Nouveau Art, Nouveau Fun: Bombay reads together

When I returned to Bombay 6 months ago (yes! It's been that long since I got here), I was bogged by several responsibilities. Some of them, in retrospect, I realised I didn't even need. To add to my woes, Bandra seemed like one helluva shallow locality to live in, what with all the fashion forward junta flocking its labyrinthine roads from Hill Road to Pali Naka to Union Park and more. My prejudices, combined with the fatigue of daily commuting and work stress left me rather drained mentally and I found my productivity suffering (apart from receiving a rather stern reprimand from my CEO for getting in at work late quite regularly). It dawned upon me soon that this constant demand upon my creativity at the workplace meant reinventing myself regularly. Three months into trying to settle into this new pace and lifestyle, a Meetup group caught my eye on the website.

The name felt lofty, but inventive. They read plays. The format sounded like all those auditions back in college. So I signed up. Nouveau Art Play Reading Group had met a couple of times already, and had something of a membership already - about a 100 people. The Facebook page showed lovely pictures of each of these meetups: smiling faces, a little relieved after something of a long conversation - only, it was a conversation not so much among them as them.

My first session with them was extraordinary. Moving, not just because the man behind it - Noel - is a sweetheart, but also for the sort of script he chose. Several people in the group have had trouble understanding why he chooses narratives that end on an offhandish sort of melancholy note. For me, that first session set the tone of what was to come, like a sign of the times. By the next meetup, I'd had a minor catastrophe of my own, and it dawned upon me - that's how life is, too: a little sweet, a tad savoury, with a few pungent and bitter moments thrown in for good measure.

By this time, the crowd built up. There were the 'regulars'. Then there were some faces each time. I had made a couple of friends. There have, of course, been several dropouts. But our last meetup, a momentous one (and meaningful in ways that have revealed themselves subsequently), was perhaps the most qualitative so far. I can say without doubt, it's been the best one. Everyone present (regulars and newbies) was there for the love of plays. Not so much theatre. And the difference surfaced ever so poignantly.

Some interesting observations keep surfacing. Every session has a round of introductions either at the end or the beginning. Titled the official 'drama queen' of the group, Nidhu once pointed out - the veterans just say their names, the newbies feel the need to give out more. Artist and Teach For India associate, Mahesh (or Ma Pa as he likes to introduce himself) and I once chatted about how the guy sitting beside me couldn't keep his hands from shaking while he read. He said it happens to everyone. This was Rameez's second time apparently. I have begun to stutter.

But this is not the case for everyone. For some, it comes naturally. There are several innately gifted good readers, with great voice throw and talent for intonation. Some venture to make things more interesting, and break the monotony with impromptu movement and onomatopoeic sounds too!

There is a lot of warmth that I have received at the hands of this group, especially Noel and Cecil (two of the four organisers - Noella and Jay being the other two). Sometimes the warmth can turn into a heat of bugging pings and tags and comments on Facebook and Whatsapp groups during the readings too. But that's a risk one runs with every new interaction. Every time I go to a Nouveau Art Play Reading meetup, my eyes light up at the sight of the familiar faces. I receive the same response from some of these people too, which makes the deal sweeter. And there's always the change of an interesting conversation at the end of the session.

So what's the format? Noel posts details of the next meetup about 2 weeks in advance on the Meetup.com page. People RSVP. About 20 people meet. Noel distributes scripts to those who ask for it before hand. There are some who get their tablets to read it on. We usually meet at a restaurant on condition that everyone must order something. We got thrown out of Candies recently too (because they didn't see any profits pouring in). Much of the group moved to Carter Road and continued there. People are allotted characters on the spot, order their coffee (or iced teas, as in my case *wink*), read, read some lines more than once, a talented photographer (that'd be Jay) literally catches everyone in the act and captures moments and expressions as documents for posterity. And we end with a deep sigh.

What began as a little activity for a bunch of like-minded people has been noticed beyond friends circles too. NAPR group has been featured in the Express Eye (under 'Soul Curry' - scroll to the bottom) as well as MidDay and on Zee News. The crowd that attends isn't exactly the literary types always. My first session saw a dentist, an actuarial professional, a banker, a businessman and an IT professional among others. The motley hasn't stopped being more bizarre. Some members have since moved to other cities, but they are missed, for they are friends, above all. The gooey warmth has only swelled in the core of each one of our hearts. And the excitement of belonging as a Dramebaaz just doesn't cease!


J said...

woohoo!! oh yeah.
perhaps i must also add that its the drama and the script that bond Nouveau Art's Dramebaaz together as they venture on a delightful journey and live the lives of the characters in the play.

Thanks Priyanca,
See ya soon

Parth said...

Nice. Sounds like something I would have liked to be a part of :)

Priyanca Vaishnav said...

Oh absolutely Parth