Kaptains of Kozhikode – Sri Lanka Edition
Sreedev Basu – The Talented Thespian
Having enthralled audiences with his performances right from the induction days, he is not only famous for his impeccable acting skills but also has the marvelous ability to transform even the most plastic people into easy-on-eyes actors. Having a knack for Basketball and Swimming, he has proved his mettle in various intra- as well as inter- college tournaments. A certified lifeguard, a quick-witted debater, an adroit writer (he also happens to have co-authored this article) and one of the lucky few to be interning overseas, Sreedev Basu, is a complete package every big corporate is looking for. Brace yourselves for a slightly unconventional yet interesting interview with a person who believes that it is his candidness that singles him out from the crowd (Indeed!).
1. You are known to be passionate about theatre. You have been a part of many plays since your school days and are also the coordinator of Theatrix, the Dramatics Club at IIMK. What does the word ‘theatre’ mean to you? If you get the chance to take it up as a full time career, would you go for it?
If I were to ask you about that one ‘dream’ character or role that you want to play at some point in life, what would it be?
Theatre for me, is a chance to bring stories to life and engage, move and entertain an audience. It lets one connect to a group of people and wield a unique influence – in the best case by challenging perspectives and opening new avenues of thought, or perhaps even more importantly by sparking moments of wonder and joy.
I would love to be able to pursue theatre as a career, although unfortunately the scene is quite firmly stuck in doldrums. Low ticket sales and an increasingly niche interest group makes opting for a full time career a tremendous risk – financially and in terms of growth. This is true of acting in general, indie films or even Bollywood, there are too many aspirants for too few roles and audiences are unforgiving. Flavours of the season come and go, and it is only the few fortunate ones who are able to grasp any sort of permanence. That said, I would love to give it a shot if the opportunity arose, after all what’s an IIM degree for if not to cushion a few falls.
One dream character is tough, so I’ll give you the two that I remember most vividly. The first is Elphaba from the musical Wicked – the closing number before intermission is one of the most complete moments of pure magic I’ve ever had the privilege to witness. Of course, there is the slight problem that the character is female and that I have the singing skill of a strangled cat. The other role is of Mahadev Desai; in a solo, 90 minute, tour-de-force that recounts the Satyagraha movement through the eyes of Mahatma Gandhi’s secretary. I hope that I am able to infuse such command and power into a performance someday.
2. India, from very old times, has been famous for showcasing a variety of art forms in the field of drama including Ram-Leela, Nukkad Natak etc. However, with the advent of modern means of entertainment (movie theatres, television etc.), these traditional art forms are somewhat losing their charm.
What according to you can be done by veteran theatre artists, enthusiasts people in general to revive the rich heritage of our country?
I believe out true heritage lies in ideas, not in their presentation. As Romain Rolland put it: "if there is one place on the face of earth where all the dreams of living men have found a home from the very earliest days when man began the dream of existence, it is India." True, India does indeed have a wide variety and rich history of theatre, but to butcher a quote by Sri Ramakrishna, “all rivers lead to the sea” – an art form is merely a medium and it is the stories and the ideas that flow through it that are of prime importance. Of course a medium can be beautiful in its own right, some more so than others, and yet beauty is in the eye of the beholder and we cannot demand that audiences continue to appreciate dated styles no matter how revered they may be.
Movies are undoubtedly the medium of choice for this generation. Of course, there are differences in film and theatre and hence in the types of stories they tell. Films allow much more flexibility and therefore, make it easier to capture an audience’s imagination. Whereas theatre is like a concert and is more about energy and atmosphere. But, times change and as in any business, the mantra- ‘the customer is always right’ applies here too. Artistes must change and in fact push forward, not hold onto tradition as the sole yardstick of value.
There is a misconception that theatre is serious and highbrow while movies are fluff; this is certainly untrue as genres of theatre spanning farce to slapstick comedy have long been popular, so fortunately, our heritage is not being wasted completely. But yes, I do believe that the cognoscenti have a moral responsibility to ensure that movies tell quality stories and not just pander to the lowest common denominator in pursuit of profit. Theatre, movies or any media for that matter provides a platform for the dissemination of ideas, and it is sad that despite an inheritance of a few thousand years of literary genius, this opportunity is being squandered on waxed chests and wet saris alone.
3. There is a widespread belief that enrollment in one of the premiere post-graduate colleges of the country puts a full stop to one’s ability to pursue one’s hobbies especially in the field of sports. You are a trained swimmer and a veteran basketball player.
From your year spent at Kampus, do you think IIM K has been successful in busting this popular myth?
In a post graduate institute, with everyone chosen for and focused on developing career skills, it isn’t fair to expect much scope for extra-curricular hobbies. Sports in particular requires continuous practice, moreover team practice, to remain competitive. With everyone working with different schedules and deadlines, finding a common slot when 10 or so people are free is nigh impossible!
That being said, sports are alive on campus. People do find the time, albeit even after midnight to get in a game and the institute is supportive of our temporal challenges and leaves all facilities available even at odd hours.
