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Of Actors and Their Craft


Neelam Man Singh

THE ACT OF BECOMING: ACTORS TALK
Edited by Amal Allana
Niyogi Books , National School of Drama, New Delhi, 2013, pp. 348, Rs. 3000.00

VOLUME XXXVIII NUMBER 4 April 2014

This is a deeply pleasurable, immersive and impressive collection. It is a compilation about actors, their thoughts, ideas, craft and it captures the milieus in which they have lived and worked. The Act Of Becoming edited by Amal Allana is a collaborative publication by Niyogi Books and The National School of Drama. It provides us with accounts of 22 theatre actors from the 1880s to the present. The story of contemporary Indian theatre has been lovingly constructed by using references to recorded interviews, memoirs, family photographs and oral history. The editor has crafted a thorough and complex book which is, at the same time, extremely readable. It is full of the voices of the actors and their struggles, all of which are humanizing and familiar.   Archiving the performance arts in India has been a fairly neglected activity—this could be due to a variety of reasons—geographical distance, linguistic barriers or even the impermanent nature of theatre. This book comes as a wonderful addition to anyone who is a lover of the theatre and has a curiosity about the art of acting and about theatre past and present. The mind-boggling research, archival ferreting and passion required in a situation where no organized and systematic material is available for any serious documentation is indeed a task fraught with uncertainty and disappointment. It is to the immense credit of Amal Allana that she has produced and edited a book of such insights.   The past has a transforming relationship with the present, which is constantly evident in acting protocols, work methodology and production values that are revealed by the fragments of conversations, articles, jottings and interviews of the actors. In this book, the actors demonstrate an awareness of modernistic tendencies, performing processes, colonial histories and the impact of globalization on theatre productions. Inheritors of both a colonial, postcolonial and nationalist history, the past interacts with the present, and contains within it many layers of experience, production processes and an aesthetic that is both rooted and part of a modern sensibility.   Some fundamental questions have been explored in this wonderfully illustrated book— what shapes an artist? How is their world shaped? How does an artist take plots, narratives, and stories and transform them in his/her own particular way of telling a story? How does the actor enter the sub-text, how is it revealed through the miseenscene? How is the meaning locked in the text ...


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