Where Indian myths meet current themes

Where Indian myths meet current themes

Trained from the Jacques Lecoq International School of Theatre in Paris, Mumbai-based Yuki Ellias has always introduced new elements and techniques in her performances. She is not only a performer, but also a director, writer and corporate coach. She made her directorial debut in 2015 with sci-fi comedy Charge and then created a solo show called Dying to Succeed in 2016.

She will now be performing her new act Elephant in the Room at the ongoing The Park’s New Festival. The solo performance is commissioned by the Prakriti Foundation. Multitalented Ellias in a candid chat with Shilpa Raina shares why festivals like these are important for independent performers and throws light on the new act.

Excerpts:

How did the idea of this piece come about?
I have been wanting to make this story for about three years. The idea popped into my head during the Ganesh Chaturthi festival. Elephant in the Room needed time to
become the narrative it is. It was going to be a piece with many actors but when
Prakriti Foundation got in touch to commission a solo, my partner Viraj Singh, convinced me to do this story that had been haunting me for so long…and to do it as a solo, playing all the characters. After that I was lucky to meet Sneh Sapru, the writer, through another friend. She loved the concept and agreed to write the script. We collaborated over two months to create our characters and the plot. Sneh has written most of it in verse to give it a lyrical feel.
 
What kind of research did you undergo?
 The story combines Indian myths as well as current themes of the balance between man and nature. We consulted conservationists and environmentalists, as the story weaves in the characters of a spider, cheetah, and an elephant.

How does Indian audience respond to unconventional storytelling?
 No matter what style you choose to narrate the story, if you are able to communicate its crux and the heart of every character, the audience will come with you on the journey.
How do you juggle multiple roles — of an actor, director and corporate teacher?
I collaborate and partner with producers like Jhelum Ghosalia, Niloufer Sagar, and my corporate partner is Komal Gandhi. All of these women juggle more than one role themselves. So really… great partnerships make it possible for all of us to juggle all our roles and make the work we are all passionate about.

Can you elaborate on your role as a corporate trainer?
Theatre is a really powerful medium. And if you look at it as an art and a craft you develop so many skills as a practitioner and teacher — the work easily extends beyond the stage. As a corporate trainer, I use drama techniques for high impact communication for organisations and their leadership and management teams. I partner with Komal to make these corporate training sessions a real skill sharing experience as well as getting people to get in touch with their own creative selves. We use theatre to inspire and motivate. And I really love my job off stage as well in these corporate environments as we engage with real people and real issues, and real emotions.

How important are platforms like the Park’s New Festival for independent artistes?
This festival is special as it really encourages new and different work. They have consistently been bringing down a great line-up of shows. And their curation is special. The success of the festival and overwhelming response of the audiences in each city also proves that you don’t need only famous actors or TV faces to give your audiences an experience to remember. And for artists like us, it has been a thrill touring together and chatting and getting to know about each others’ processes.

Elephant in the Room will be performed on September 22 at Mantra, The Park.

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