Once upon a tiger in Hyderabad, there was a….

One of the most exciting aspects of becoming an actor is the travelling involved with the job. A lot of people consider becoming actors because they see themselves flying to different locations (Switzerland, New Zealand, even Kashmir for that matter), and visiting places that they wouldn’t have otherwise! Imagine how great a feeling it is when you know that you are going to be seeing the most beautiful places in the world and that would be a part of your job!! Your traveling, accommodation, food will all be paid for! All you need to do is – just turn up! 😀

In my case, I am yet to reach a stage in my career where I will be travelling a lot and to such far-off places. However, thanks to my dearest theatre mentor Jaimini Pathak, I have had the opportunity to travel to a couple of places with our play ‘Once upon a…tiger’. Last year, it was Jaipur. And this time, it was the wonderful city of pearls, lakes, IT companies, delicious biryanis, and of course the Charminar – Hyderabad!

The trip took off on the 23rd of November, 2010 at the CST station where all the girls arrived with their luggage including props and sets for the play. It was a shame that the girls had to take charge of all the ‘Tiger’ props and sets since all the guys (including me) were coming from places and events too far-off. Thank you Shweta, Nidhi, Trupti (or is it Tripti ?!?), and Jaspreet for this kind help! I am sure Jaimini was as proud of you girls as mad he was at us!! 😛

The train journey to Hyderabad was fun as the people travelling included a mix of different personalities with different colours – the energetic and funny (almost always :P) Tripti, the cute and bubbly Shweta, the crazy (sometimes abusive) duo – Deepak and Nitin, the sweet and sober Jaspreet, the sandwich-man Ashu, the articulate and fun-loving Nidhi, and the ‘check-out-my-laptop-ke-saath-free-mila-hua-camera’ Dilip!! It was from here that Shweta and Nidhi became “The Inseparables”! Due to a problem with one of the seats, I moved a couple of compartments away to another seat where I slept off at around 2.30 am. Shweta and Nidhi slept off on one berth but not before chatting away to glory right until the wee hours of the morning! When we reached Nampally in Hyderabad at 12.30ish, we were all hungry, sleepy, but super excited!! You know how it feels when you finally reach where you are headed for, right?! ? 🙂  It was a new city and we wanted to explore as much as possible in the little time we had! So to start with, we made plans to go to the Golconda fort after freshening up at the hotel. Little did we know that destiny had something else in store for us!!

A couple of girls from the theatre festival picked us up from the station in two huge Sumos. Well… Sumos are generally huge so there was no need to mention that! 😦 Anyway, so we went to the hotel first which was a slight twist in the tale. We had assumed that we will first be going to the performance venue, dropping off the props there, then to the hotel, freshening up and pushing off for Golconda. However, Anand communicated to us that the actual plan was – we go to the hotel, have lunch and freshen up, then go to the venue with the props and sets, and then REHEARSE OVER THERE FOR THE REST OF THE EVENING as preparation for the shows next day! Boooooommmmmmm!! So there was no question of going anywhere else that day and our Golconda plan was just washed away 😦  However, looking at the positives – we reached the hotel to reunite with our long lost teammates – Vijay babu, Vishwas, Chetan ‘star of the show’ Chand, and of course Jaimini and Anand!! We ate some fantastic food (at least I thought so), got some great rooms to stay in, and we were all ready by 4 to get started with rehearsals!

Off we went to the performance venue where Jaimini had a 2-hour monologue awaiting him (Mahadevbahi at 6 p.m)! He decided to spend some time with the Tiger cast before he goes on stage. We began rehearsing and while we were taking our lines, there was a last-minute change! After some discussion, it was decided that I will be playing Minister saab while Anoop will be playing Guard Chacha (the original plan was to do it the other way round). So while Jaimini was performing on stage from 6 to 8, Anoop and me were busy memorizing our lines so that we didn’t look like fools in the run-through that was to be done after the Mahadevbhai show! Personally, I was very excited to be playing Minister because it is my favourite part in this play. I had seen Vishal, Amol, and even Jaimini playing Minister and I have the greatest regard for all of them as actors. Vishal is super-versatile and super-consistent; Amol is my favourite, most-admired stage actor, someone I have always looked up to! And Jaimini is, well, JAIMINI PATHAK!! So playing a role that I’ve seen all three of them play was extremely challenging as well as exciting! Also, as compared to Guard Chacha which is a quiet yet strong, fairly passive character, Minister is full of life and energy, over-the-top and fun to explore!! So I gave it all to memorize the lines and follow the simple instructions that Jaimini gave me for the part. Anoop did exactly the same with Guard Chacha. For those who do not know, Anoop is the curly-haired, cute-smile guy who appears in quite a few ads. My favourite is the SBI Life insurance ad where he sings in the rain to his wife – “Hum jab hongey 60 saal ke aur tu hogi 55 ki….” 😀 Anyway, so the day ended with a thorough line-run on stage and we returning to the hotel, eating some delicious food (no biryani yet 😦 ) and everyone off to sleep after a tiring day!

