Super 8 and Jumpstart, Silly Point’s Four Square, and Arghya Lahiri and Pushan Kripalani’s Hayavadana. Chawla also did repeat shows of the 2010 productions Lovepuke and One on One, starred in Roshan Abbas’s debut film Always Kabhi Kabhi and hosted shows on Channel [V]. Phew. “I am going a bit mad now,” said Chawla. “I have been juggling by the hour.” The most amazing part of it all: only five years ago, Chawla was a business manager at Blue Mango Films, a production house in Delhi. She had watched her elder sister, Prerna Chawla, then an aspiring actor, struggle in Mumbai. “I would tell my mother, ‘Look at her, what is she doing with her life?’,” said Chawla. In 2007, while visiting her sister, Chawla found herself joining her sibling onstage at the last minute to fill in for another actor in Not Quite There’s revival of Me Grandad ad an Elephant. She soon landed a lead role in Makrand Deshpande’s film Shahrukh Bola Khoobsurat Hai Tu and a part in the television series Mumbai Calling. After her award-winning turn in Proof, Chawla was even more impressive playing a nostalgic small-town immigrant in Mumbai in Rage Productions’s One on One. The 25-year-old can even play children with ease, as she has in four plays including Purva Naresh and Gopal Tiwari’s Aaj Rang Hai. “It’s the kind of person I am – I have no filters,” she said. “Also when you are so nutty, it is easy to play a child.” 

On acting “I have no qualms in auditioning. It strengthens me like not much else.”

Best known for A spunky prostitute in Madhya Pradesh in Rabijita Gogol’s OK Tata Bye Bye (2012)
The petite 29-year-old has a wonderful comic instinct and an irrepressible sassiness. She out-sniffles her counterparts at a funeral in Akvarious Productions’s All About Women, rattles the lead role as a shrink in Jake’s Women, bounds across The Adventures of Tintin as the dog Snowy and glares dangerously as the miffed lover in Quaff Theatre’s The Real Inspector Hound. Chawla attended workshops with Feizel Alkazi and Barry John while at school in Delhi, and later plunged into the city’s college theatre scene. A week into her holiday in Mumbai after her final college exams, Chawla was introduced by a relative to actor Ahlam Khan, who immediately auditioned and cast her in the 2003 play Cast Party. She has worked as Hrithik Roshan’s accent trainer for Kites as part of her freelance work with a corporate training company, and also dubs films and television shows and voice-overs for ads. Chawla, who has acted in English, Hindi and Urdu plays, says she will “hold on forever” to the insights from the workshops with directors Sunil Shanbag and Naseeruddin Shah for All About Women.

On acting “My happiest place in the world is on stage, and I have the privilege of being on stage many times a month which is most liberating.”

Best known for A closeted gay IT professional in The President is Coming (2006)

An acting career has been “a huge surprise” for the wiry Namit Das, who assumed he would be a classical singer like his father, ghazal singer Chandan Das. It is a testament to the 27-year-old’s talent that audience members assume quite the opposite, leaving shows of Sunil Shanbag’s musical, Stories in A Song, exclaiming, “Namit can sing!” Das has composed music for Imogen Butler-Cole’s Much Ado About Nothing, and is currently “pulling out tunes” for Atul Kumar’s upcoming Shakespeare adaptation, Barvi Raat. While the St Xavier’s College graduate acted in Nadir Khan’s Thespo entry The Shadow Box in 2002, he made his professional debut the following year with Atul Kumar’s Noises Off. “Before I knew it, I was working on a lot of plays with Atul and a lot of what he did – theatre that revolves around the physicality of actors, bodies and emotions – influenced me,” said Das. At ease in both English and Hindi theatre, Das’s lively, charged performances include Kumar’s The Chairs and Numbers in the Dark and Rajat Kapoor’s production of clowns spouting gibberish, Hamlet – The Clown Prince. Das has produced plays like Manav Kaul’s Park and is busy with voice-overs, ads, and film roles such as the hero’s friend Rishi in Wake Up Sid. “A performer’s life is really long and I want to be here for the rest of my life,” he said.

On acting “I wish I could have the audience in my grip, and make them laugh and cry at the same time.”

