Words are all I Have

Words are all I Have

"Theatre is Life with the dull bits cut out", said Alfred Hitchcock. And the one individual who often facilitates these cuts is the compere. Compere is a British term, meaning Master of Ceremonies. And masters they are, of every stage show. Ask any regular patron of the Gadkari Rangayatan and chances are that he or she will tell you: A compere plays a key role in the success of any stage show.

A compere is also the life of large shows such as The Academy Awards (Oscars) or our very own Filmfare Awards. We have have experienced all too often how a good compere can lift the show to higher level and how a bad compere can spoil the best of shows.

But although it is easy to criticize, the job of a compere isn’t a bed of roses. Many people think that all you need to become a successful compere is the gift of the gab. But think again: A professional compere always needs to be prepared for the worst. Problems like malfunctioning of the sound system, stage lights going awry, guests arriving late – or worse – not arriving at all, often crop up when least expected. The three laws of theatre that every compere is familiar with:

  • Everything will take longer than it really should.
  • If it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would get done.
  • Glory may be fleeting but obscurity lasts forever.

This then makes hosting a live stage show (or even a live TV show) much harder to do well than acting, on stage or in front of the camera. For one, there are no re-takes. Two, you have to keep coming back – even if it’s not going well! Often you’ll have to cut your bits short because an act overran. Sometimes you may have to pull an act off, if they’ve badly overrun or are putting off the audience as well as ruining the night for the next act.

Fortunately, there’s hope for aspiring comperes. Madhyam, a Thane-based group runs training classes for aspiring actors and comperes. Madhyam has been founded by Minal Chilekar, who is herself a professional compere and has hosted many professional shows, including official functions held at the residences of senior dignitaries such as the Prime Minister and the President.

Madhyam trains its students in various aspects of compering. Overcoming stage fright, developing spontaneity, understanding the etiquettes of stage shows and managing eventualities are some of the areas touched.

Madhyam enjoys the services of such esteemed faculty as Ravi Patwardhan, Sampada Kulkarni, Vasanti Vartak, Prabhod Kulkarni, Rupesh Kadu and Somkuwar. All these are noted professionals in the areas of acting, compereing and other stage activities.

Interestingly, although Madhyam’s courses are primarily designed to train people into becoming professional actors and comperes, the institute frequently receives requests from strange quarters. 65-year old senior citizen Meena Patankar, 12-year old schoolgirl Shreya Sukhi and Lakshman Parekar, a purohit (a priest who performs puja) are all students of Madhyam. Patankar is the secretary of the Scouts and Guides association, who uses her newly acquired skills to motivate and control her students. Little Shreya’s objective is to participate in professional public speaking competitions such as debates and elocutions. Purohit Parekar’s reason for taking up the course is rather unique. His occupation requires him to undertake long monologues – he often addresses large gatherings of people, explaining to them the meaning of the Sanskrit Slokas and their relevance to the puja that he performs. Recently, Ruia College recently approached Madhyam to train the members of Vaad Sabha, a debate group comprising of students from the college.

"All the world is a stage", said Shakespeare. Looking at the diverse variety of people enrolling for Madhyam’s courses, the whole world does seem like a stage.

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