A retirement and the comeback: The story of a METHOD actor and more


There was a palpable sense of excitement and fear in that room full of journalists juxtaposed in that tiny room of the iconic Vijayvargia Theatres in East Malad, Mumbai. For years this theatre had stood as a breeding ground for luminaries, producing actors of international pedigree. So when Anshuman Rana, the most prodigious Method Acting talent (and yet only his mid-20s) in the annals of the theatre, called the press conference, it felt as if the spirit of curiosity had rained over everyone in Mayanagri. Was one of India’s finest method actors ever, finally going to embellish the mainstream cinema with his presence? After all he was renowned to take his acts to a new level; acting to him was all about looking natural.

But the length of the press conference was short, so short that it felt like a blip on radar. It lasted a mere minute but it left jaws dropped, eyes wide opened and that deafening noise, which only silence can make. “I am taking an indefinite break from acting. I request privacy in the coming days and request no interview request from the press until further notification” said Anshuman before he stood up calmly, left the tiny room and took out every ounce of excitement with him, while filling the vacuum left behind with a drench of unanswered questions. In this pandemonium only one thing was left clear, his fans may never again get the chance to give him a standing ovation again, their feet could now rest longer & their palms would now hurt less.

That notification never came, those questions never got answered. The favourite producers, the close ones, the near ones never spoke a word about him. May be they did not know about it themselves. His Facebook page, his Twitter account and his Instagram photo blog never gave a hint. They were as good as dormant, as good as non-existent. But this is what happened for five years. Just to give a perspective, in those five years Modi came to power, Crimea said yes to joining Russia, India won and lost the cricket world cup, Trump became president elect, China rose to (more) prominence, Sachin Tendulkar retired and you and me became five years older than we were before the start of this five year period. So much for time lapse. Period!

But suddenly one day, each of those virtual presences sprung to life. A small line became big news. “Launching my first book at Vijayvargia, All journos requested to be there at 5:30p.m. 25 November”. A comeback after five years, not as an actor but as a writer. One had to be there. The bosses ordered their juniors to be there and that tiny room was filled once again. Just like it was five years back. The spirit of curiosity had rained over Mayanagri once again, just like it did five years ago. This time (thankfully) the press conference lasted a little longer but that question about the real comeback was still not answered.

The book was called ‘Feminazi: Why we may need more of them’. This work had been tougher than he had imagined. This was a tome, which was full of surveys, interviews, report summaries and expert opinions and this was as comprehensive a work as ever done in India on this topic. And all this was told via a story that inculcated everything and changed its form from one chapter to another. His five years had been devoted to it and one look at the size of the book and you could figure out why that much time was needed. The book looked a special work and as it turned out, it was indeed special.

The critics were all over the book. Many gave it a full rating, used their virtual presence to promote it, suggested it to friends in person and at least fell in love with it. But there was more to the book. The secret was released in it, in the foreword to be more specific.

“People ask me why I left a fledgling career in acting. My answer to them is this book. As a method actor, I always tried to completely identify myself at an emotional level with the parts 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. The play was to be played entirely by men with the casting itself acting as a symbol against suppression of women. I saw the role as a challenge unlike any other I had faced and diligently started to work on my part. I read up about women and domestic violence in India and got disturbed more and more as I delved deeper into it. The most disturbing of these was the taboo around menstruation cycle. To try to feel the pain of my character I went around my home wearing a ‘sanitary pad’ made up of clothes and sand. I had to that during the play and being the perfectionist that I am, I thought I should practice it. I felt humiliated doing that once and could not imagine what a woman has to go through for a major part of their life.

The pity was that we as a society do not seem to be helping to elevate this suffering by being supportive and talking openly about taboos. Rather we make it a point to accentuate the suffering in many cases. And it is not just in rural India. Have you ever tried to buy a sanitary napkin in a town? If not then, 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 could not do justice to my job. That as an actor I am not contributing to problems that affect me. I felt as if I needed to do something bigger, find out something more, not just questions but also their answers. This book has 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.

And by the way, I will be making a comeback to acting via Bankim’s play. I can’t be thankful enough to him for waiting this long for me. The act will premiere on 8 March next year at Vijayvargia theatre. Be there if you want to see of what should be an awesome play”

And then day arrived. International Woman’s day, the 8th of March. The theatre was full. The people were on their feet. The palms hurt, the legs became tired but the appreciation did not halt. This was not just for the actor, but for the man that he was. This play had undertaken a long journey and a lot had changed during that time. May be it shall bring change in others as well, however little it may be, however little it may be.


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