Best known for The fairy in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2005)

The live-wire Faezeh Jalali exudes a vitality and charm that makes her hard to forget in any role, whether she is gyrating in front of a laptop for a web party in 1-888-Dial-India or playing a Kashmiri teenager traumatised by the memory of her father’s death in the recent Djinns of Eidgah. The 32-year-old actor debuted in 2003 as the tomboyish lead in The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek. She leaped into the limelight two years later for gracefully shimmying up ropes as a fairy in Tim Supple’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a role that introduced her to mallakhamb in Shivaji Park at Dadar and circus acrobatics in San Francisco. Jalali discovered her penchant for a more physical kind of acting while studying theatre in her pre-med classes at Beloit College in the US. She went on to do a Master’s at the University of Tennessee’s Clarence Brown Theatre. Jalali is now steeped in the city’s theatre scene in more ways than one: she has acted in Hidaayat Sami’s Peter Pan and Naseeruddin Shah’s Arms and The Man for children, and she is also a school drama instructor and conducts workshops for all age groups. In January, Jalali made her solo directorial debut with the sprightly Jaal at the Writers’ Bloc 3.

On acting “When I’m performing or at rehearsal, my body feels thrilled no matter how tired I am or how bad anything has been.”

Best known for A peevish busybody in Purva Naresh and Gopal Tiwari’s Aaj Rang Hai, which won an award at the 2011 Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards

Ahlam Khan-Karachiwala has an alluring presence and quiet composure that sustains all her performances, from the title role in Makrand Deshpande’s play and movie Miss Beautiful, a queen in Manoj Shah’s Amar Fal, to a tightlipped mother in Akarsh Khurana’s Rafta Rafta. The daughter of actor Amjad Khan, Ahlam Khan-Karachiwala acted in plays at Mithibai College but would have become a journalist if it hadn’t been for the “parallel, offbeat” scripts that playwright Ramu Ramanathan introduced to her MA English class at Mumbai University. Out of those classes emerged her group, Not Quite There, which staged Digvijay Savant’s Me Grandad ad An Elephant, a play she adapted and headlined, at public and private shows in 1990. The play was later showcased at the 2007 Prithvi Theatre Festival and was revived again last year. Khan-Karachiwala, 35, has written plays such as Cast Party, and Modd, which she also directed, as well as film scripts such as the independent Highway 203. She picked up her acting skills on the floorboards of English, Hindi and Gujarati productions, and hopes to be cast in a Marathi play next. 

On acting “You can do a play every day and discover something new. It could be something so inconsequential – the way you say a line or the back story you’ve created – that a repeat audience would never get, but you know.” 

Best known for Gulab Bai in Afsaneh: Bai Se Baiscope Tak (2008)

Few actors can pull off a feisty character with the panache of Tahira Nath, who has played the destructive Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (which she also directed at Thespo in 2007), a bossy and boisterous sister in Akvarious Productions’s Jake’s Women, and a loud-mouthed mother in Pereira's Bakery at 76 Chapel Road. Nath makes the most of even bit parts with her commanding presence and strong delivery. “My instinct is a little aggressive,” said Nath. A graduate of Mudra Institute of Communications, Nath left her job in an advertising agency for theatre in 2008. The stage was like an “itch” that just wouldn’t go, she said. “It was one of those moments when you get inspired and you want to give everything you have.” With no professional stage training, it was a risky decision but Nath was steadfast in her commitment. A familiar face in the plays of Akvarious Productions, Nath co-directed Rafta Rafta with Akarsh Khurana and runs her own group, Ibid Productions, which produced Classic Milds and its sequel. But the highlight of her career has been Afsaneh: Bai se Baiscope Tak, in which she made a formidable impression. “I am very attached to the role,” said Nath. “I catch myself saying the dialogues [of Gulab Bai] even today.” 

On acting “Your personality also reflects a bit when you are doing a role.”

