Anup Baral : The Misfit

November 21, 2013 , by Supriya Rai, 1 Comment
Anup Baral : The Misfit » My Dreams Mag

It’s been a long rehearsal. Anup Baral sat on the benches keeping a keen eye on the actors performing on stage. “Find the light…”, “Pause here…”, “Project your voice more…” are just a few of the instructions he’s shouting out to his cast at periodic intervals. Now and then, someone fumbles or forgets their line and draws nervous glances from the audience. In a measured voice, Baral reads them their lines and the rehearsal resumes. There is a palpable, restless energy about him, one expected perhaps of the director guiding the cast of his play towards a pitch-perfect delivery on the opening night, less than a week away.

Theatre works like a painkiller for me. When I am frustrated or in turmoil, I find solace here. And that feeling, that release, is irreplaceable”, says Baral as he collapses into a chair when the rehearsals are finally over at 7.

Malami 1

Malami on Stage

As a little boy, Baral remembers watching street performers during different cultural festivals in Pokhara and being completely taken with them. He was specially enamoured by the elaborately dressed and turned out dancers. Even the smell of their face paint would intoxicate him, he divulges. “I used to feel like Alice in Wonderland”, recalls the director fondly. Such was his fascination with theatrics that by the time he was 7, he was already a regular patron of his local cinema hall.

Sadhai paisa hudai na thyo ani ghar bata chorera lanthe kaile kai. Paisa pani chorna napauda chai hall ko gatekeeper lai kachaura diyera pani film hereko chu maile.”

I didn’t always have money to buy tickets so sometimes I used to steal from my parents. There have been instances when I nicked bowls from our kitchen to bribe the gatekeeper too.”

If Baral was artistically inclined from an early age, he was also academically apathetic. The sterile reality of schools couldn’t compete with the vibrant make-believe of cinema. It is fair to say that this reluctant student, considering that he was expelled from most of his schools, fell foul of the rigid education system.

That doesn’t mean that Baral was the stereotypical drop-out though; learning and studying was never a chore to him. In fact he is a very well read man, knowledgeable to a fault. Rather it was the insipid teaching methods of the schools that drove him off to river banks where he would fish under the open sky or street performances where he could rub shoulders with the artists. What inspired him was what intrigued him – his paintings of his father (Durga Baral, better known as Vatsyayan) on the wall, thick spines of hefty books in the library, the enigma that was the gramophone etc.

I used to find different facets of society reflected in my father’s paintings and I was always curious about the stories the books had to tell. Sometimes I would wear one under my arm just to show off at school even if at that time I couldn’t read English and had to have seniors read it to me”, laughs the director.

It was at 14, immediately after he passed his tenth grade., though when he began his real education -learning the language of theatre: one that he is so well-versed in now. An amateur play written and directed by a friend, “Timi Bachnu Parcha” was his first acting gig. There on, the aspiring actor became very involved in amateur theatre and soon enough caught the eye of the popular playwright Sarubhakta.

Serendipitously, the writer had just moved back to Pokhara and was thinking of forming a team. Baral and his friends didn’t have to be asked twice. Their collaborative effort helped pave the way for “Pokhareli Yuwa Sanskritik Pariwar” which was chiefly concerned with promoting and conducting events under Literature, Music and Arts categories. After a good initial run, they suffered from production irregularity and competition within their own organization for resources between all the different ongoing projects.

In June 1990 as a resolve, Baral and his friends braved a move away from PYSP to establish their own theatre company called “Pratiwimba”. Having already notched a few years’ experience under their belt, the trio of playwright Sarubhakta, director Baral and actor Prakash Ghimire set to re-energise the theatre scene in Pokhara. They succeeded to a degree- for the next two years they produced 6 plays a year for their 500 regular patrons who paid a fixed annual fee of Rs.500.

With the advancement of technology and penetration of different media, interest in theatre inevitably started to peter out. The stiff competition from Bollywood movies and Nepali TV channel also hampered business.

I deduced that if theatre is to survive then we have to be different from the norm. At that time, the language of theatre, movies and television was pretty much the same. And the question was if the audiences are not getting a different experience then why would they make the effort to come to a theatre when they can watch television from the comfort of their own homes? Things had to be different/ better, for theatre to stand on its own. But who here had the knowledge to elevate it to the next level?”


