HYDERABAD: Comedy is considered one of the toughest areas in acting and actors spend years studying techniques to master the art. One of the techniques for perfecting comic acting is clowning, also known as physical acting in some countries. Uday Bhanu Garikapati, founder of Bhoomika Theatre Group, conducted what is believed to be the first Clown Workshop in Hyderabad. Owing to the great response, he is set to conduct another one soon.
“I have been doing theatre in Hyderabad for the last 40 years, and I have never heard about such a workshop being conducted in the city before,” said the 65-year-old theatre veteran, who has a diploma in Theatre Arts from Osmania University. Elaborating on the seven-day workshop that was held at Sacred Space in Secunderabad, Uday says: “The basic idea behind the workshop is to instill comic sense into actors. Clowning can be called an extreme form of comic acting and it helps actors to perform slapstick comedy. We are preparing for a play by Vijay Tendulkar now and this workshop was held to prepare the actors.”
“Clowning does not mean that the actors try to inculcate the mannerisms of clowns. It mainly involves learning comedy. In some of the exercises, one group of actors wear the clown noses, and the other does not. They are training to be part of regular plays that have varied characters, and does not necessarily have clowns. We watch videos of clowns performing in circuses to understand the body language and comic sense. This technique is popular in eastern European countries.
In India too, Russian theatre has a large following. In Chennai, clowns go to hospitals and entertain the patients,” he adds. “The clown is, of course, borrowed from other cultures, but in Indian folk forms too, we always had a comic character, who can be unrelated to the main story. He comes ands makes people laugh, and the story continues,” says Uday.
Talking about his journey in theatre, Uday says: “My interest in theatre was kindled when I saw a Sri Ram Navami play in Vijayawada. There used to be 9-day cultural events in every major chowrasta there. The theatre bug bit me hard and I started participating in all kinds of plays. I have been performing in Hyderabad from the 80s. A larger number of plays used to be produced in those days. Today, the number has come down due to people preferring other sources of recreation like the TV, internet etc.”
In his four-decade journey, Uday has watched plays all over the world. “I have watched more plays than I have acted in. I am part of ASSITEJ ( the International Association of Theatre for Children and Young People) India, and I served as a secretary of the organisation for a couple of terms. As a part of this, I toured all over the world to watch plays for children performed by adults, and that is the genre I am trying to develop in Hyderabad.”
Explaining how honesty is a part of comic acting, the veteran says: “Comic sense is rooted in reality and honesty. There is no acting without truthfulness. Comic timing helps during the performance rather than in the rehearsals. You have to gauge if the audience is ready for the punchlines, and then deliver it. Like every craft, comic timing improves with practice.”
Rise of cultural spaces
“The rise of cultural spaces in Hyderabad has been a boon to the theatre community. Earlier, there was no choice but to approach places like Ravindra Bharathi to perform plays, but today, there are many options like Lamakaan, Phoenix Arena, Apollo amphitheatre and others. This is a trend seen only in Hyderabad, because in no other city you get space for free,” says the theatre veteran.
Speaking on the waning interest in theatre among the youth, he adds: “The Telugu theatre community mostly does not make plays with subjects that will interest the youth. The average age of actors is not less than 40 years. We are trying to bring theatre closer to the people.”