Best known for A hapless candidate in The Interview, which won an award at META 2011 

Karan Pandit has been on a winning streak since his professional debut with Akash Khurana’s All About My Mother in 2010, which came hot on the heels of a year-long course in performance studies at Drama Centre London. The young – he is just 21 – but already versatile actor has appeared in the BBC Radio 4 play The Mumbai Chuzzlewits, and acted as a party-hard jock in Nostalgia Brand Chewing Gum, a geek in Lovepuke, a debauched doctor in Baghdad Wedding and a Kashmiri teen coping with a traumatised sister, murky politics and athletic aspirations in Djinns of Eidgah.

On acting “Not being yourself is really liberating, it’s a process of storytelling where I am the instrument.”

Best known for A frustrated author and fisherman in The Skeleton Woman (2009)

Prashant Prakash, co-founder of Quaff Theatre, won the Hindu MetroPlus Playwright Award with co-writer and actor Kalki Koechlin for The Skeleton Woman, a fantastical piece about a fisherman that sparkled with visual imagery. Prakash had co-written and acted in a short play, The Block, while studying English Literature at St Xavier’s College. He made his stage debut in 2007 with Atul Kumar’s Numbers in the Dark after a six-month rehearsal process that gave him his first taste of physical theatre. Prakash has attended intensive workshops by Anamika Haksar, Sunil Shanbag and the Adishakti theatre group. The 25-year-old’s most recent role as a cerebral husband in Pushan Kripalani and Arghya Lahiri’s adaptation of Girish Karnad’s Hayavadana highlighted his introspective nature and facility for physical theatre. He has also co-directed The Real Inspector Hound, acted in ads, and in films like That Girl in Yellow Boots.

On acting “I’d like to work on improvisation, on text, on physical work, on everything. Acting is what I love doing.”

Best known for The earnest, quietly conflicted narrator in Baghdad Wedding (2011)

This Kashmir-born actor got his break when he attended Naseeruddin Shah’s sessions in the acting course at the Film and Television Institute of India in 2005. Shah cast him in Satyadev Dubey’s 2007 Antigone, and other Motley productions like Katha Collage and The Caine Mutiny Court Martial. His role as a testy travel writer in Shah’s GB Shaw production, By George, made Rashid “understand the importance of the word”, he said. “We learned for six months about speech clarity,” said Rashid. “Sir was very particular about pronunciation and following the meter for the text to make sense.” Rashid, who is now 30, had previously trained in acting at Nissar and Amal Allana’s Dramatic Art and Design Academy in Delhi and also worked with Yatrik. He brings a fine restraint to the mildmannered, slightly apprehensive characters he plays in Akvarious’s Rafta Rafta and Baghdad Wedding. The actor hopes to hone the movement-based work he picked up at DADA. Rashid’s credits include television shows like, several commercials and cameo roles in films like Raavan, My Friend Pinto and the upcoming Luv Shuv Te Chicken Khurana.

On acting “It’s always about how well I can collaborate with my co-actors. You really need to do that in theatre because everybody is on stage together.”

Best known for An idiosyncratic aristocrat in Namak Mirch (2008)

These are good times for Hindi theatre, according to Imran Rasheed: the efforts of groups like Akvarious Productions and Ekjute and initiatives like Writer’s Bloc are producing original, highquality Hindi plays. Be it acting in Akvarious Productions’s Namak Mirch, or acting and directing in his adaptation of Shaukat Thanvi’s story for Bade Miyan Deewane, Rasheed’s versatility, comic timing, and biting wit ensure that he – and his Rangbaaz Theatre – plays a big role in this resurgence. Rasheed, 34, moved to Mumbai nearly a decade ago from Aligarh and joined Nadira Zaheer Babbar’s Ekjute, debuting with a performance in the drama Suman Aur Sana. He formed Rangbaaz Theatre with actor Pawan Uttam in 2003 to rejuvenate the Hindi stage, collaborating with Ekjute for Munshiji ke Gudgudiyaan and Akvarious Productions for Namak Mirch. Rangbaaz Theatre’s first children’s play is based on English author Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book, and will debut at the National Centre for the Performing Arts’s children’s theatre festival. The NCPA is also producting Pa, directed by Rasheed and Uttam this May. Rangbaaz Theatre also plans to open a youth wing to produce and promote playwrights and directors around the age of 25. Not all of Rasheed’s new work will be seen on stage. He has co-written the upcoming Bollywood film, The Pathan, with director Faruk Kabir. It’s all part of a plan, he said. “I want to bring theatre into cinema,” he said, adding that he’s also written a film script for Bade Miyan Deewane. “Unless there’s good theatre, there can’t be good cinema.”

