It wasn't for the first time that I was working on some abstract form. Mohit (Director of Tu) had directed "Fridgemadhye Thevlela Prem" quite recently and I was in the lights department. In "Fridge...", the lights were primarily designed by Samar Nakhate. While working with him, I realised the potential of mere placement of a light source to extract multiple possibilities from it. Fridge due to the its inherent absurdity required lights to be done in a particular way. And I had this work as a baseline while working on Tu.
Tu, yet, was different. It was saying something that was tangible enough through the bits and pieces said through out the play. Unlike Sachin (Writer of Fridge...), who ends up on existential notes or on some notes that could sound very selfish at times. Tu has a universality in it. While watching Tu I was re-experiencing at least one moment of my life every moment!
With all this here I was in front of Tu. Tu was cinematic. I found the music quite filmy. Tu was something that was being FELT every moment. Now I was supposed to convey something more that had to be said by controlling the the visual.
I knew why Mohit was doing the play. I know the quality and texture of Mohit's thinking. I think that is a big asset to anyone who is doing lights or music or any supporting technical function - Knowing your director well.
The spaces in which each scene of the play happens could be real and virtual or both. E.g. the Bar can be real as well as the chaos inside the mind of a character or just a reflection of reality or outside world.
I decided and kept the awareness thousands of miles away - the awareness that I am designing lights for the play. I went to the rehearsals and saw them. I cried with them, smiled with them and did almost everything they did. I just jotted down the broader cues like "black out", "scene ends" etc.
One day while the rehearsals were on, I felt something that was moving me. I had participated in a theatrical presentation based on poems. The name of this production was "Zaade - Mateechya Manateel Kavita" (Literal meaning "Trees: Poems from the heart of the earth") and had witnessed a great process for the development of our presentation out of those poems that we had with us as script. Tu was somewhat similar. Rumi's poems in Marathi .. transformed into dialogues of the characters specially developed to carry a story of love forward through the 2 act play. That day I felt that some very very positive energy is present in the rehearsal room and the energy participates in the performance with all the actors as a medium. I said to myself .. "Rumi ! Rumi will create the magic!!"
The next day .. I had some thing to work on. Mt first understanding of the play for designing lights.
I had something to think on.
The play, I realized, was not taking place in any specific location/locations even if indicated so in the script / scene / lines. The entire play was a collage of scenes taking place in some virtual space like the mind of a character / Rumi's mind / mind of Mohit .. our very creative and talented Director!!
Knowing Mohit very well, I had a few leads to his thinking and mental processes that went on some autobiographical note for him. I had many things with me .. but all were thoughts .. nothing tangible!! Nothing that I could really put on paper. I also recollected the impact that I had when Mohit first read this script out to me at a very heavenly place .. Tarkarli Beach near Malvan in Sindhudurga District.
One day I realized that it is not just autobiographical for Mohit or anyone else , but everything is so mine!! My own.
I decided not to "design" anything at that stage and allowed it to grow on me.
And the during the Technical and the Grand Rehearsals I actually designed the lights for TU!!
I kept many black spaces. Only the areas that are "really happening"are lit in Tu.
The bar scenes became very colorful. The special lantern was used ... Mohit had this in mind. Any other light designer would have felt tempted to use blue wash in the lantern scene .. but I stopped myself. I wanted some light in the scene's end when the two sit in front of each other .. and I did it. it looked amazing .. Mohit too, agreed. Rupali (my wife) after seeing the show told me that at that moment she felt like sitting inside the lantern and watching the play .. or the characters from inside the lantern. I realised the subconscious process behind my desire to have that light on ... probably I wanted to become the lantern myself. The rain in the music found its reflection in the blue washes to the entire stage. The shadows created by the foot-light fascinated and helped me to magnify the picture at times or to highlight the subtle struggles at another or to add to the chaos sometimes. I had liberty to do anything and I did what I felt.
Radhika's attractive and well maintained body was made more beautiful by the energy she carried from the character and by Kalyani's simple but brilliantly designed costume. Ashish looks bright and fresh on stage. Nachiket is and looks obscure. Bhakti is sweet, fresh and charming. Omkar looks unpredictable and Nilesh looks deep, meaningful on stage. I felt all this helped me, no doubt subconsciously, while providing lights to their individual scenes.
I struggled a lot in achieving the exact points on which Mohit wanted lights to go off and come again. I made him bite his nails many times .. I kept him repenting on having me there .. (probably just once or twice) and .. at the end of all this, here I am settling down as the light designer for TU.
I think the Best Lights Award in the state competition, the META nomination were possible just because I could make myself empty before I could do anything about Tu's lights. In Rumi's words'
Become a blank piece of paper
where nothing has been written ...
only then it is possible
to write something on it ...
In your light I learn how to love.
In your beauty ... how to make poems.
You dance inside my heart where no one sees you.
... but some times I do!
... that sight becomes the art!!
Thanks Rumi .. Thanks Mohit .. Thanks all the actors for they took me on the journey of my subconscious.
The lights for Tu are one of the most rewarding moments of my life .. even while I am doing them and when I have finished doing them. Many nominations ... awards ... the journey will continue .. as the light for this design is within ... deep within !!!
the words act only as the dimmers !!!