The next day was the day we were there for. Two shows of Once upon a tiger at the Vaishali Bisht Children’s theatre festival! We were all charged up and ready to hit the stage. The team met in the Men’s green room for a pre-show pep-talk by the director. Jaimini decided that we’ll have this talk inside the loo. Strange, but fun! So, off we went! We listened to every word Jaimini said very carefully as we had to implement it on stage. Simple, sweet words of wisdom with the odd, sad joke every once in a while!! That’s Jaimini for you! J And then…And then…And then…. Rooooaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!! We had a great show and we were all very happy that we could live up to what was expected. After all, there were 2000-odd kids in the audience! Can you imagine?? 2000 little monsters watching a play with actors who in their personal lives are as kiddish, mischievous, funny, monstrous as them!! A huge challenge but extremely satisfying once through J We returned to the hotel for food and some rest and came back to the venue in the evening for the next show. This one was easier with a smaller crowd. However, quite strangely, we have always performed better before huge, badly-behaved crowds as compared to small, well-mannered audiences! Something to think about! May be we were all feeling Jaimini-sick as he had left for Mumbai a couple of hours before this show! 😛 Jaimini had shows of Dirty talk in the evening in Mumbai for which he couldn’t be with us for the evening show. Great moment for Working title though!! Shows happening at different cities in the country at the same time and the director struggling to be everywhere!! How fantastic is that!!

So the shows were done with and it was party time!!! We went back to the hotel where the lovely Vaishali, Priyanka and Dipti had arranged for a party for the cast and crew of Working title!! This is something Jaimini shouldn’t have missed but unfortunately he did! It was here that Chetan Chand found his stardom and fan following! Again, for those who do not know –  Vijay babu, Chetan, Vishwas, and Deepak are pretty much the backbone of the shows that we do. They take care of the sets, lights, sound and everything else that actors need to perform well and put up a good show! We are because they are!! And this was the first time I was seeing all of them in such a party-mood! Chetan went all-out with his Sunny Deol dance, acts of seducing people on the hot seat (they made one up and put everyone on it turn-by-turn…thank God I was spared!), imitating everyone from Jaimini to Anand to Nitin to even Priyanka and Vaishali!!

There was booze and food (BIRYANI….FINALLY!!!) and music and dance… and after Chetan stopped his vulgar yet funny acts, there was a whole lot of singing! Shweta, Nidhi, Vijay babu, Deepak, Anoop and yours truly gathered together in the party hall and started singing some lovely old Hindi songs. We sang everything from slow, romantic numbers to peppy, lively tracks!! It was a pleasant surprise when Anand joined in and showed us what singing really is!! We felt like we invited a quiet spectator to join us and he is now kicking our ass!!! He sang some songs which we had no idea even existed!! I must also mention that Anand was brilliant as Daadhi Kaka in what was his first show for Tiger. It is one of the most difficult roles of the play and I thought he played it extremely well. That combined with all the production and organizing work that he had to do! He made sure everything was in place for the cast and crew and he also arranged for everyone’s safe and timely return to Mumbai which was a tricky task to deal with!! Hats off to this wonderful actor, smart organizer and kick-ass singer 😀

So when all this was over, my voice (like Tripti’s) was screwed!! I could hardly speak. This is what happens to people for whom singing with enthusiasm is the same as shouting out loud!! 😀

We all went back to sleep only to wake up late next morning and to try figuring out how we’ll all get back to Mumbai. Finally, it turned out that Shweta, Nidhi and me will take a 6 O’clock bus back to Mumbai since we all had appointments the next afternoon. The others were to leave later that evening. I don’t know how their trip back was but my bus trip went off pretty well. We ate idli, dosa, roti, chicken, etc. on the way. We even got to watch half of Chup Chupke (Shahid-Kareena) and half of No entry (Salman-Anil-Bipasha) in the bus. I slept off before No entry ended and woke up in the middle of the night to hear two chirpy, chit-chatty voices while the rest of the bus was fast asleep. No points for guessing who they were! 😛  I joined for a while and we spoke about movies, plays, and some other things I can’t recollect. The bus dropped me at Sanpada (where my parents live) at 7.30 in the morning and while I was walking back home, although I was tired, and sleepy, and a bit hungry…. I was already thinking about the next time I will be traveling again for an acting assignment!!

Be good people…

Lots of love..

Some more pictures of the trip:

http://www.facebook.com/#!/album.php?aid=100251&id=1314370817

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