On acting “When actors take the trouble to go the extra mile, that’s when the magic of the stage is captured.”

Best known for The vivacious Gauriya in Swanand Kirkire’s musical Aao Saathi Sapna Dekhe (2007)

There is an infectious energy to Neha Saraf that transfers to audiences, especially when she enacts spirited characters. In real life, Saraf seems a lot like Gauriya: talkative, earnest, amusing and slightly distracted. Saraf was oblivious to the existence of the National School of Drama until a member of her troupe Vivechna in Madhya Pradesh decided not to apply to the institute and passed the form to her. “I filled the form casually, did the interview casually and was not at all like, ‘I have to get into NSD’,” she said. “I was in my own world.” But the versatile Saraf, who is as comfortable with drama (Makrand Deshpande’s Poha Gone Wrong) as with nautanki (The Great Raja Master Drama Company), got through the institute on her first try. A bright star of Hindi theatre, Saraf said she made the most of her time at the academy with stalwarts like Habib Tanvir. “We had no time to think of anything but theatre,” said Saraf. “What more can an actor ask for?” The twenty-something actor recently finished shooting for her first lead role in the film Gaanja Kali, based on Amrita Pritam’s story. She will also be seen in Atul Kumar’s Hindi musical Barvi Raat, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, which will be part of the World Shakespeare Festival in London.

On acting “It is the audience response, the applause that you get instantly in theatre that draws me to acting. It’s the feeling of being connected with the audience that I like.”

Best known for The clown Buozo in Hamlet – The Clown Prince (2008)

Puja Sarup has a playful, largerthan- life personality that bubbles up whether she’s playing a wise magician in Grey Elephants in Denmark, a witch in Ajay Krishnan’s Hair or a saucy clown speaking gibberish with a French accent in Rajat Kapoor’s Hamlet – The Clown Prince. Sarup appeared in Barry John’s television show No Kidding while in school, but nearly didn’t pursue acting. “I never had the balls to audition,” said Sarup, who once stepped out of a queue for auditions for a college play five minutes before they started (the play was to be directed by her then senior, Quasar Thakore Padamsee). In her final year at St Xavier’s College, certain that she didn’t “want to be 70 and regret not trying theatre”, the sociology graduate gritted her teeth through the audition queue for Atul Kumar’s Noises Off. “I had so much fun in the audition and that was the beginning,” said Sarup. She went on to do a Master’s in Theatre Arts from Mumbai University, and has attended workshops including those of puppeteer Anurupa Roy and of the Footsbarn travelling repertory. She is currently at a training course at Helikos in Italy. Her first semester there has already sharpened her desire to create work instead of “just waiting by the phone for an audition call”.” she said. The 29-year-old acted in the film That Girl in Yellow Boots and is creating a piece inspired by Paula Rego’s painting series Dog Woman with theatre director Swar Thounaojam. “I’m going to be one of those crazy [old women] doing theatre at the age of 90,” Sarup promised.

On acting “Theatre is facing your deep shit. It’s really like you are opening up your chest, pulling out your heart and insides and saying this is how messed up you are.”

Best known for A sadistic boss in The Interview (2011), which won a META award

Kashin Shetty, the 29-yearold co-founder of Le Chayim Productions, has a talent for playing tyrants with a passion for unleashing controlled terror. His META-winning turn as the electrocuting employer in The Interview put the audience on edge. Shetty’s first stage role was in Scherezade Kaikobad’s The Trial, a 2003 play that changed his life – “it threw me into theatre and Thespo”. Shetty has good reason to love the youth theatre festival, having won the best supporting actor award at Thespo in 2006 for playing sardonic cop Tupolski in Confessions, which he also directed and adapted. The role made Shetty realise that he’d earned his actor’s stripes. “Most of the time people like me, even when I’m playing a bad guy, but with Tupolski, people generally hate me after the play,” he said. The Jai Hind College graduate in English Literature directed and acted in the well-received Proof at Thespo 2008, served on the selection panel at Thespo 2011, and was spotted there by Akarsh Khurana, who has since cast him in plays such as Afsaneh: Bai se Baiscope Tak and A Special Bond 2. Watching one of Shetty’s splendid performances, it’s hard to believe that he came to the stage in junior college only because he took an acting course at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan to help overcome his shyness.

