Baljeet Randhawa, the new age writer-director and the brains behind Taboo Talks (a series of monologues that talks about shunned characters and unvoiced stories) feels “The importance of content is on an upward swing”, & also shares his excitement as he opens his two new shows this weekend under his co-founded theater group Dreamstage
Q: So we are curious…Mind telling us about how you grew and what drew you towards your passion trail?
BR: I am an engineer graduate from the prestigious NIT University, Bhopal. Post my graduation, I landed up in a job with good paychecks; but dreams are dreams. I always wanted to be a writer. And today I am doing what I am supposed to do! Living my dreams. The feeling of not being at the place where you actually belong brought me here….
So when I moved to Mumbai, I had no idea of what will I do. Engineer’s life is starkly different. Before getting out of college most of us already have pre-placement offers. When I came here, I started applying for jobs through media jobs, and eventually joined an Ad agency as a copywriter to start with. As I haven’t done any course as per their requirements, I showed them my writing samples which were published in four anthologies inclusive of two International ones. However, in the months that followed I realized that’s not the kind of work I want to do, and in the same course of time, I was in discussion with my friend Rehan, to start our theatre group. In Sept 2014, we finally formed Dream Stage.
Q: From an Engineer to a Poet, a Playwright and Director! How did you become interested in a career in stage shows and theatre, a rarity in India?
BR: I don’t think theatre and stage shows are rarity in India; rather it is one thing happening in every corner of India, since ages. Commercialization of quality theatre is what where we lack, but that’s a different story. I wasn’t exposed to good theatre until 2013. Not that good theatre wasn’t happening but I kept myself to books and movies until then. In 2013, post quitting my job; I attended a one week theatre festival in Bhopal. It brought some very famous plays from various corners of India. Some very strong plays. That’s how it started. And, I thought of penning my first play.
Q: Four well received shows of Taboo Talks Season 1, and a special show at Shubhash Ghai`s Institute Whistling Woods..Well, we are excited to know how you felt about it.
BR: It feels good; but at the same time it creates certain kind of restlessness of WHAT NEXT! But after every show, I chill. I have a few drinks and from the next day, I get back on my desk. The show for Whistling Woods was the best show for me, because for the first time we performed for over 400 people. And gauging from the response over there, I can feel they all loved it. That’s the feeling that keeps me going.
Q: After conducting various Dramatic Readings in Mumbai, what inspired you and your theater group to create Taboo Talks – Season 1 and now Season 2?
BR: As a writer, I always wanted to showcase my work to the people. But writing something and then bringing it to an audience are two different stories; two different struggles. When you are not a big shot, all you can do is come with an idea which works because of its good writing and performances; nothing else is required. And thus, Taboo Talks.When I thought of creating Taboo Talks, we had so many story-lines to work upon; so I decided, we will have seasons for this show, through which we can give our audience a new show every few months. This Sunday we are opening the second season of Taboo Talks.
Q: How does your family feel about it? Do they support you to follow your dreams?
BR: My family! They are invaluable gems. I think I am able to pursue my dreams only because I am born into this family. I see pride in their eyes when they know about my work being acclaimed. Coming from a small town, being raised in a middle class family which never ever had any links to this industry, it’s pretty hard to explain how things work here. But they aren’t pushy about things and have faith in me. That’s what matters at the end of the day
Q: Do you feel that Mumbai is more accepting to the theatre and drama culture?
BR: Mumbai is more acceptable to everything, to every form of art. Here we have an audience for every genre, style and story. People accept bold subjects and like to talk about them.
Q: How do you see the scope of theatre in seemingly orthodox provinces like, Gujarat or for that matter in Bhopal, where you grew up?
BR: To be honest, back in Bhopal, during my college or school days, theatre didn’t interest me much. Now, when I go for theatre there, what I see is they aren’t bringing much of contemporary stories, stories relevant to our time. In the times, when digital media is ruling the world, there are people looking for real art – real drama. The scope of theatre is indeed huge, all people need to realize is the need of the time.
Q: What else are you working on currently?
BR: Apart from Taboo Talks 2.0, which opens on 1st November, Dream Stage is opening a new show of monologues called Confessions: The Dark Side on 31st October. Along with workings of Dream Stage, I am associated with a scripting agency called Scriptors as one of their co-founder. With them, I am working on a couple of some projects. Hopefully in the coming days, I will share more about it.
Q: Like you said the scope of theater is huge in Bhopal, what, according to you should be done to promote and encourage the budding writers, directors, like yourself in other parts of the country?
BR: More involvement of corporate bodies into theatre like Jindals are doing through Writers bloc or Aditya Birla group’s Aadyam. It doesn’t matter whether it is in the form of sponsors, organizing festivals, workshops or creating more spaces / platforms for performing arts.But what will matter is the support and involvement.
(For the Uninitiated, Dream Stage has been founded with the objective to revive contemporary storytelling of theatre. Their endeavor is to bring quality theatre to the audience, which is original, fresh and substantial. It also functions as an Art Club, where lovers of art can join, discuss and portray their work, related to writing, music, acting, film making, poetry, etc and eventually explore the shades of expression, knowledge and entertainment. )