Interview of Chakresh Kumar, theatre actor-director
Posted by Navleen on August 8, 2014 | No Comments
Many instances, moments and happenings in his life are a replica of any Bollywood film— a storyline that we often come across on reel but rarely in real life. The father falls sick affecting economic conditions of the family that forces the elder son to quit his studies, he takes up different jobs to make his younger brother study. After his younger brother completes his education, it’s time for him to start earning for his elder brother to complete his education. Now doesn’t that sound like a plot of some flick?
Though for some this story depicting initial struggle might easily give the protagonist a real hero’s tag. But a close look at his journey of 14 years of theatre background in a city like Chandigarh where theatre is nowhere close to being a revenue generation source of livelihood and he still managed without taking any grants from government, his eight year long association with NGO Hamari Kaksha where he worked with children from lesser-privileged sections of society and his jam-packed theatre performances proves that theatre actor-director Chakresh Kumar has created a niche for himself in his own way.
When while recalling his earlier days, he says, “Jis din hum paida huye us din toofan aa geya, toh sab kehte the ki yeh ladka apni zindagi me toofan leke aayega…”, you know what his path must have been like.
Chakresh was born in village Bakhtiyarpur, Etawah district and his father was in the army. It helped him to travel places such as Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Assam, Hyderabad, Kerala, Delhi, Himachal, Punjab, Haryana etc. He memorizes, “Witnessing different places and cultures closely, helped me in getting a strong hold on visuals which I later made part of my theatre. I was in class 9th when I started doing theatre in Madhya Pradesh.”
In 2000 Chakresh moved to Chandigarh where he got associated with various theatre artistes such as Rani Balbir Kaur, Umesh Kant etc. “When I started doing my graduation my father had a paralytic attack and I had to drop my education. From 2003 to 2005 I used to do a 12 hour shift at the call centre at six in evening to six in the morning. During the day I used to do theatre.”
Chakresh very well knew how to maintain a balance between his needs, responsibilities and passion for theatre. “I didn’t sleep for two years at least. My condition was such that I used to sleep while walking and would fall. But people with army background are quite rough and we were raised the same way. Besides working at a call centre I even worked at taxi service.”
His younger brother Niresh, whom Chakresh helped in completing his Bachelor’s in Sciences later started working as a medical representative. “That’s when I quit my job and Niresh started earning to make me study. Today Niresh is studying at National School of Drama. Whatever the circumstances were I never left theatre in between. That’s why when I took admission in Department of Indian Theatre, Chandigarh, even seniors stood up to welcome me as they had known about the theatre I had been doing in the city.”
Before enrolling himself in Department of Indian Theatre, Chandigarh in 2008, Chakresh decided to join National School of Drama. He shares, “But I wasn’t selected. I was told that though I’m a good actor but this year I can’t get admission.”
Telling more about this abrupt system that exists, Chakresh says, “If theatre survives in our country it’s just because of amateur theatre artistes. Neither National School of Drama nor any theatre department has managed to save theatre. Theatre has only managed to live because of hobbyist theatre artistes who work at the root level. Result of this is that in an area as remote as Tehri Garhwal, it has recently managed to host a theatre festival. These hobbyist theatre artistes do every effort to take theatre to every nook and corner whereas these institutes fail to. I’m quite against the structure of these departments as they fail to create avenues for their students. When you come across an Indian theatre department pass out running a departmental store or an NSD pass out working at a petrol pump in some foreign country; it shakes your heart.”
Founder of theatre group Alankar theatre, Chakresh has so far come up with various productions such as — Thought, AndhaYug, Ram Sanjeevan Ki Prem Katha, Mandir, Ji Aaya Sahab etc. Most of his work includes lot of experimentation and that often gets him mixed response. “If the show is for audiences comprising of artistes, then I try to come up with something artistic that will even makes them think. But when it is for normal people, then one has to offer the exaggerated form of theatre because even they understand only that form.” he says, “When my first production ‘One or the part of two’ was staged people said that I follow Padma Shri award-winning theatre director Neelam Mansingh Chowdhary. But when I staged ‘Thought’, they got to know my other side as well. One does have influences and there is no harm in it. Now when Neelam ma’am says that if she sees anyone after her in the city, then it is me, isn’t it something to feel proud of? At the same time it is challenge for me that how I find ways to keep my individuality alive.”
Chandigarh has also played a key role in the formation of his plays. “Chandigarh is a place where I can do many experiments with peace and ease. One needs a peaceful place to do different experiments and this city offers it. At the same time, it can also be dangerous. The audiences here aren’t lovers of art. They come to watch the plays only for the sake of fun. Those audiences will only come if your work is good. So if you don’t have any work in this city, it will start frustrating you. A person can do whatever he desires if he wants to do. The problem is that most of the people don’t do it and just keep waiting. I don’t wait for anyone and just keep working.” shares Chakresh.
Besides his regular productions, he has done substantial work for children by associating with NGOs Hamari Kaksha and Vatsal Chaya. “In my play Mandir, I got music composed from those children who play music in trains.” Sharing another success story, he tells, “At Hamari Kaksha, a girl named Jyoti started doing theatre. Today, that girl can even challenge me in acting.”
Recently Chakresh has started working with recently launched My Dream Academy at Mohali as an acting faculty. At a time when Chakresh isn’t thinking about work, he likes to travel, read and listen to sufi music for recovering himself and his constant growth. “Russian literature inspires me a lot. Also maximum writers and artistes are from Russia.” tells he.
Amid everything, Chakresh also lives with a dream of directing a Punjabi film which nourishes silently in his heart.