After five-year hiatus, Ratan Thakore Grant’s acting studio MISF!T makes comeback to Bengaluru
We sat down for a conversation with the directors Venkatesan Vaidhyanathan and Vishal Nayer...
Connectologues V3.0 – The Phoenix. The moment we came across the name of the latest production of MISF!T (My Interest Stays Firmly in Theatre) — Ratan Thakore Grant’s acting studio — it caught our curiosity. We sat down for a conversation with the directors Venkatesan Vaidhyanathan and Vishal Nayer, who distilled down the word Connectologues for us to begin the conversation.
“Connectologues is a combination of many theatre genres. It has comedy, tragedy, drama, thrill and more. It uses elements of epic theatre, mime, nonlinear storytelling, pantomime and physical theatre — all combined together along with the MISF!T aesthetic,” begins Venkatesan. Not just that. Elements of film grammar — that try to push the boundaries of a regular three-dimensional theatrical experience — are also present in the narrative. “It’s a tasty buffet on stage,” Venkatesan further notes.
To that effect, the production does not have a singular storyline. It consists of the stories of multiple characters in multiple situations that are deeply personal, relatable, thought-provoking yet entertaining. The aim is to keep the audience constantly on their feet. However, what connects all these stories is the theme of hope and life, represented by the women in these characters’ lives who have a lot of influence on them.
And all these stories have been written by the actors who are performing in those stories, a tradition that has been followed by MISF!T piously. “Each actor has written their own stories based on the things they have witnessed, heard or experienced in real life,” says Vishal. When asked if any of the stories were adapted from any fictional work, Vishal blurs the lines for us. He says, “All the stories are inspired by real life. In fact, we believe that the things that you hear and see in our daily lives are actually fictional stories rooted in reality!”
There are eight actors in this play and each one of them is a student of MISF!T with varying levels of experience on stage. Some have years of experience and some have months. Take Vishwapriya Iyer for example. The actress — who plays a prodigal daughter visiting her estranged family — began her journey in theatre with MISF!T eight years ago and is making a return to the world of theatre after a hiatus of five years. Or Vishnu Devadas, an aspiring actor who will be making his professional stage debut with this play.
And the actors do even more. “There are no stage props in the play because this is like a memory play but the actors have personal props that help them narrate their individual stories. Each actor gets their individual light and colour scheme,” says Venkatesan. To maintain the same spontaneity in the soundscape, relevant contemporary music has been used in the production.
All these make us curious — how long did it take for them to put together the production? Vishal explains, “The last production in July took us roughly about 250 hours over 2 months. For this show, we added another 100 hours over 21 days.” He then adds, “MISF!T as a group has always done original plays, which have a unique grammar and aesthetic. These are devised over months and the stories evolve over time. Our principle has always been 'quality over quantity', and we wait for the right story that does strike a chord.”
But it all boils down to one thing – what is the message they want the audience to leave with at the end of the play? Venkatesan says, “Life is not just about what we got – it’s also about what we give and make out of it. We want the audience to go back, celebrating life.”
The last professional production of MISFI!T was in 2018. Due to the pandemic and the subsequent demise of founder Ratan Thakore, it has taken them a while to come back. After a five-year hiatus, Connectologues V3.0 is the first step in that direction.
Vishal concluded the conversation on an optimistic note. “We have a few more original plays and ideas that are exciting us and brewing in our kitchen. We can’t wait to tell those stories!” he says, signing off for the day.
INR 200. On September 23, 7.30 pm. At Alliance Française de Bangalore, Vasanth Nagar.