Theatre director Dev Fauzdar is on a mission to conduct more than 300 workshops based on Natya Shastra
Dev’s theatre group Natyakiran Manch is known to organise regular acting workshops which are based on Bharat Muni’s Natya Shastra
If you have ever been to Mumbai’s Aram Nagar in Versova, you would know it’s a hub of audition houses filled with hundreds of struggling actors. Spread over 40 acres, this colony – an erstwhile post-partition refugee camp – is now home to 30 casting agency offices, two dozen production houses, several celebrity management companies, studios, and rehearsal halls. Amidst all this, there is also a small studio theatre space – MAA studio of Mumbai where a 39-year-old theatre director Dev Fauzdar is rehearsing day and night with his more than 20 students. You find his students lying in mud or embracing trees around or sometimes just wandering in the open space. When we headed out after a coffee in a nearby café, it caught our attention. Curious to know more, we met Dev at his experimental theatre space which had an imbibing vibe of a performing space with more than 200 books gracing the walls and musical instruments for you to hone your childhood talent. We learn that the space has been built with the idea of connecting with like-minded people through regular acting workshops which are based on ancient sage Bharat Muni’s Natya Shastra. We caught up with Dev after a workshop at his studio to talk about his rehearsal process and his idea of theatre.
In a time when theatre training in India is so focused on Konstantin Stanislavsky’s Method acting, Jerzy Grotowski’s physical theatre, and Bertolt Brecht’s alienation theories, Dev has chosen a training method based on Indian Natya Shastra and it brings in huge participation. We learn that eminent film and theatre personalities like Rajpal Yadav, Peeyush Mishra, Alok Chatterjee, Prasanna Heggodu, Niranjan Goswami, and Robin Das among many others are frequently invited to conduct special classes on acting, music, and dance.
“We talk a lot about western acting methods but it’s all mentioned in Indian Natya Shastra and there is a lot to learn from it. I chose to work on those methods and so far students have appreciated it,” says Dev, who we caught up with much persuasion since he has been travelling to different places for the workshop under the concept of ‘Nomadic Theatre’.
Talking about the concept of Nomadic Theatre, Dev tells us that he intends to train students from across the country. “This will help me set up my theatre branch in every city so we can organise more performances and can help each other,” he explains. For this, Dev and his friend Bela Barot travel on their Royal Enfield bikes to different states and conduct workshops in at least six cities in that particular state. Dev intends to complete this drive in 300 phases so that he can have at least 40,000 students across the country pursuing theatre. “The idea came during the pandemic when many people needed financial support so we started collecting funds from our friends and students. We were able to help some of our friends in need. I thought if I conduct workshops in different cities I will have more people to support others in crisis. We all would be enough to help our team members,” says the theatre director, who, so far, has conducted workshops in more than 20 cities in six states including Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, and Himachal Pradesh. He has about 150 students successfully running the franchise of MAA Theatre in many cities. Not just that, but many of Dev’s students are successfully working in films and web series.
In the three-day workshop, Dev teaches the importance of understanding the self, observation, self-discipline, and improvisation. “I try and connect the candidates with nature so that they become familiar with things around them. Before becoming an actor they need to be a good human being. We work a lot on improvisation and speech,” insists the director, who started his theatre journey with Gangs of Wasseypur actor Peeyush Mishra’s play Gagan Damama Bajyo. The play narrates the story of freedom fighters and revolutionary Shaheed Bhagat Singh with a mention of Chandra Shekhar Azad, Sukhdev and Rajguru. This play inspired Dev to write one himself on the life of Chandra Shekhar Azad – Andaaz E Azaad.
The play has been staged in various cities by different theatre groups and Dev with his team recently performed a show in Lucknow. “I am a revolutionary person by nature and my father used to tell me a lot about our freedom fighters and how one should think about the nation first. This idea has been imbibed in me since my childhood and then Gagan Damama… inspired me a lot because we don’t talk much about Chandra Shekhar Azad,” he explains. Dev has also written plays like Khidki Ke Us Paar and Humara Satya with several performances in Mumbai. We also learn that Dev organises a Seven-day theatre festival, Mumbai Rang Mahotsav in Mumbai with more than 18 performances from across the country every year.