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The Powerhouse of Nepali Theatre
Anup Baral is a name synonymous to Nepali theatre fraternity. One cannot miss him out while discussing Nepali theatre. Well-known as the ‘Powerhouse of theatre’, actor, and director, Baral is acclaimed for revolutionizing the Nepali theatre industry to new heights.
Born and raised in Pokhara, Baral capitalized on his opportunity to learn drama from veteran playwright Saru Bhakta. He then stepped into theatre at the age of 13 from a social anti-drug themed play ‘Timi Bachnu Parchha’. He portrayed the character of a drug addict in the play. The actor has featured in more than 50 full-length plays and also has directed and conceptualized over three dozen plays.
Besides theatre, he also worked on the silver screen. Featured in more than a dozen critically-acclaimed movies including Kagbeni, ‘Dasdhunga’, ‘Batch No 16’, he won the ‘Best Actor’ award for ‘Dasdhunga’.
He is one of few Nepali artists having graduated in acting from the prestigious National School of Drama (NSD), New Delhi, India.
Apart from a theater artist, he is the creative director of Actor’s Studio, nurturing artistic actors annually.
In an interview with My City’s Kiran Lama, Baral shared his two decades’ experience in the theatre realm.
You did a master’s degree in acting from National School of Drama (NSD). How did you get there?
I am from Pokhara. I enrolled in theatre 13 years ago. But the theatre’s scenario back then was either more of experimental drama, which required an academician to understand or traditional melodrama, inspired from television and films that carried chorus and love story. Plays looked like they were from a different planet altogether; hardly connecting to the audience. Such practice was insufficient to pull the audience to theatres. So, to polish my acting skills and revolutionize the Nepali theater scene, I realized the necessity of drama’s theoretical study. I then went out in search of a good drama institution. The lookout ended after I read about NSD in one of Sunil Pokharel’s articles. Eventually, I contacted Sunil Pokharel to know more about the enrollment procedure at NSD. He told me that it would be the right institute to learn acting. Unfortunately, when I arrived at NSD, it was the last day of form submission. Luckily, I met Durga Rai there. He requested teachers to give me a chance citing the insufficiency of such institutes back in Nepal. After his request, they asked me to submit recommendation letters at the Nepal Embassy in New Delhi. I immediately filled up the forms. They gave us five long monologue and 10 plays for the preparation of the drama. I gave an examination and passed out of the exam.
How was your experience at NSD?
It was a golden period of my life. Throughout my three years there, I got a chance to meet experienced gurus, who taught us through a blend of classical and advanced drama and acting skills. They conducted the classes in canteen, teashop, and library. Moreover, I got a chance to watch different drama genres from world-class artists.
You are in this field for a long period. So, how do you analyze the drama-scenario in Nepal?
It’s booming in terms of technology and content. There used to be a limited source for the play. For example, we showcased the drama in store and an outdoor stage. Now, non-government organizations are building their own theatres. Likewise, different schools have included drama in their curriculum. There are a variety of plays staged at different theaters across the country. International and national drama festivals are also regularly held in Nepal. Not only in Kathmandu, have theatres spread across the nation.
You are an actor, director, and filmmaker. How would you define yourself?
Actually, I’m a drifter—shifting from one position to another where I still explore myself. As I creator, I always yearn to emboss my identity in any professions; be it acting or direction. However, my focus initially was only in acting. Later, senior artists suggested me to take up directing. I learnt many things as a director. Overall, I’m an art creator who wants to contribute something to any field of art.
Everyone has a role model. Who was your biggest inspiration?
In my opinion, our role model changes over a period of time. There are countless names. But recently, I’m impressed with the work of American theatre director Anne Bogart. Especially, his book ‘Viewpoint’ helps artists in developing a taste for music, architecture, and color. I’m also a huge folk drama’s fan. I idolize Ratan Thiyam—an Indian playwright and director. He uses folk elements to explore myth in dramas. Likewise, I also adore Robert Wilson—American experimental theatre artist who introduced multimedia in theatres. As artists, we should acquire knowledge from different sources.
As you are an experienced theater artist, what do you suggest to a new theatre entrants?
People generally pursue the lifestyle of an artist to be quite luxurious and full of glamour. But nobody realizes their struggle and dedication to be where we are now. While enrolling into acting, you need dedication, hard work, and passion. You can learn acting related techniques at any institution, but it is not enough. You need those extra effort-like reading books, observing various drama performances and films to acquire knowledge on acting.