Smita Barman is a young director from Assam who has been gradually carving out a niche for herself in the world of amateur theatre.
Having directed numerous plays, short films etc, Barman is preparing for her new play Amar Laxminath and has been busy in its rehearsals in Guwahati.
The Story Mug caught up with this young director to know more about her journey so far and the road ahead.
TSM: When did the theatre bug bite you?
Smita: I had a weakness towards theatre and acting right from a tender age.
However, I never thought of taking it up as a profession and devote my time and life completely into it.
After completing my under graduation, I began working as a director.
I had a rough technical knowledge about the direction and this roughness was polished to an extent while I was doing Mass Communication an Journalism course.
However, I feel that apart from the technical knowledge, a director also needs to have knowledge about acting. And for sharpening one's acting skills, the stage is the best option.
I was lucky enough to have met my 'Guru', the renowned playwright Prabhat Goswami during the dubbing of a short film.
I told him about my desire to work in theatres and sought his guidance. Whatever I have learned about drama and direction, I have learned everything from him.
I had assisted him several plays and from these experiences, I learned a lot about acting as well direction.
The experience gained has helped to direct over 20 plays independently so far. Among these, I had conceptualised a few, and the audience has appreciated these.
TSM: What has been your training like?
Smita Barman: It was a difficult walk for me when I first began directing plays because everything was new to me.
Moreover, in amateur theatre, a director has to look after almost every department- which we don't need while directing a video production.
Right from looking after production, artist management to direction become quite challenging at times.
TSM: Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?
Smita: I don't even remember when the journey actually began. There wasn't any challenge when it started, but now after gaining a bit of experience, I feel that this journey is challenging and is going to be far more adventurous and thrilling.
TSM: Why did you choose direction and not acting?
Smita Barman: It is always better to be a king in hell rather than being a slave in heaven.
TSM: In this journey, what has been the contribution of your parents
Smita: My father and my mother have always been supportive and they have always respected my decisions- right from what I wanted to study or what profession I intended to take up. And had they not permitted me to do the things I loved, I would have not here where I am today.
Here I would like to thank my mother especially as if she would have not supported me then I would have been married by now with kids.
TSM: Tell us about your projects so far and how do you conceive your ideas and stories?
Smita Barman: Some of the recent productions on which have worked include Not About Tezimola, Moi Nathuramey Koisu, Chameli Memsaab, Taton Tamuli and The Dress.
People have appreciated these plays, however, I have not allowed myself to get complacent as I have yet to cover a lot more.
There a few more projects in hand like drama, documentary, short films etc and I aim to complete these in 2021.
I won't be able to tell precisely as from where do the ideas come from. It is like the original source of the gigantic waterfalls of the mountains- we hardly know about their origins. The ideas come by automatically.
TSM: Tell us about your team and their inputs during creating a play.
Smita: In any project, an individual cannot do everything all on his own. Teamwork is very essential in our work if we have to serve a polished and engrossing play before the audience.
Our production house, Natya Bithika, looks after the production of our every home production. Artists and the technical people keep on changing with every project.
Playwright Prabhat Goswami, ex sales tax commissioner Miftabiddin Ahmed, actors Krishna Kalyani and Pranjal Hazarika are the permanent members of our home production.
TSM: What makes a play great for you? Are there certain qualities that make a play better for you?
Smita: It depends on the audience's reaction. The audience is like a god for us and if they show a positive reaction to a play, then we consider it as a good play.
However, whenever I watch a play as an audience by putting aside the director's hat, I tend to focus on the story and its treatment. The presentation is also an important section for me while watching a play.
TSM: Any particular dramatist you are inspired by?
Smita: As a director, I am a fan of method acting. I am highly inspired by the father of method acting Lee Strasberg.
Moreover, I am also a big fan of late Girish Karnard and my guru Prabhat Goswami.
TSM: How do you finalise on the actors for the characters of your plays?
Smita: After reading a script I first chalk out the strong characteristics of the individual characters and then I sit with my scriptwriter to finalise the actors for each character.
For me, character study is of utmost importance before finalising on the actor.
TSM: Any experience that you would like to forget?
Smita: There are many such incidents that I would like to forget. Especially those incidents where the actors gave more importance to their ego and politics, rather than focussing on their acting and work.
TSM: You have also directed a short film named 'The Dress'. Please tell us something about it
Smita: The Dress has been conceptualised by my 'Guru' Prabhat Goswami and I wrote the script and have directed it.
The Dress focuses on the life and incidents of a rape victim.
The short film was screened at several national and international short film festivals and has been earned the accolades of the jury members as well as the audience.
Prabhat Goswami, Jinti Bora Talukdar, Krishna Kalyani, Parth Bordoloi, Udipta Borgohain and Rajiv Das have acted in the short film.
TSM: Which is more challenging, directing for the celluloid or directing for the stage?
Smita: While directing a film, we have an opportunity to retake a scene if we don't find it to be as per our liking.
However, in a stage, we don't have that luxury and if something goes wrong during the final act, then we can't correct it again.
A stage show is successful only when it is perfect and performed in one take. So I feel directing plays is more challenging.
TSM: Do you ever intend to direct a full-length feature film?
Smita: Yes, of course, why not. If there is an opportunity I would definitely love to direct a full-length feature film.
TSM: Any message you would like to share with our readers
Smita Barman: I would seek your blessings so that I can overcome the obstacles that may come along the way so that I can keep on improving and achieve my goal.
I thank the entire team of The Story Mug for allowing me to express my thoughts and feelings.
The Story Mug, a Guwahati-based blogzine, believes in telling stories that matter.