• Trading Thoughts

The Comeback

By Somyanshu Arora

There was a palpable excitement hanging around journalists juxtaposed in that tiny room of the iconic Vijayvargia Theatre, the nursery of many luminous actors, in Mumbai. So when Anshuman Rana, hailed as one of India’s most prodigious method acting talents ever, called the press conference the spirit of curiosity rained over Mayanagri. Was he finally going to embellish the mainstream cinema?

The press conference though left jaws dropped, eyes wide opened and a deafening noise made by stunned silence.

“I am taking an indefinite break from acting” said Anshuman before leaving the room, leaving it bereft of any hitherto excitement. In the ensuing bedlam one thing was left clear, his fans may never again get a chance to give him a standing ovation, their feet could now rest longer, and their palms hurt less. It had been five years since that announcement when Anshuman came back in public eye, not for acting but his book, ‘Feminazi: Wanted in India’. It was a tome full of surveys, reports, expert opinions and was the most comprehensive work ever done on this topic. The response to the book was outstanding, but it was the foreword that caught the most eyeballs.

“People ask me why I left a fledgling career. My answer to them is this book. As a method actor, I always tried to completely identify myself with the characters I played. So, when Bankim Mukherjee asked me to play the role of a woman in a satire on domestic violence I took it up and diligently started to work towards it. I read up about some disturbing issues regarding women in India. The most disturbing was the taboo around menstruation. To feel the pain of my character I wore a ‘sanitary pad’ made up of clothes and sand. I felt humiliated and could only imagine what most women in India have to go through. The pity is that we as a society do not help to elevate this suffering by being supportive and talking about taboos. Ever tried buying a sanitary pad? Head to one of the medical stores around town. They’ll give it to you. Wrapped in brown paper and a black cover and all. As if they’re giving you a radioactive isotope. For the first time in my career, I felt I needed to do something bigger. I needed to find not just questions, but also their answers. This book is all of that: Five years of my life and a big motive from a small man to contribute to his society. Hope this does create a difference, however little it may be. Also, I will be making a comeback via Bankim’s satire. It will premiere on March 8 next year.”

And then came March and Vijayvargia theatre was full. The standing ovation was there, but not just for the actor, but the man he had proven himself to be. This play had changed not just the actors, but also the society, however little it may have been.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- About the Author Somyanshu Arora is from the Batch of 2015–17. He is a CFA L3 and DAAD Scholar

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