For theatre artist and Stand-up Comic- Anu Menon, the stage is home, her first love. Stage Culture speaks with the veteran as she gears up to premiere ‘Take 35’- a monologue at The Park’s New Festival ‘2017.
About Take 35
“I had been on the look-out for a 45 minute monologue for a woman. I couldn’t find anything! So I was urged to write. My fear about writing is always that it would end up becoming quite stand-up-y, only because I do so much stand-up now. This is the first time that I have written a dramatic one woman piece.
The monologue is about a child star, who hasn’t quite made it as an adult. About being a woman, not being where she initially wanted. Grappling with every day issues. There’s an element of neuroses, fantasy and humour. Director Faezeh Jalali and I have tried to encapsulate a life in 45 minutes. Hopefully interesting enough to hold an audience. I’m very grateful to her.”
The inspiration behind Take 35
“Growing up in Chennai, we’d always refer to child actors with the prefix ‘baby’. Even when they’ve grown up. When Mani Ratnam directed the Tamil version of ‘Saathiya’, Madhavan’s first movie, he was cast opposite a 25 year old girl we still called Baby Shalini. That always fascinated me.
I’ve met a few child actors in my line of work. 7 year old girls who know exactly what kind of make-up suits them. Who go ahead to advise trained make-up artistes. It’s amazing! I’ve seen ambitious and pushy parents. 3 and 4 year olds being chastised by their mothers for not being able to remember their lines. I used to watch them being shouted at. That always hit me.”
About the Stage
“My first love has always been the stage. You develop a kinship with every stage you perform on. It’s sacred. It puts you at ease instantly. Once I go on stage, I feel the comfort of home. Feels like I’ve always been there.”
I did my Masters in Drama in London. Plan was to move to Bombay, get a TV job to support my theatre habit, because theatre is bae. Stand-up on the other hand is an extension of my personality. I’m happy that they co-exist. I don’t do one thing particularly. One helps to fuel the other.”
Juggling with Theatre and Stand-up
“Stand-up is different in the sense that you are playing a character in a theatrical monologue. You’re probably the closest version of yourself in stand-up. And yet I can’t be Anu over there just mouthing the lines. No one can be exactly themselves when you put them on stage and shine a light on them. There’s something intangible and inexplicable about that gap. My style has been called theatrical, and I’m not surprised. Even when you’re writing it, you still have to find a different voice. We are silent observers, who take it all in and go on to write about it.”
About what attracts you to storytelling
“I like stories. We’re used to telling stories on stage. What I love about the stage is that everyone tells their stories very differently. The fact that a stage can transform just by putting different lights, the fact that you’ can minimally create a world just with lights, sounds and props. I think that’s fantastic.”
About money in the arts
“In the creative space, everyone I know is doing theatre for the love of it. There’s not much ego. There’s an unmatched purity in theatre. It is a very deliberate choice. Not roles you are accepting to make the rent.”
But things are changing in Bombay. Initiatives like Aditya Birla Group’s Aadyam have helped hugely. In spite of constraints, there are plays running in Bombay, everyday. We whine about not having money, but we push through.
I think stand-up as an art form is launching ahead because all one needs is a stage, and a mic. Theatre has a lot of incumbent costs. But, things are a lot better than it used to be.”
“I’m not very pro-active about it. If it happens, great! The stage is where I’m happiest. I’m not good at knocking on doors of casting directors. Also, I don’t have a very conventional face for film. Curly haired people always get the roles of vamps, and that’s just not my thing. People associate me with Lola Kutty so much that they can’t break out of it. It’s the most bizarre thing, to have to prove that it’s you. That’s why I’m never offered an item number.”
“Get More of satisfaction that I’ve done all I could, and that I’ve left it all out there. There are so many things out of your control but as long as you give it your best shot, that’s all you can do.”
Make sure you watch Anu, as she performs ‘Take 35’ as a part of The Park’s New Festival organized by Prakriti Foundation:
14th September- G5A Foundation for Contemporary Culture, Mumbai
17th September- The Park, Hyderabad
21st September- The Park, Bengaluru