The warmth of an auditorium filled with audience
The warmth of an auditorium filled with audience, the mesmerizing sound of silence before the audience burst into snaps, clicks and applauses, the ambience of a proscenium and that one spotlight before the mic. This is not just a performance this is a journey of emotions from the heart of an artist to the heart of an audience. The poet or the storyteller orchestrates the mind and heart, he or she takes you to those places you have never been to and makes you witness situations that you’ve never seen while you just sit back and steer along with their narration. Art makes the community even more beautiful. It is bringing solace and inspiration to a lot of people. To feel it, all you need to do is to be just present at that moment and believe us it’s totally worth it! Poems and stories tell you so much while saying so little through the simplest lines as they resonate within you. Art when consumed physically is always magical, it is capturing and engrossing. The collaboration of art and the digitalization has not only amplified the number of ears listening to poetry and spoken word but it has also shown us some of the India’s best poets, shayar, kavi or storytellers in general. It has made the most heartwarming spoken word pieces available to the households at their own convenience and has made us familiar with the best writers or performers of our country.
But every novel has a backstory to it which often plays a significant part in the story but it is often unwritten. Every written tale has a tale of its own. One such awe-inspiring and fanatically admiring story was the one, when we were in conversation with India’s most venerate and idolized personality Roshan Abbas. Usually we introduce and quote the artist with his or her form of art but this time he made it really difficult for us. We were honored to hold this candid conversation with him. A TV anchor, a radio jockey, a writer, a director in several films and stage theatre plays, a lyricist, CEO and founder, an angel investor, serial entrepreneur and an author, we bet you can’t say all of it in a single breath! Roshan has been managing so many things successfully and has achieved the zenith in whatever he has been into which makes him a special artist, the youth draws inspiration from him, he is truly an idol. He has in fact won seven National Awards in the past, whatever he has done till now, he has made that opportunity into a golden one. He creates futuristic projects and has a vision that has its own uniqueness. Among the millennials and gen Z, many of them have witnessed this art form of spoken word digitally and they are now much more aware of this art form. In fact much motivated to invest their time and money for such events. A lot of motivation is drawn by the young and budding artists across India because of the art which is getting this kind of digitalization. It gives them courage to pour their heart onto a piece of paper. Kommune India has become the hub for Indian storytelling. The medium is constantly growing and has an immense fan base across India and all over the globe. “We started Kommune in 2015. We started getting storytellers, poets and performers to the online community. After a point of time when we had crossed a hundred thousand views on YouTube, I was sure that something was happening, this is something very crucial” Said Roshan.
Digitalization in India is at its peak, as the number of internet users via phone and laptop have been expanding therefore it has led the digital content to spreads its wings wide and far! “Ab sab digital ho raha hain, we live in this digital world, that day someone said itna phone pe rehte ho, shaadi karlo ussey se he” We laughed. He further added “As people, as human beings, we need to consume art physically! There was always a resonating question inside our minds that how shall we get people out of their homes, to actually attend these live performances. So we started coming out with smaller shows.” This was indeed a big risk for all of them because there is no assurance that the online figures will actually convert into actual number of people coming to the live show. “Earlier shows were out of a personal belief, they happened because I felt that we can hold shows like this, it was just like a guess.” To this he added and said "As a theatre artist I have always seen the joy of a live audience, from performing in front of 10 people to performing in a stadium, the live interaction is magical! We are human beings, ultimately we want interaction." Roshan was always a very passionate artist he said “Main thoda junooni hojata hun. I took the call, out of my personal belief. I remember I had to leave for London while having a signed sponsor. I had sponsors for the fest, but somehow the sponsors backed out, they had to withdraw for some reason. The first thought was, now no matter what happens we have to do it! I borrowed; I asked some of my friends who were brand heads to invest, some of my colleagues, put in my own savings, my own money. The first show saw six thousand people, we opened the gates and it was like a DDLJ moment with people coming in, just the music was missing!” We laughed. He further added “The fitoor, the passion for it, was my driving force” The Spoken Fest that took place a few months back in Delhi witnessed a ‘magical mix’ of artist lineup that came all across India! “Thankfully, we are now doing great as our dream project is finally at the cusp of recovery. The audience turnout in Bombay is six times greater than what we saw this year in Delhi.” He said and added further “Delhi ka Dil jeetna thoda mushkil hain.” He smiled. Even after 25 years of work Roshan is not afraid to take up challenges, he hasn’t stopped yet and he won’t for sure! “My team often asks me from where I get the zeal and how am I so Zen about it? I've seen a lot of things and I'm not affected by high and lows. From doing empty shows to the places where the set has fallen to the shows where producers have backed out. Now they seem to be very little to me. I see youngsters looking at me as an inspiration. If they see me hassled then they'll get hassled. They draw a lot of strength from me.” At times artists who are also entrepreneurs have to swing to and fro like a pendulum swing, in between their professional front and their art form. From the stress to manage and market the art safely to be honest with the art is all together a different headache.” Art is good for business but businesses must not affect the art! The line in between art and business must not get blurred.
