Kerala Kaumudi Online
Saturday, 20 April 2024 12.05 AM IST

'A journey of self-discovery'; Interview with London-based theatre veteran Manoj Siva


On World Theatre Day we have with us London-based expatriate artist Sri Manoj Siva. The auteur himself, Manoj Siva, has stationed his work mostly in London for the past fifteen years and continues to be a source of inspiration to a large number of expatriate artists living in the English capital. Having proved his mettle in both acting and direction, Manoj is also a terrific tabla artist. Throughout the years, he has graced silver screens a few times, the prominent one being his role in Shyam Prasad's 'English'.

A craze for reading books, his father's guidance, and being struck with the magic of a thriving local theatre scene chiselled Manoj’s love for the stage, that too from a very young age. This early exposure sparked a lifelong love for the art form, prompting him to eagerly participate in school competitions and learn alongside his peers. Through these immersive experiences, he developed a deep appreciation for the powerful impact drama can have on communities. He believes that fostering this passion from childhood has significantly shaped the person he has become. Moreover, these fortuitous encounters with drama during his formative years have become guiding lights for him and others who share a similar artistic flame.

Manoj in his career has penned and staged fifteen plays, that includes the likes of "Swativedam," "Kanti," "Aa Manushan Nee Thanne," "GuruBrahma," and "Sakshi."

Moreover, his journey wasn't just about bringing theatre to society; it was about enriching the lives of children by exposing them to the magic of drama. The enthusiasm for theatre within the UK Malayali community is palpable, and there's a strong drive and ambition to pursue even more initiatives in the future. Manoj feels privileged to have been part of this journey and eagerly anticipates continuing to contribute to it.

Manoj is cocooned by the strength and encouragement of his wife Meera Kamala, whose constant companionship and unwavering support mark a vital part of Manoj's success. Additionally, their son Siddharth too joined his father on stage in several productions.

What does it take to perform drama in the UK, and what challenges did you face?

Performing drama in the UK demands a deep reservoir of love, sincerity, and hard work, particularly because none of us pursued it as a full-time career. Juggling rehearsals with our day jobs was a significant challenge, as our limited free time was often devoted to training sessions.

In my role, I not only wrote and presented plays but also prioritized ensuring everyone involved felt valued and fulfilled. This encompassed the responsibility of spreading joy within the community, which included the association, fellow actors, and the audience. Our shared objective was to deliver performances that left a lasting impression and resonated deeply with our audience members.

How did your journey into drama begin, and who has been instrumental in shaping your path?

My journey into drama wasn't a planned one; rather, it was fueled by a childhood passion that led me to London unexpectedly. After immersing myself in watching and studying numerous plays, I took a leap and started creating my productions. Along the way, I had the fortune of crossing paths with Remy Butrant, the founder of Improvology School, who became a pivotal mentor in the art of improv.

In truth, all the plays I've written and performed thus far are a direct result of the invaluable experience I gained from Remy's guidance. I continue to see myself as a devoted disciple and perpetual student under his mentorship.

What does drama mean to you, and how do you approach the challenges it presents?

To me, drama is a journey filled with challenges that demand dedication and commitment. It's about manifesting the essence of our vision in every presentation. Actors require thorough training, focusing on each scene and moment with precision while maintaining a clear direction for the play.

Although directing can often be a solitary endeavour, its validation lies in the unity among all involved—writers, directors, musicians, lighting designers, and costume artists—each contributing to merging various art forms into one cohesive piece. Every play offers a unique experience, and the joy derived from it stems from the passion within.

Creating drama from scratch, presenting it to an audience, and witnessing their appreciation is truly gratifying. In my pursuit, I strive to craft plays that are both delightful and surprising, enriching the theatrical landscape.

What challenges do you face in bringing a play to the stage, and how do you navigate them?

Bringing a play to the stage involves navigating various challenges, primarily within the group of artists involved in its production. Coordinating schedules and securing rehearsal space can be particularly daunting, as it often requires disrupting our usual way of life. Not every organization is equipped to handle these logistical hurdles, adding to the complexity.

Moreover, the work is typically undertaken without immediate rewards, adding to the sense of struggle. Despite these challenges, the process is akin to a battle from start to finish. However, the ultimate truth that emerges from its triumph is often attributed to the grace of God, sustaining us through the journey.

How do you balance your roles as both a director and an actor in a production?

Discovering the actor within me through the lens of a director has been a journey of self-discovery. I approach my work with a forthright writing style, allowing rehearsals to serve as a platform for other characters and actors to find their intended roles and unlock their potential. Whether they are experienced or novices, I foster an environment of freedom, encouraging them to align with the intended vision.

However, directing while also acting in the production presents its own set of challenges and opportunities. It demands constant vigilance and concentration, as I must juggle the responsibility of presenting my acting scenes while overseeing the entire production.

With the curtain's rise, my focus narrows entirely to the performance forcing the director's influence to vanish.

The interview was prepared by Biju Karakkonam.

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