Virtual Reality on Stage (2006) : Ram Babu, Shivani Singh Tharu, Deeya Maskey, Saugat Malla (on picture)

That levelling realization fired the young artist to seek this academic knowledge that no one here was seemingly privy to. National school of Drama in Delhi was his destination and he still regards the three years spent there as his golden years. When the graduate returned to Nepal however, his spirits dissipated again at the virtually non-existent theatre culture.

Theatre maryo. Theatre is dead! That was what my seniors told me when I came back. Some well meaning guys even told me to go back to India and try to make something of myself there. Our theatre scene then was completely bereft of people; like a deserted train platform after the train pulls out.”

As he sips on his cup of tea, Baral confesses that he did go back to India then. The looming prospect of joblessness and sensory deprivation scared him back to the promising land of Bollywood. But despite the fluency in Hindi, familiarity with the culture and knowledge about their industry, finding work, he explains was extremely hard. When a tentative offer for a movie role fell through due to his unavailability in lieu of his mother’s health scare, the struggling actor realised he had run out of patience to wait for the Bollywood dream.

I thought to myself, why should I struggle in this foreign land and go through such hardships, face such humiliation to no avail? At least back home, I have my own ghar-bari and if nothing else were to work, I will resort to running a theatre company from home, build a theatre on my land. Anything will do, as long as I go back and escape this stagnancy. And hence with that thought, I packed my bags and came back home.”

That was then and this is now. Today Anup Baral is one of the most celebrated theatre directors of Nepal, having directed over 50 plays to critical acclaim and commercial success. A few choice acting gigs in movies like Kagbeni and Dasdhunga have also been well-received by his peers and the masses. He sighs “Durbhagya!” when enquired about the reason for his limited work before the camera; his directorial efforts effectively marginalizing his acting career.

Movie Colalge

A founding member and artistic director of the theatre company Actors’ Studio, he also counts popular stars like Saugat Malla, Deeya Maskey and Dayahang Rai as his students. A total of over 300 students in 15 batches have successfully completed AS workshops since their inception 7 years ago. Its latest offering “Court Martial” will be staged at Theatre Village from the 22nd November, 2013 with a star cast of Rajesh Hamal, Dayahang Rai and Karma Shakya among others. Baral has also recently wrapped up his first directorial venture into movies “Fitkiree”, an investigative thriller slated to release on Chaitra 7 starring Saugat Malla and Deeya Maskey.

Actors' Studio Nepal

Given the challenges of producing plays and movies in an economy like Nepal’s – factoring the lack of government subsidy and organizational grants, negative perceptions of people in entertainment, lack of integration and recognition of theatre as an integral cultural facet, poor remuneration etc. – he has done an outstanding job of sustaining his creative soul by channelling his frenzied energy and artistic genius into daring/experimental theatre.

Scene from “An Old Lady of Venice”

I toiled to make my own way, create avenues where none existed before. But it dawned on me that one needs partners, fellow conspirators to bolster a journey like this. I have many, whose lives intertwined with me at some point or the other but everybody eventually moves on to better paid jobs in television and movies. One of my biggest regrets is that I can’t afford to put them on salaries as permanent staff of the company, so that we wouldn’t need to part ways so soon.”

The actor “delivers” the story of his life like a well-rehearsed monologue off a script. The dimmed lights in the room obscure the silver in his hair but do little to cloak the emotion in his voice. On a cheerful note, Baral declares that he hopes to take his play to Broadway one day.

Ani farkida sabai actor haru ko haat ma gift hoss, pocket ma dollar hoss, saba jana khusi hun.”

And you?

Mero chai Kia ko euta Micro van hoss, tyesmai sabai jana lai rakhera thau thau ma natak dekhauna pau. Aru khasai thulo sapana kehi chaina.” 

(For more information on the upcoming play, Facebook)



Text By: Supriya Rai

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Categorised in: Arts

One comment on “Anup Baral : The Misfit

  1. Rupak Bhandari says:

    A very much of push factor for the youths. He has set a benchmark for the succeeding generation to follow for he has pioneered the theatre in his ways that parades his zeal in the field. A true inspiration.

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