Since graduating as an actor from the National School of Drama (NSD), Delhi, Rasika’s ambition has only been to consistently better herself. She firmly believes that art can speak volumes if the subject interests public and thus, she went on to give birth to Being Association, a theatre group which mainly does protest theatre.
Interviewing her at DSM on the Saturday of 11th November was her long-time colleague Dr. Sumedh. He is a doctor who specialises in research on female foeticide and women’s safety. He also writes plays as a hobby.
The conversation started with Rasika and Dr. Sumedh talking about what they do and how they got affiliated to theatre. Rasika joked about starting to like theatre when she was three-years-old. She said, “I grew up in Pune. As a member of a middle-class Marathi family, theatre was an important aspect of entertainment while growing up. When I was in college, I participated in a lot of theatre festivals and competitions. Purushottam Karandak was supposed to be the most reputed inter-college competition. That is how it all began.”
When Dr Sumedh asked how her experience at NSD helped her grow as a thespian, Rasika answered, “I did not realise the importance of NSD because it all happened very easily for me. I got admission when I applied for the first time, so I was not aware of how difficult or competitive it is. When the course started, the professors kept throwing at us references to various plays and characters written throughout history. To understand what was being taught, I needed to be well-read. In the first six months of my time there, I read about 150 plays. Along with that, the exposure to a whole variety of folk and western theatre, practices and understanding the differences in all of these styles made me a whole lot better.”
In the first six months of my time there, I read about 150 plays.
Dr. Sumedh then requested Rasika to speak a bit about her theatre group ‘Being Association’. Rasika was quite excited to talk about it. “I was getting to do a lot of different characters at the time when I started acting, but I still felt that somewhere I wasn’t getting to say what I wanted to say. Theatre always tells you when you need to say something. I realised that forming theatre group would form my opinions and perception of the world.”
Being Association’s first play was Museum of Species. Dr Sumedh asked Rasika what propelled her to produce that? Rasika said, “Around the same time when I was establishing a separate theatre group, Nirbhaya rape incident took place in Delhi. That enraged me. At that time and even till date, violence, harassment and acts of atrocities against women in India were happening. I needed to use my skills to send out a strong message and play my part in putting an end to violence against women.”
She continued telling the audience that she gathered a bunch of her female friends who are involved in various art forms. “I had identified a couple of older texts along with the story of Draupadi, and wanted to create something around monologues from these characters. It started with a conversation about how we had all had heard of crimes against women around us. The conversation then steered to self-experiences. It was intense. You (Dr Sumedh) used to come to observe and help us write the play, and have been experiencing women’s anger and rage while recounting those incidents. But we got past that quickly and the play started taking shape. It eventually became a collection of 12 monologues starting from Draupadi to a regular woman from today’s times and their struggles. ”
Rasika also spoke about using theatre as a medium for societal change. She believes that as a responsible citizen and as someone who has been gifted a skill, she needs to continuously assess what’s wrong in the society and start conversations around it. She also added that from centuries theatre has been a medium to protest, make people aware, and discuss the social issues. “That is why we at Being Association have decided that we will use other sources of income, but the theatre group will strictly remain together to speak up against the wrong,” Rasika concluded.
We will upload the uncut video of Rasika Agashe’s interview here!
All the Conversations@theDSM are recorded and uploaded to our YouTube channel, The Drama School Mumbai. Watch the older Conversations@theDSM here: https://bit.ly/2AOE8P4