STW caught up with Priyanka Shetty, the talented young lady who founded the theatre group Antardwand in 2011 and Founder at What’s The Scene, an initiative that covers the live music scene in India. Priyanka (PS) talks about her upcoming production – My Fair Lady – the musical, from Bangalore city.
My Fair Lady is a musical based upon George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion and with book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe. The story concerns Eliza Doolittle, a Cockney flower girl who takes speech lessons from professor Henry Higgins, a phoneticist, so that she may pass as a well-born lady.
(In conversation with Shruti Bharath)
STW: Tell us about Priyanka – Founder What’s The Scene, Theatre actor.
PS: Well she is, as a friend of mine very funnily puts it, ‘a doer of things!’
STW: Tell us about your connection with the theatre group Antardwand and the musical ‘My Fair Lady’ you are working on.
PS: Antardwand is a theatre group I put together last year. Revisiting classics is something that greatly excites us. We did that with our first play ‘Chokher Bali’ which is one of Tagore’s greatly appreciated works and a story we hold close to our hearts. This time, with our second play, we wanted to take it a few notches higher by trying to recreate a broadway experience here in India! What excited us was that it hasn’t been attempted before and it presented to us a challenge of not only exercising our acting skills but also topping it up with our singing and dancing skills. What made it even more exciting was the fact that we decided to stick to the 40’s British feel and weren’t going to ‘Indianize’ it. We’re planning to keep it as authentic and as Broadway as possible!
STW: What about the story of My Fair Lady inspired its selection for this musical?
PS: Well it was definitely the simplicity and the innocence of the story – a common flower girl being picked up by a phonetics expert and his efforts at transforming her into a lady by giving her a new speech, the experiences they go through while they are at it, and of course the excitement and anticipation during the final test… The whole prospect of giving the audience the experience of watching a character blossom and completely transform into a new individual is what inspired us to select this.
STW: Tell us more about the making of this musical and the folks involved.
PS: Well, it has been almost a year since we started and the first major task at hand was casting the right people because we were very particular about what we wanted and it took a lot of time to find them. The greatest challenge was definitely trying to pick up the British accent convincingly, especially the cockney style. Singing and dancing live, scene after scene, while staying in character isn’t an easy job as we have come to learn. Recreating the feel of the era through the right backdrops (which are hand-painted) and our mannerisms was a lot more difficult than expected, especially when we decided to give so much attention to detail and have left no stone unturned in trying to achieve this. Also managing a 50 member crew was a lot more complicated when compared to the last time when we just had 10 people. But these challenges have made this experience so much fun!
STW: Is the performance and thrill of the stage the only real reasons to be part of it?
PS: The only purpose of being on stage is to live the character that you’re portraying – you think like the person, you move like the person, behave and respond just like how he/she reacts. The thrill of being a part of stage shows is only a small part of it.
STW: Is Antardwand a closed group or is there always room for more? And tell us a little about your previous production(s).
PS: No, Antardwand is always open to bringing new people and fresh faces. Like I said before, we cast people based on how close they are to the characters so we will always remain a group that’s dynamic and ever-changing.
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STW: What’s next for Antardwand?
PS: Well all I can say now is that after exploring Edwardian England, we’ll be coming back to our roots and attempting something a lot more challenging, maybe we’ll be back next year with a period drama set in India! Any guesses? 🙂
STW: Concluding thoughts?
PS: I hope all of you come to watch our performances, we’ll be staging at different venues in Bangalore, September onwards. Looking forward to see you there! Stay updated on our Facebook page.
STW wishes Antardwand the best. Here’s to a great musical success!
Learn more about Priyanka Shetty.