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I quit my day job to follow my dreams, and started a theatre company

Theatre practitioner Tushar Dalvi, who quit his corporate job, talks about what made him take the leap of faith

Tushar Dalvi 17 November 2017, 5:44 PM
T2 Diaries
Tushar started Rangaai Theatre Company (RTC) with a handful of strangers with their shared passion for theatre

Tushar started Rangaai Theatre Company (RTC) with a handful of strangers with their shared passion for theatre Image: Facebook

It feels like breaking out of a prison when you finally take that leap of faith. A creative person holed up in a corporate environment may survive well, thanks to his/her innovative approach, but can never be truly satisfied, until he/she breaks away from the banality that comes with a 9-to-5 job. Many of us creative people also get bored of our mundane work routine and often carry with us a huge burden of regret, the regret of not following our passion. So, one day — be it in the middle of our booming careers or at the very beginning or while going on a downward spiral — some of us hop on to the path less taken, not knowing what lies ahead. And that's exactly what I did.

But life doesn't change overnight, and it didn't for me either. The transition was difficult and slow, one that involved multiple leaps leading to the finale. Like many others, I had my own plans and dreams; dreams of being able to chase my passion for theatre. But as it happens with many others, all my dreams were sacrificed at the altar of reality. I chickened out fearing the struggle and hardship and chose to settle for the insurance of a better future. My socio-economic class, clubbed with family responsibilities, were also contributing factors. So, rather than opting for a theatre school, I went abroad and chose a business school. Rather than practising human emotions, I chose to practise the manipulation of human emotions to sell products of capitalism.

For a good five years, I lived in three different cities in Great Britan and worked for a Fortune Globe 500 company in London with a decent pay cheque. Yet, something was missing, I was not happy. Rather, I was homesick most of the time. I even tried to find solace in material possessions and ended up spending more than I should have. It was a total disaster.

Corporate life
“I chose to practise manipulation of human emotions to sell products of capitalism” (Image: Thinkstock)

Most of the time, I found myself contemplating my purpose in life, and every time I thought I had it all figured out, a psychedelic imagery would pop up in my head where I would see myself as Sisyphus trying to roll an immense boulder up the hill only to watch it come back and hit me. The threshold was crossed and I took my first and most perilous leap — I put down my papers, gave up my work visa in the UK and returned to India.

Now, I was one step closer to my passion, yet I did not jump in right away. I still couldn’t fathom the thought of being a 'struggler'. So I convinced myself to work in an industry that bore some semblance of creativity — advertising — in Mumbai. This wasn’t that difficult for me, but there was still a vacuum. The void kept haunting me and, hence, I took the second leap.


Leap of faith
“The transition was difficult and slow, one that involved multiple leaps” (Image: Thinkstock)

This time, I fooled myself into thinking that being self-employed will leave me with enough time to pursue my passion. I invested all my savings, after paying up my huge student loan, into opening up a chic café. I poured all my creative ideas and energy into building this substitute dream. Spent hours and hours of sleepless nights struggling to sustain it, only to eventually fail yet again. This venture was an expensive lesson.

Around the same time, my mother was diagnosed with cancer and within three months she passed away. The loss of a family member, especially your mother, breaks you down, it transforms you. I assumed more responsibility and decided to let go of my passion. I joined an online art auction house with a significant five-figure salary. A routine was set — working Monday to Saturday 9-to-5, and the weekend for friends and family. I had almost given up on my passion when one day I thought, now that I was gaining some stability maybe, just maybe, I could give my dreams one more chance, on a part-time basis.

Thus began a new chapter — Rangaai Theatre Company (RTC). It started with a handful of strangers sharing a common passion, hard work of seven days a week and studying about theatre late at night. For the first time ever, my creativity got an outlet, innovative ideas flooded me, my enthusiasm was at its peak and RTC produced its first venture for Mumbai’s audience — The Darkroom Project.

Darkroom Theatre
A still from the play The Darkroom Project

The play was termed a brave attempt by critics, applauded by audiences and loved by the media. This success of our first production gave me more courage, we introduced more daring and challenging concepts and stories that no other theatre company was attempting yet. We even introduced our own unique concepts like a touring audience, secret venue performances, and sensory experiences — all part of my theatre experiments. All these amalgamted into The Darkroom 2.0 — an immersive sensory experience. 

What's my play all about? The Darkroom 2.0 addresses stories revolving around sexual abuse, child abuse and injustices against women. The more shows we did, the more confident I became. Yet, it took me three months to build up the courage to give up my full-time employment to finally pursue what I was longing to do for several years.

Eventually, the day arrived, when I had to take the final leap. I even rejected the increment offered by my organisation. Because now, I was sure I had finally discovered the purpose of my life, the reason of my existence, and that lifestyle is subjective.Thus began my creative journey, which I wish only ends with my life.

(Tushar Tukaram Dalvi is a self-trained theatre actor and director from Mumbai known for his experimental approach in defining the audience-space relationship. He is also the founder and artistic director of Rangaai Theatre Company. He has acted in many plays and is best known as director and actor for The Darkroom Project — An Experimental Play, and The Darkroom 2.0 — An Immersive Sensory Experience. He is also associated with Ranga Theatre as an actor for their play Quixotic Wonderland and The Company Theatre for Psychophysical theatre productions of Loop2020 directed by Atul Kumar, and This is all there is when there is all this, directed by Sujay Sable. He has also worked with the Youth Theatre Wing of Live Theatre, Newcastle, UK)

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