Theater as therapy

Theatre artist Sayan Sarkar practiced every day during the testing times of the pandemic, honing his talent. Acting transformed him and he is ready to enthrall the world with his talent

The long spell of the pandemic pauperised many performing artists. Theatre artists too had to bear the brunt, particularly those who had just graduated from the National School of Drama (NSD) with their hearts full of dreams. There were some, however, who used this time to hone their talent, employed technology to teach and hold seminars carving their path ahead. Sayan Sarkar, 28, did all that and went a step further, wants to find a way to use theatre as a therapy for people suffering from mental illnesses, who are agonised about their life and their situation in life vis-a-vis the rest of the world. For Sayan, this phase has been a prolonged date with himself.  

Sayan has just returned from Mumbai and is in his hometown Kolkata, loves Delhi, and visits often given the pandemic restrictions. An NSD-Delhi prodigy, Sayan is prolific on stage, he is one of the rare actors, who is quick to imbibe the soul of the character they play, and in the process look very different. And each character is portrayed so distinctively that it’s hard to believe it is the same actor. Sayan adorns the character he plays like people change clothes. 

Then the pertinent question is: who are you? Are you the characters you play or there’s an integral you that seems diffused, or is it that you employ theatrics to conceal your real self (we all do in some measure)?  Sayan ponders for a bit and comes up with this response. “I’m what I do in life. Things that I do for the love of it, is who I’m.” 

 

That makes him an actor in the true sense of the word for he spends hours practicing each day. A keen observer of people, he picks on their quintessential gestures and movements, and then impersonates them in private, almost relieving them in substantial measure as if he stole a part of their soul. And he learns something new every day playing out a character in various ways. 

Sayan looks so different in each picture it’s difficult to fathom his real self, here he can be seen as a performer

“I think theatre can be used as a therapy to treat depression,” he says, as acting is a way to vent out one’s own pent-up emotions and help put life in perspective, which has a bearing on how one feels about their own life. Art has the power to pull people out of the cesspool of emotional turmoil. Theatre has an edge. “You are the artist and the venue of art, as well–can express things that you can’t otherwise, do things that you thought weren’t possible.”  Sayan has confronted darkness and theatre came to his rescue when he was 22 years old. “It helped me. I became somebody else. New things happened. Doors opened.”

Sayan’s practice sessions are dramatic, bodily movements resplendent–rapid arm windmill, a palm splayed out over the chest, shaky hands falling like rain, finger-snapping, the pelvic thrust, hand-on-hip…. 

“I have come to understand that things that you’re inclined naturally to, define you,” he says. He never gets bored of acting. And in the process of playing characters he discovers himself, bit by bit, life itself is a story in progress, and nothing will remain the same, neither you nor I. “To find something new and practice, this process helps me understand life in its various facets,” he puts it succinctly, “portraying a certain character also sheds light on your own self, a path to discovery.” 

Sayan is fairly versatile, a self-taught musician plays tabla and mouth organ, and can dance with finesse. While he was honing his talent, during the last few months, he held online seminars, a ten-day-long workshop where he dealt with acting aspects of, predictably so, body and dance. 

In addition, he is associated with the theatre group Little Thespian. He has acted in many web series like Shobdo Jobdo–a Rajat Kapoor starrer show which is available on Hoichoi web channel. Earlier this year, he acted as a lead in a short film Geru Patra, also bagged a role in Shyam Benegal’s upcoming movie Banga Bandhu. Currently, he’s working on a Bengali and a Hindi web series. 

And he found his calling by accident in his early twenties. His mentor and guru, S M Azhar Alam, died earlier this year due to Corona. “It’s a huge loss. It was him who showed me the way. It was because of him that I stepped into the world of theatre.” He carries forward his legacy. And there will come a time when acting will pull him out of obscurity to stardom.

 

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