KOCHI: While talking about his journey as a performance researcher, theatre practitioner and acting coach, Devendranath Sankaranarayanan quotes William Shakespeare but not the grossly overused ‘All the world’s a stage’. Instead, he cites one about life, ‘a tale told by an idiot’. Perhaps more fitting because like the bard, Devendranath stumbled into theatre art and devoted most of his life to it. With nearly two decades of experience, he is one of the foremost acting exponents in the country and is set to conduct a performance training workshop at Mamangam- The School of Dance on December 7 and 8.
Devendranath’s workshops are more than just about acting. They delve into intra and interpersonal inferences, probe into one’s psyche and cull out a way to exist. “Theatre is a wonderful space for one to explore, open up and go through a kind of a revelation. And it’s a module where we are always working with others. So when I started my career by working with kids I realised the true potential of performance art. Children are always acting, they make up the roles of husband and wife, teacher, doctor or policeman with their friends or siblings. A child completely immerses himself or herself in the role. That’s the beauty of young minds. So theatre fosters these creative capabilities and furthers ones overall development,” says the dramaturge.
Devendranath’s foraed into theatre after a short stint as a physics teacher at a school. “I didn’t want to teach the same thing for the rest of my life, so I enrolled in the School of Drama at Calicut University. After that, I moved to Hyderabad to do my master’s in performance art,” says Devendranath. Half in mind to move back to Kerala after MA, he applied in a jewellery store for the post of a salesman. “Something quite serendipitous happened on my way back from the interview. I came across the office of a newspaper, so I dropped my resume there as well. I got a call from them exactly 10 days later asking me if I would be interested in joining their ‘newspaper in education’ programme as a workshop trainer. This was the beginning of my tryst with performance training.”
Devendranath visited multiple schools, creating activity modules, exploring and researching new ways to use theatre. That was in 2001. Ever since, he has conducted numerous workshops, taught at multiple institutions and helmed key posts at prominent film schools.
The latest being his position as course director for the ‘basic acting workshops for children’ for the Skilling Indian in Film & Television programme of FTII.Having worked with people of all age groups as part of his InsideOut Performance Collective, Devendranath talks about how theatre can be a meditative and even cathartic engagement. “Working with the young generation is completely different from working with adults. The kids are always leading us to newer possibilities and perspectives. But as one grows up, one imbibes all the restrictions that society imposes. So adults go through a lot of unlearning at the workshop which I think is important in today’s world where people are unable to express and are bogged down by stress and depression. Our identity and ideology have become a performance and theatre is a space for uninhibited articulation,” adds the 43-year-old.