On acting “The only reason I do theatre acting is the rubbish people see on television. If you can give the audience something real and still entertain – even if they don’t remember your name but remember your character and the play, if you can move them – that’s really great.”

Best known for A docile public relations officer in The President is Coming (2007)

Shivani Tanksale is a household name, having successfully crossed over to advertising films (Max New York Life insurance) and the big screen, with her latest role in the upcoming Talaash. Her theatre career took off when Nadira Zaheer Babbar’s Ekjute singled her out in an intercollegiate competition and invited her to join the troupe. “It definitely improved my Hindi, from reading it, to speaking it, to expressing myself in the language,” said Tanksale, 31, about her five-year stint with Ekjute. It didn’t take long for the dynamic curly-haired actress to find her footing as she worked with directors such as Manav Kaul (Aisa Kehte Hain), Mahabanoo Mody Kotwal (Kissa Yoni Ka) and Naseeruddin Shah (Arms and the Man). Once a prolific stage actor, Tanksale has become “more choosy”, she said. “There was a point in my life that I would say yes to any play that came my way, in any language, any role, just to be part of the production or work with a particular director.” But her priorities have changed ever since she turned to direction and writing along with her actor husband, Sumeet Vyas. The duo has presented Namak Mirch and Shehenshah Ka Azeemo, in which she played a scary witch. They are currently working on a trilingual adaptation of The Jungle Book, which will premiere at Junoon’s Summertime – a project that was more fulfilling than just acting, Tanksale said, “because you get to meddle with other aspects of theatre”.

On acting “They now realise that instead of getting models who look the part but can’t really perform, it is better to have theatre actors who are actually better actors.”

Best known for A shimmying, vivacious lavani performer in S*x, M*rality and Cens*rship. (2010)

Ketaki Thatte performs a Marathi lavani in a Hindi play with an English title: S*x, M*rality and Cens*rship – a hybridity that captures the range of the actor who has been on the stage in various avatars since acting in Paresh Mokashi’s musical Sangeet Debuchya Mulee (2000) right after school. With the tutelage of veterans Vidya Patwardhan in theatre, Shubha Mudgal in music and Sandhya Purecha in dance, Thatte is a multifaceted performer. While she embraced commercial Marathi theatre in 2006’s Dadachi Girlfriend, she was also seen opposite Atul Kulkarni in Samudra (2005), an interpretation of the myth of the churning of the cosmic ocean. Although critics weren’t too impressed by her performance in Samudra, S*x, M*rality and Cens*rship showcased her growth as an actor. The 28-year-old now tours extensively for Sunil Shanbag’s Stories in a Song, a musical collage of stories conceptualised by Shubha Mudgal and Aneesh Pradhan, and plays the lead in the offbeat family drama Katkon Trikon. “I enjoy this variety,” Thatte said, adding that S*x, M*rality and Cens*rship – a dramatisation of court battles fought by theatre professionals in the 1960s and ’70s to protect their right to expression – was the high point of her career. “It was a once-in-alifetime opportunity,” she said. “I had the requisite skill sets to take on the role. It has added a rich dimension to my definition of acting. I could also work with interesting people who have sound worldviews.” Thatte also acts in television serials, and will soon be part of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa as a celebrity actor-singer participant. She sees dance and music shows as valid and healthy extensions of her traditional stage avatar, and will soon be a faculty member in Sandip Soparrkar’s Ballroom Studio. “Opportunities abound and theatre artists should draw from these slots as well,” she said.

On acting “I am totally a director’s actor; I follow my director’s style.”

