Recounting my one and only experience with dramatics and acting long ago in school. “Acting and drama” have been my weakest points and it’s rather embarrassing to share this experience, but am being brave enough to do so….
It was quite well known to almost everyone in school that I was no good whatsoever in acting as well as singing, and therefore no one ever bothered to consider me for any role that required either of these two skills. I had been tested and retested several times in the lower classes before this conclusion had been reached – especially in drama. Used to freeze on stage, forget all my lines and give the worst possible performance with the worst possible expressions 🙁 But I never really worried much about this shortcoming because my hands were always full with sports and games – which were my forte.
However, when I was in the seventh standard, we got a new Hindi teacher – Mrs Gupta, and she was quite unaware of my “acting skills”. For some reason she took a liking to me and I became her pet. She would always call upon me for everything – to clean the blackboard, to carry her notebooks, to answer questions, for just about anything and everything – including acting 🙁
She was a very good writer and had written the Hindi play for the School Annual Day herself, and to everyone’s surprise, she chose me as the heroine! I reluctantly accepted the honor because she didn’t give me any opportunity to decline it. However after a few rehearsals, she seemed to have realized her mistake, because she kept steadily cutting down my portion and lines. It would have been so much better if she’d dropped me altogether, but she was determined to retain me. Finally, I was left with just a “two word dialogue” that I still remember even today – “Suniye toh” (Please listen to me).
The dialogue was easy enough, but the acting was still a major problem. I was supposed to be the wife of a Mr. Sharma, and had to pat my husband on the shoulder and deliver the dialogue. The problem was that the boy who was acting as my husband was a senior, and not a classmate. I had never encountered or spoken to him before and he was quite a stranger. And to make it worse, the entire drama group had started to tease us as “Mr. and Mrs. Sharma” and crack jokes on us.
This teasing really angered and irritated me and I refused to pat him or even stand close to him. This stance angered Mrs. Gupta as well and led her to give us all a lecture on how we should be considering each other as “brothers and sisters” and not be so narrow-minded. After her lecture and cajoling, I finally agreed to a “two finger tap-tapping” on the shoulder.
Also shockingly, the regular teasing seemed to have had an opposite effect on the senior – Akash, because instead of getting irritated, he seemed to like it and ended up having a crush on me that lasted for a few months. This outcome was quite a nightmare, especially because he didn’t seem to believe in romance or courtship or any that sort of thing, and jumped straight to marriage!! 🙁 🙁
I would receive regular messages from his female friends or classmates regarding his intentions to marry me and this totally scared me out of my wits (after all, I was only thirteen years old). A few girls from business families used to regularly drop out of our school after finishing 8th Std, because “8th Std. pass” was considered qualification enough for their marriage. I was only one year away from 8th and therefore really worried. In addition, Akash was unlike any of my male friends or classmates, he was quite rowdy and violent.
One day I was shocked to hear that he had beaten up Ganesh – one of my classmates, because he had seen me chatting with him and thought that the chat was “too long”!! This incident really angered me and I strengthened my resolve to have nothing to do with him.
But the play was still on, and I was forced to “tap tap” on his shoulder and say “Suniye toh” on stage, while I maintained a cold silence and distance otherwise. Luckily the Annual Day was getting closer and this ordeal would soon come to an end. A few days before the final, Mrs. Gupta started talking about costumes and make-up as well. She paid more attention to the costumes of the more important characters in the play, and quite ignored me. Those days, make-up was a rare commodity since very few teachers or mothers used it. Therefore, special arrangements were made for the two more important girls in the play, while the others were to remain without it. But I got all excited and asked Mrs. Gupta if I could be “made-up” as well? I wanted to make sure that I’d be noticed for the five seconds when I’d deliver my two word dialogue 🙂 🙂
One of the senior girls who was involved in the play, acknowledged my enthusiasm and told me that she would bring her mother’s cosmetics on that day, and help me out. She told me that she was a “pro” at it since she’d been observing her mom for many years. This made me quite excited and elated, and I actually became quite enthusiastic about the play, despite the other hardships.
The Annual Day arrived and there was a lot of excitement regarding the various performances that were lined up, my family and many other parents would be among the audience. By then, I’d become quite adept with my two words – “Suniye toh” and had lost all my stage fright. I was even okay with the “shoulder tapping” because it would be the last time that I’d be required to do it, and was eagerly looking forward to “The End”.
The senior girl who promised to do my make-up arrived as promised, with a big box full of very interesting and intriguing bottles and got working on me. I was really excited and happy, and couldn’t wait to see myself after she’d finished. I was also wearing a silk sari and had braided my hair into a single plait instead of the usual two, to look older. When she was finally done, I rushed into the washroom to check the results.
When I looked at myself in the mirror, I immediately knew that something was amiss. I’d almost failed to recognize myself and did look much older, very striking, and somewhat strange. However, I wasn’t well versed enough in the art of make-up to be able to pinpoint the exact errors. It was also too late to redo it. So, I glumly thanked the senior girl and put on a brave face for the rest of the evening.
It really did take a lot of courage to survive that entire evening, because I had to constantly hear many comments. People were noticing me a lot, though not for the reasons I wanted them to. They kept saying “Hey, you generally look so much better without make-up”, or “Appu, make-up doesn’t really suit you”, and “What the hell have you done to your eyes (or lips)?!” The more diplomatic and sympathetic ones just remarked “You look different today”.
These comments and remarks kind of destroyed my new found confidence in dialogue delivery, and I’m not really sure what happened for those final five seconds on stage. Not sure if I spoke loud enough and delivered both words or just one word, and whether I “tap tapped on the shoulder”, or forgot that move. The only thing I remember is that the month long ordeal was finally over and that I could relax, without any more “drama” from the next day.
I’ll always remember my performance and experience in the Hindi play as one of my biggest embarrassments in school. However, I was wise enough to learn from it and never ventured into “theater” or “acting” ever again 🙂 🙂