One of the most significant events on the second day of Safarnama was the performance by Shilpi Marwaha’s theatre group Sukhmanch Theatre.
Marwaha is one of the most well known names in Delhi Theatre Circuit having worked as a theatre artist and activist for the past decade. She gained prominence through her activism through street theatre during the “anti corruption movement” in Delhi and the protests held at Rastrapati Bhawan where she took the forefront in raising her voice against the horrific 2012 Delhi Gang Rape case also known as “Nirbhaya” or “Damini” case. She has also worked in mainstream cinema like in Raanjhanaa(as Rashmi).
Marwaha started her career as a theatre actor in Delhi with Asmita Theatre Group. She got trained under theatre director Arvind Gaur. She worked with Asmita Theatre for 12 years becoming a core member of it, coordinating workshops on theatre and direction. In the year 2016, Shilpi faced sexual harassment at her workplace due to which, though at the height of her career, she walked out from the group and founded her own theatre group by the name Sukhmanch Theatre in the year 2016.
Here is a short interview of her that she gave to the team of The Jamia Review on the day of her team’s performance in Safarnama, the Annual Fest of Department of Tourism and Heritage Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, dated 23.03.2018.
What actually took you to the doors of theatre???
Disturbances that I experienced in the society and my want to end those disturbances, desire to mend as well as change certain things in society.
What kind of people according to you could actually bring a change in the society ?
According to me only two category of people in the society have actually the capability to bring a change in the society and they are Neta and Abhineta. These days Neta and Abhineta are frequently changing their roles but if they carry their work properly we could actually make the society move towards better.
How long have you been doing theatre ?
It has been thirteen years of me doing theatre. Firstly I joined NSS with the fervor of doing something for the society and then I joined theatre.
What are your views on Theatre ?
Theatre should not be seen just as a medium for entertainment. Theatre is, infact, one of the most powerful medium to convey your message, to give voice to the unheard, to highlight the issues in dark and to bring a revolution in the society. In addition theatre also carries a therapeutic power within itself. It heals the mind and body of people involved in it in some or the other way. It should not be seen as a hobby but as a profession. Just like the profession of a doctor is to heal the patient’s wound, the profession of a lawyer is to fight the case lawfully, the profession of a theatre artist, particularly an actor, is not just to make people laugh but also to raise a question in their minds related to the things existing in society, to compel them to think, to ignite a revolutionary spirit in them, to inspire them for a change towards the betterment of society. Stage is the mirror of society. People do ask me why I do theatre and i reply them that I would continue to do theatre and acting till all the disturbances in the society come to an end.
Do you have any message for upcoming theatre societies and actors ?
For an actor patience is a must. One doesn’t become an actor overnight. It’s a gradual, continuous process. People should not expect to become Sharukh Khan in just 2-3 months. As for theatre societies, they should stay away from groupism and institutionalization. They should function independently for it is only then that they are able to convey their message freely to the audience in an unbiased manner.
How do you balance your time between your work , theatre and family ?
One needs to learn how to balance time between various things in life, especially when all of them are equally important to a person. One learns this gradually. On my part I’ve been fortunate enough to have very supporting parents, though they are not today, especially my father. Even the name of my theatre group is derived from the first name of my mother Sukh****. As for family, my theatre is my family. I’m not married yet and the entire cast and crew of Sukhmanch theatre that you see today is my real family. Whenever I am in problem or not well, they are always there to take care of me and so am I.
How was your experience of performing in Jamia ?
“It is my privilege to perform here in Jamia among such young people. With God’s grace we have given about 150 performances including Stage and Street at different places in the last one year of the formation of Sukhmanch. We aim to increase it even more in the coming time.”
She further added, “I would love to come to Jamia again and the next time she comes she would like to have some chai too”(says smilingly).
On being given an offer for a Biryani lunch by one of our reporters, Marwaha said smilingly,”I would love to have Biryani if it is vegetarian. It is not that i have an objection with non-vegetarian food. I’ve been a non-vegetarian in my past and have,infact, tasted all from chicken to beef but after the Nithari Kand, it was my voluntary decision to quit it. I firmly believe that all animals carry equal life. If you want to ban animal slaughter, ban it for all the animals and don’t debate on one. Also, do not take a human being’s life for an animal. Violence and aggression is not the solution to our problems”.
Interviewed by Shah Ali Faisal and Shruty.
Report by Gaurav Prateek
Picture credit : Shah Ali Faisal