Sunday, October 21, 2012

Feisty and vulnerable

That's Yamini Namjoshi for you. The theatre actress from Mumbai impressed an audience at Kochi with her histrionics

By Shevlin Sebastian

In the play, ‘Pune Highway’, in a seedy hotel room beside the Mumbai-Pune expressway, a waiter, Sakharam, comes in and says, “Maal a raha hai. Quality maal (A beautiful girl is coming along).”

Before the three friends – Nicholas Thomas, Vishnu and Pramod Khandelwal – could realise what he was saying, Mona strides in. She is wearing a striking-red halter neck top, cut at the midriff and tight white trousers. She has sunglasses in her hair and is wearing bright red lipstick. After a brief dialogue, Mona has a vomiting sensation and rushes to the bathroom.

When she returns, her lover Pramod asks, “Are you okay?”

I want some water,” she says.

Mona, are you??” says Pramod.

Am I what? A Cancerian? A professor? A fitness designer?”

Are you?....”

Ask the question Prammy,” says Mona.

Suddenly, Vishnu says, “Why have you vomited? Is it some bad food you ate late night or are you carrying his bastard child?”

Pramod, I am pregnant,” says Mona, with a smile.

The Mumbai-based theatre actress Yamini Namjoshi plays Mona. It is a small role, but she excels in it. As she says, “Mona is a mix of vulnerability and power, a bit like myself.” A day earlier, at the JT Performing Arts Centre in Kochi, she also impressed in playing Pooja Thomas, a young woman who helps run a Mumbai-based English language theatre company in 'Me, Kash and Cruise'.

Yamini got interested in acting thanks to her schooling at the top-notch JB Petit High School for Girls at Mumbai. “The [late] principal Shireen Darasha was incredible in terms of her passion for the arts,” she says. “She wanted to expose us to a variety of art forms, science, literature, travel and culture. Theatre was a very big part of it, since Shireen Maam was a great lover of it.”
So Yamini, and her classmates, acted in plays under the direction of such theatre luminaries like the late Pearl Padamsee. When Yamini grew up, she continued acting in college festivals, while studying in St. Xavier's College. Thereafter, in 1997, she went to do a four-year course in visual arts at Ohio Wesleyan University, USA. “I also did a minor in theatre,” she says.

Yamini had a role in 'Antigone' by Sophocles and several other plays. After her graduation in 2001, she worked for a year at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco. “It is one of the most respected theatre companies in America,” she says. “I worked as an assistant to established stage managers.”

Yamini also had a chance to see established thespians like Olympia Dukakis (who won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 'Moonstruck') and Diane Venora at close quarters. “They were amazing,” says Yamini. “They did huge amounts of research about the character, and the time period. They just did not arrive and act. During rehearsals, they worked from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. When the play opened, somebody like Diane continued studying and reading about her character. I would look at her and think, 'This is dedication. Every day is a new day. There is no end to the discovery of your character. It is not like films, where, after the director says, 'Cut', the scene is concluded. In theatre, the search for the depths of one's character is a never-ending process.”

(The Sunday magazine, New Indian Express, South India and Delhi) 

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