Interview with Sonali Bhardwaj
Q. As you have performed an important Character in “Civilization on trial”, how did you go about preparing your role when the director briefed you about the character ?
When I was narrated the script, I was confused about my character. The character was defined to me as a ‘Corporate Bahu’ and at the same time as if you are the company. It is like a very attractive MNC. Hence, you are a character as well as an object at the same time. This term was new for me. She told me that we were working on cartoonish caricatures. The first homework was to create my own caricature. For this purpose, I compared the character of ‘Corporate Bahu ’to Scissors who is sharp and at the same time sexy like Scissors’ two legs. Then, I researched about static as well as on animated cartoons to know how to maintain the body language, the style of walking or even their small movements.
Static cartoons helped us to get an idea of how could we create a scene. Animated cartoons helped to understand the body language. There is a difference between cartoon and a robot. Robot cannot give you the desired elasticity. As a human body, I was unable to do that. The struggle for me was to figure out how I could manage with my character and at the same time the caricature that I have adopted myself. And it has turned out to be a good journey.
Q. Once the basic understanding of the character is done, the next step is the rehearsals. What kinds of improvisation were done by you for this play during the rehearsal ?
The first improvisation I did was with my voice. As, I was playing the character of a sexy girl but my voice was made very heavy. This was improvised. We were thinking that if a beautiful girl would speak in a heavy voice, how would the audience react to it ? The next improvisation was in the walk. Though it was very clichéd but what new can be done in this ? When she is excited, she moves in certain manner.
Then, I wear heals to show the pretentiousness and that was intentionally done. It was up to me to decide what kind of heels I want to wear. The whole play was made on improvisation and it was a team work. Since we have limited time to portray on the stage, we want to show everything, the complete journey of the character.
Also “BABA –Kalu Mil Gaya” while Baba is sleeping . I thought that I should not say it in one pitch. Since it was satire and we learn about timber and voice modulation. Hence, I shouted at the same pitch with different voice . The second thing is that we carry sophistication and attitude when we talk about corporate and it doesn’t continue for long if we don’t have enough practice. For this reason, voice cracking was also deliberate. I got this idea from the animated cartoon ‘Uncle Scrooge’ from “Duck Tales” animated series.
Q. As you have already played the role of Queen, was the absence of royal costumes any hindrance to your performance?
Yes. There wasn’t much royalty in the costumes. When I first saw my costumes, I was very much depressed as the dancers’ costumers were much more glamorous than those which were crafted for me. I didn’t take much time to adopt to my costumes because sometimes we change according to the costumes. Though the costumes weren’t glamorous, they were subtle and reflected calmness. The character was also not chirpy. The colors of the king’s costume were black in the scene where he is showering his anger on Inna. The colors in my costumes complement with those of king’s costume throughout the play. This really helped in playing the character in a subtle way.
Q. In actual performance on the stage there is music and lights that could give you the high to carry on the character during the rehearsal though that part is missing?
That is the reason why it is said that the energy levels of the show are completely different when there are light and sound effects. The directors come and surprise us with video, music, sound, props at eleventh hour and expect us to perform up to the mark and not to fumble. Hence, we argue with them on this point. The energy levels are different during rehearsals where there is no actual light and background sound. We feel disturbed when we get them suddenly on actual stage.
Generally we find problems with the sound but not as much as with light because we know about our space. During rehearsals, when we don’t have background sound, we practice with a certain pitch level. Suddenly, if we have that background sound during actual performance we are unable to understand what is going on. It is also due to the presence of the audience and deletion of echo. Finally, we end up with problem of low volume levels during the actual performance. Hence, if possible we request for the sound at earlier stages.
Q. As an actress sometimes you want to perform which is subtle. When you try to do that how worried you are that it will reach the audience?
The subtle you perform the better it feels in front of the camera. But in plays the audiences are at a certain distance from the stage. We need to show the character to the audience in such a way that it should reach them. We should be little loud in front of the audience. Here we face problem on judging our performance levels. This is where the directors would help us.
Q. As an actor in theatre, what are two characters which you would look forward to perform someday ?
I would love to perform characters of Nora Helmer, from Doll’s house by Henrik Ibsen and Lady Macbeth.