Best known for A lamp post, a small-town immigrant and an IAS officer in Rage Productions's One on One (2010)

As a flamboyant transsexual (All About My Mother), an aggressive stockbroker (The President is Coming) and more recently a fool in love (By George), Anand Tiwari has already established himself as a versatile actor who deftly pulls off any performance, big or small, in both Hindi and English theatre. Tiwari, who comes from a family of doctors, grew up in Matunga playing bit roles in Marathi dramas staged in the neighbourhood during Ganpati and Navratri festivals, watching plays at Shivaji Mandir in Dadar and attending summer acting workshops at school. Theatre, he said, helped him overcome his natural shyness and improve his English. Tiwari, who is now 28, was actively involved in theatre both at Ruia College and at St Andrew’s College, making his professional stage debut in 2003 as a monkey in the Ashwin Gidvani Productions musical Punch-a-tantra. He followed it up playing a likeable pimp in the Marathi play Dhanda, which was staged at Thespo. With his boy-next-door looks and an earnest, understated approach to acting, Tiwari endears even when he plays flawed characters. “I like to spend a few months rehearsing for a play,” he said. “I really want to give theatre the time it deserves.”

On acting “If I didn’t have theatre, I don’t know what kind of a person I would be.”

Best known for A hyperventilating CEO in Q Theatre Productions’s Project STRIP (2009)

Tariq Vasudeva seems to relish the role of the outrageous player: he outsmarts a jock in Nostalgia Brand Chewing Gum and hustles a job candidate in The Interview. The 27-year-old Delhi-born actor studied theatre and history at Denison University in Ohio and was employed as an actor in Chicago for two years, including as the lead in St Sebastian Players’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, before he returned to Delhi in 2008. He worked with directors Sohaila Kapur and Zuleikha Chaudhary before successfully auditioning for Quasar Thakore Padamsee’s Project STRIP. The actor took on a more sober role as a soulsearching production controller in Nayantara Kotian’s Satellite City at Writer’s Bloc 3, made a foray into Bollywood with a role in Band Baaja Baraat and pepped up quite a few ads. The wackiness seems here to stay. Vasudev, who had great fun dancing in a TVS Wego ad, said he is now “trying to develop a show where I’m doing some form of mad, crazy dancing”.

On acting “It’s the ability to put a lot of energy and passion into performance and be alive on work and entertain people.”

Theatrewallahs we'd like to see more of 

Best known for: A narrator in Hayavadana (2011).

This Mumbaiite wowed us in Arghya Lahiri and Pushan Kripalani’s Hayavadana last December, in which she effortlessly transformed from an amiable narrator to a moody Lady Gaga-esque goddess Kali and an obnoxious talking doll. “The best part is that I’m living new lives with every project I take up,” said Irani, who is currently shooting for the television serial I Luv My India. She plays an NRI married into a traditional Indian family. Irani debuted at the age of 16 with Toni Patel’s The Merchant of Venice. The 33-year-old has a degree in engineering and eight years of training for the Trinity College of London’s Speech and Drama exam. She would often rush through college exams in the afternoon to make it to an evening show. She has acted in plays like Makrand Deshpande’s Karodon Mein Ek and Q Theatre Productions’s Project STRIP. Irani said she isn’t taking up any new theatre projects in order to free up time to “get my rent sorted for the next six months”. She can be seen in Mahabanoo Mody-Kotwal and Kaizaad Kotwal’s Kissa Yoni Ka , and in the upcoming film Heroine.

On acting “I feel like I haven’t completely explored my acting abilities yet. Maybe when that happens I’ll become a director, but until then I’m going to keep acting.”

Best known for A sleazy boss in 1-888-Dial-India (2009).

As the paunchy, chauvinistic top gun in Anuvab Pal’s 1-888-Dial-India, the boxers-clad Kapur stole the show from its opening moment. He had all the best lines as the photographer in the film Delhi Belly. Theatre remains his first love, but while he does “love being onstage, interacting with an audience much more than I love being on screen”, he prefers the director’s chair, he said. The 32-yearold thespian has directed the stage and film versions of Anuvab Pal’s satire The President is Coming. The son of ballroom dancer Salome Roy Kapur, Kapur attended Raell Padamsee’s acting workshops in his early teens, appearing in plays like Family Ties 2 and the television show Just Mohabbat. Kapur’s favourite role was in Rahul da Cunha’s I’m Not Bajirao as “a horrible young Turk who had a little bit of power as the building secretary”. Kapur has another Bollywood film in the offing, and will reprise his stand-up comedy stint with Pal in Delhi this month.

