Chandigarh: At first sight, martial arts and meditation may seem activities that are miles apart from theatre performances but an on-stage experiment by the department of Indian theatre at Punjab University here is trying to build on the commonality they share.
"People might find it surprising but if you know theatre, you understand the underlying similarities between the two," department chairperson and noted theatre personality Neelam Mansingh Chowdhary told reporters.
Chowdhary, who has directed nearly 30 plays and was conferred a Padma Shri for her contribution to Indian theatre, said: "Martial art teaches alertness, working with objects around, relationship with space, balancing, flexibility and risk taking ability. All these qualities are a must for a good theatre artist."
At a workshop in the department, which has been the learning ground for leading actors like Anupam Kher, Poonam Dhillon, Kirron Kher, and Satish Kaushik, students learned Manipuri martial art "Thang-ta" and Chinese meditation form "Tai Chi" from S. Biswajit Singh, who has been into this art for over three decades, to better their performance.
During the 10-day workshop, students were taught sword and stick fighting, the art of defending themselves, the warrior dance, exercises for mental peace and stability and physical balancing.
On the unique combination of "Thang-ta, Tai Chi and Theatre", Biswajit Singh said: "The two traditional forms widen the possibilities physically and in the performance. It brings in more flexibility and energy and this, in turn, helps to polish the skills of an actor."
The experience has left participants yearning for more.
Krishan Kumar, a final year student, said: "We never thought we will get to learn such things. The experience was amazing. We could not imagine that being an actor, we will be taught such good fighting skills."
Himanshu Dwivedi, a research scholar at the department, told reporters: "Synchronization of three things is most important for an artist when he performs - body, voice and mind. A good performance is a result of the perfect management of these three and this is what Biswajit Singh`s lessons instilled in us."
The sessions were an "experience of a lifetime" and these skills will make them "even better performers", he said.
Indian theatre traces its origin back to about 5,000 years and now it has evolved into a full-fledged career option for students.
Giving a platform to learn all aspects of the subject, the theatre department at PU offers a masters degree. It has 24 students, all of whom participated in the event.
Students passing out from the department find jobs in acting, direction, production and other aspects of films, television and theatre.