“Creative people get hurt very fast, they are very fragile they are sensitive.” said Roshan. The thing is Roshan has also managed brands and a number of businesses, being an angel investor himself, he knows how difficult is for a startup to make its mark up from scratch. “I’ve organized shows where the audiences have been far more less than what I expected, the show, the set up or the presentation were way more disappointing, but I have never let it affect me, for instance when X number of people didn't even turn up for the show that same show gave me 30 brand sponsors who told me we will sponsor your show, things like these matter and create a difference.” Dreams don’t have an expiry date, that’s something we must learn from the kind of experience he had throughout his career. The most motivating thing we heard from him was the moment he said “sometimes you have to be in the position of Bhishmpitama, where you have to lay down on a bed of arrows like in Mahabhrata. I think now I am used to it. I have immense faith in our brand, our artists and art.” He said it with a bright smile! His experience is golden for us, especially for the younger generation that is caught in the web of “WWW’s” and “dotcom websites”. Suddenly a question came up in our minds while the conversation was going on. We were baffled when we realized how does Roshan manages to switch between the virtual world and the real world that is between the internet and his personal life, to which he gave an answer that made our heart melt he said “You should know what is ‘nice to do’ and ‘what is must to do’. Posting a picture about an event, meeting friends and having a get together at home are things that are nice to do. Mother ko phone karna is a must to do! You must know the difference between the two and the relevance of both them.” But staying online and putting your art up in front of the online open audience is totally a different thing. You’re bound to take a lot of criticism, because it gives you a free platform to keep your opinions openly in front of everyone. On this he said “remember the person who conducts the orchestra is the one who keeps his backs to the audience. You must hear the constructive criticism before taking anybody’s opinion. Take it if it’s on your art, don’t take unnecessary opinions and doubt yourself.”
To this he added “Yaar apne art ko bechne mai badi sharam aati hain. So at times you also need a filter, it’s necessary. One of my very close acquaintances late Farooq Sheikh sahab said ‘ke Kabhi kabhi cup se zyada tashtari garam hojati hain.’ So that’s what it is.” Meaning that every artist’s artwork is so close to him or her that it’s unfair to even quote a price for it, he then quotes the veteran saying that sometimes the plate below the cup that is holding some warm tea becomes even hotter than the cup itself! What a brilliant analogy! It’s true, because whenever you are surrounded by so many opinions around yourself, you tend to come across people that are just creating an unnecessary hype about things. At times the reality is much more subtle. If you are the cup the people around you become far more agitated at times. It’s more about paying conscious to what you do. Don’t value everyone’s opinion! He said “Value opinions of those who matter to you!”
The Spoken fest event in Delhi was stunning and we really had a great time! When the whole world is becoming like a huge noisy concert of electronic music, Spoken Fest remains to be the one that sounds like a soothing symphony to our ears. Roshan and his venture of delivering a soulful experience to the audience is great where he mentions himself to be a pole of a jumping trampoline while his other four colleagues are holding different poles and pulling them in different directions so that they can bring out the artist who’s featuring in the middle at his/her best! A man who’s very particular about his ‘English breakfast tea’, the one who has recently moved on to gin and has a special place for cats and dogs as well, the one who’s life has been like “Skating on thin ice” and suggests the title to be the same if a book was written on him was caught candid at “CATCH THEM CANDID; Unscripted. Unheard. Unaltered.”
- Shubham Pal