Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.― Pablo Picasso
The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance. – Aristotle
These two quotes perfectly defined the third edition of Curated Conversations with the eminent theatre-maker and actor Jyoti Dogra. She believes that non-narrative and non-textual performances last an impression that cannot be surpassed. Her way of telling the story in a very realistic way is what stands out from the crowd. When I say realistic, I mean realistic in approach; storytelling and hard hitting relatable pieces.
It’s been a decade now since she has been directing, devising and performing her theatrical work. For me, she is someone who believes and knows how to change with time, how to adapt to cultures and overcome all the limitations in a very artistic manner. Her way of adapting to the online medium for performance is inspiring and enriching. It opens up doors and windows for various artists around the world. It works as a torch to guide you in the darkest of lanes.
On Nihayati Neeji Baatein
Nihayati Neeji Baatein, a one-of-a-kind online play is directed and performed by Jyoti Dogra. The 23-minute act creates and breaks the fourth wall in all possible ways. It transcends emotions and creates a unique intimate relationship with the audience which one can hardly separate. This act is all about a women named Geeta who is dealing with inter and intrapersonal bonding with herself. She tries to change and adapt with the circumstances but in doing so she ends up in a place where she find herself lonely, unhappy with a mask and moving on with time. But is she letting it go? That is the big question.
During the conversation, Jyoti mentioned, “We all are trying to present ourselves nicely on social media.” Similarly, in the piece, her character Geeta tries to make a video of a make-up tutorial where she finds herself vulnerable and lost at times. She somehow develops a sense of loneliness. She tries to communicate with the audience in the most human and realistic way.
The play leaves us with questions and a heavy heart. Jyoti somehow presents the inner conflicts and the outer norms together in this performance. Nihayati Neeji Baatein is about a person who is so disconnected that she doesn’t know how to connect. That’s why she is a tuition teacher. For me, the play was special because, in it, the audience becomes the co-actor.
Finding the Character
Something had to go wrong for something to go right. So that something else interests the viewer then. — Jyoti Dogra
The conversation was filled with questions for the creator of Nihayati Neeji Baatein. Questions on how she made this, what was the approach like, what kind of challenges did she go through while creating it and other questions related to art.
When she was asked about how she approached the online medium, she said that she needed a context for making it digitally. She was desperately looking for a valuable and worthy context for using online medium. She also mentioned that she stuck to the draft she created in the first week draft because it worked for Geeta as a character. It was also because she was all over the space, not composed or finessed.
Adding to this, Jyoti said that if it was a live theatre show, she would have practiced being frazzled and brought that on stage every time.
When someone asked her about the piece and making theatre and how the audience should be pleased, she said, “ It should be worth it for us. It should mean something to you, something important because people give their whole life to this. The viewers can’t be your focus.” Here, she highlights that artists should focus on their own catharsis and what they want to convey rather then thinking about how they will be perceived by the audience.
Art and Creating Art
Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures. – Henry Ward Beecher
This is the approach that Jyoti encouraged during the conversation. She said it is about the catharsis and the joy of making it, rather than trying to force your art into the society. “At first, you are making it for yourself and it should be worth it,” she says.
“It’s the most important thing to ask yourself: What it is doing to you, where is it taking you, not how it is happening. Nothing is random, it is when you are engaged in something long enough that things will happen to you.”
And most importantly, Jyoti said, “It’s your own work that is paying off, not some miracle.”
When asked about her documentation of the act and process, she replied that she doesn’t document; it’s her body that retains all the work.
She spoke about developing a character, where she said that, “Find the character within you. A version of it within you, and then stretch that into a character you are looking for. Don’t bring it from outside but from within.”
She spoke about social media and everything around how it started and how it’s going. She emphasised on the importance of following your instincts when you are working by yourself on something. You work on it for so long that you completely embody it. So, even if it changes, you are connected to the core idea of your piece . That’s all one is looking for and one should look for, she shared.
Words for young theatre-makers
Towards the end, Jyoti answered a question about the preparation of an actor / artist. In her words, she said “Today, I see people going to the gym, clicking pictures and forcing oneself to read a play. That in itself is considered as an actor’s preparation, which is sad. Instead they should really feel the urge to read a play, work on their voice. It is something you really want to do. It’s shouldn’t be forced. It should drive you and excite you,” she said as the conversation came to a close.