On acting “I enjoy playing horrible people. You need the audience to dislike you and it gives you a lot of liberty to do horrible things and I like that.”

Best known for
 A brusque, large-hearted father in Rafta Rafta (2010)

Akarsh Khurana, the 32-year-old son of actor Akash Khurana, first walked on stage as a six-year-old in Motley’s Waiting for Godot and Sunil Shanbag’s Circus. During his teens, he appeared in Naseeruddin Shah’s 1999 Romance for Ruby. But he prefers the director’s reins and likes to act only “if it can be fairly spontaneous”. That’s a pity because whether he’s playing the patriarch in Rafta Rafta (which he co-directed with Tahira Nath), a harrowed father in Imran Rasheed’s Bade Miyan Deewane, or a shrewd principal in Avneesh Mishra’s Refund, Khurana’s assured performances lift up any production, drawing chuckles from the audience. Apart from running the insanely prolific Akvarious Productions, Khurana’s credits include casting director for Dum Maaro Dum and scriptwriter for Kites. “The high point in my acting career is a 45-second cameo in Blackbird when I get a chance to intimidate my father onstage,” said Khurana.

On acting “I prefer a focussed one-month burst of rehearsal where you completely get into it and open the show.”

Best known for
 A cop in Confessions (2006).

The lanky Siddharth Kumar, co-founder of Le Chayim Productions, is good at playing strange characters. He was the restless Clov in Ends and Beginnings – which won him an award at Thespo in 2005 – a diffident call centre employee demonstrating a pole dance in 1-888-Dial India and the eccentric Professor Calculus in The Adventures of Tintin. Kumar “saw the nature of theatre in Bombay and got excited about doing more” when he was cast for Nadir Khan’s Thespo play The Shadow Box in 2002, and has rarely been out of a production since. His credits include Atul Kumar’s Noises Off, and assisting director Kunaal Roy Kapur on the film The President is Coming. An illustrator and copywriter with a degree in commercial art, Kumar has directed two plays, designed sets and contributed publicity design for Akvarious Productions and Ace Productions. Kumar’s sharp eye for comic tension is currently focussed on playwriting; he won the 2011 META for scripting the office caper The Interview, and wrote Spunk soon after for Writer’s Bloc 3. While his next script will debut at the Summertime children’s festival, his current shows include Akvarious Productions’s A Special Bond 2.

On acting “I like the toil, I like repetition, I like getting to a place where you’re able to [experiment] more as opposed to when you’re reaching for lines or understanding how your co-actors work.”

Best known for
 A dysfunctional teacher in Good Morning Miss Katya (2010).

In the last few years, Delna Mody has written, performed, and made her directorial debut with three intense women-centred scripts, and starred in musical shows like On Broadway. An English Literature graduate from St Xavier’s College, the thirtysomething thespian worked as a scriptwriter at a Mumbai production house to pay her way through a BA in Musical Theatre at Sheridan College, Canada. “I grew up surrounded by music and art,” said Mody, whose brother, Pervez Mody, is a concert pianist. At 15, Mody wrote, directed and acted in a Shakespearean spoof in school. Her soaring soprano voice won her the debut role of Sister Bertha in Hosi Vasunia’s Sound of Music when she was 17 and the lead in My Fair Lady the next year. In Canada, Mody played Shakespearean characters like Queen Gertrude from Hamlet, and on her return to Mumbai, she powered Raell Padamsee’s Sound of Music, and belted a song in the comedy show Cyrusitis. Mody’s favourite part is her debut monologue Good Morning Miss Katya, a captivating portrayal of an eccentric family. It’s still early days for Mody’s Orange Dinghy Theatre Company, which she set up in 2010, but the bright-eyed, dulcet-toned actor is already making her mark.

On acting “It’s a kind of catharsis, you get the chance to do things on stage that you’d never dream of doing in real life, and that’s terribly unhealthy and fun.”

By Saumya Ancheri, Aditya Kundalkar, Suhani Singh, Sumedha Raikar-Mhatre on March 13 2012
Photos by Ameet Mallapur, Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan, Meenal Agarwal, Peter Van Der Merwe

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