But perhaps the biggest kudos must go to the sports committees of Kozhikode, Bangalore and Trichy for managing to organize a triangular sports tournament like Sangram and for enthusing an otherwise overburdened audience. Sangram was incredible fun, with the many different events there was a match on at all times and the atmosphere was electric all through the weekend. And it went down to the wire too; we lost out on the championship by a single medal but the experience was definitely worth the heartbreak – what with a few overenthusiastic guests, the infamous loudspeaker vandalism incident, and some inspired cheering from the home crowd! All I can say is thank god we’re going to Trichy next year and not Bangalore!
4. How has your journey at ‘God’s own Kampus’ been till now? Did you get ample opportunities to showcase your myriad talents, hone your existing skills and pursue your passions?
Now, that is a loaded question, if there ever was one. And, I of course have to respond to it by saying: not at all, I have many more talents yet to showcase, and even more umm… passions left to pursue (talk about today’s generation being modest!)
But yes, the opportunities provided by K and fruited by the various committees, interest groups and clubs on campus have been exceptional and the encouragement of my peers who come en masse to attend all events, despite deadlines, has been nothing short of inspirational.
I have to especially mention the support Theatrix got for its last play of the year: The Vagina Magonologues. With an unconventional theme and an uncomfortable forthrightness, it was a daunting challenge to undertake, but pieces fell into place almost magically. We found four amazing actors who bared the essence of female subjugation – from spousal abuse to prescribed sexuality – unflinchingly on stage. And we found an incredible spontaneous buzz bubbling up in campus in the lead up to the event. People came, were amused, then disturbed, and finally shocked and but still reciprocated with applause and understanding. It is truly special to be part of a community where such bold and open thought is not just tolerated but actively encouraged. Being appreciated for an experiment like the Monologues has been one of my most satisfying moments and I will forever be grateful to the IIMK community for enabling such an experience.
5. In the current dog-eat-dog world, companies more often than not, look for versatility, more than anything else in their prospective employees. Today, unlike the olden days, being the Jack of many trades is not a very harmful idea. To what extent do you agree to this?
I believe nothing arouses suspicion more than genuine, all-round proficiency. Versatility is indeed important, but I feel that the key is not so much in being diverse but rather in having complimentary skills. If one is good with accounts, is creative, can drive a hard bargain and to top it all, can manage people well, he makes for an invaluable asset. On the other hand, mastery of say Ikebana doesn’t add much to an applicant’s brand.
In general, I would like to disagree with this thought, today’s is a world of increasing specialization, with a growing trend of students choosing career tracks earlier than they used to before and focusing exclusively on one subject at the cost of all others. Maybe, this is the reason why extra-curricular achievements stand out and become more of a distinguishing factor. In any case, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that you’re right and will confirm when I get placed in a few months’ time!
6. You are one of the lucky few to have gotten the opportunity to intern overseas. Describe your experience (till now) of working in Sri Lanka, amidst a completely different environment, altered working habits, with people from diverse cultures and ethnicities.
If you were to describe Sri Lanka and your experience there in one word, what would it be?
Most people I met before leaving left me imagining an extension of south India – after all a significant portion of the population is Tamil, religions and demographics are similar, and of course they play… (well, let’s just say I’ve been reminded of that a few too many times in recent weeks!) How different could they be?
But the differences are significant and despite superficial similarities it completely changes the atmosphere and the experience. This is a sleepier, slower country but minus the misery. Roads are maintained and the sidewalks clean, cars don’t honk and the autos don’t drive like Charlize Theron in the Italian Job, and there is absolutely no visible poverty in Colombo. On the other hand, there isn’t much drive to excel or achieve, people’s goals are centered on fulfillment and not success. And while that leads to a much calmer and more peaceful life, the infectious energy and momentum of a Bombay is missing.
The calm and the peace impart other benefits though – people here have been tremendously kind and helpful, and I have to share three incidences. The first happened while buying a new SIM connection because the one provided to me did not receive signal in my room. I found a shop and described the issue and the retailer promptly came with me on a bike to my apartment to check whether connectivity was available and only then sold it to me. The second happened on the lookout for cutlery: when no stores seems to have silverware, another customer on overhearing my queries took me along with him and gave me a spoon and fork from the restaurant he worked in, unasked for and gratis. And the last was a thirteen year old kid who I met for the first time to ask for directions on the road, he was eating a bar of chocolate and mid-sentence suddenly stopped, produced another from his bag and insisted I eat while he checked with some tuk-tuk-walas!
I’m lousy at choosing one of anything so I’ll chicken out and give you three words for my experience in Sri Lanka so far: courtesy, civility and welcome!
An Upantya Visharad in Hidustani Sangeet and in Bharatnatyam, Venu has been the epitome of versatility and consistency throughout school and college life. An EC engineer, she was a member of AIESEC & NU Tech where she managed various activities. She loves micro blogging and working for stray animal welfare. She is currently a management student at IIM Kozhikode (Class of 2015).