Rajpal Yadav takes his acting school on the road

The actor-comedian has been entertaining fans for the last thirty years. Now, he wants to teach.
Rajpal Yadav takes his acting school on the road

Actor-comedian Rajpal Yadav has started his own travelling acting school. He’s calling it ‘Rajpal ki Pathshala.’ The intensive one-day workshops are aimed at students from smaller towns and cities, places generally cut off from formal film institutes. The inaugural workshop was conducted on September 1 in Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh, and saw a turnout of some 500 participants. The school will next travel to Varanasi, Gorakhpur, Barabanki, Lucknow, Baroda, Chandigarh, Madurai and Chennai. There are also plans to take the show abroad. Rajpal, who hails from a village near Shahjahanpur in UP, is clear about the intent behind the programme. 

“I come from a place that stood waterlogged for months on end,” he says. “There was a lot of misinformation, and hardly any motivation. I have had to chart a difficult journey into theatre and films over the last 30 years. But there were thousands of kids who never made it. Through the concept of a ‘moving’ school, I want to bring my life experiences and knowledge to them.”

Rajpal graduated from the Bhartendu Academy of Dramatic Arts and the National School of Drama — a distinction he shares with old friend Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Rajpal feels acting education in India is needlessly codified. “Several great authors have meditated on the dramatic arts, from Stanislavski to Chekov to Munshi Premchand and Amritlal Nagar. However, the true craft of acting stems from its simplicity, which cannot be learned from books.” 

Rajpal stresses on interactivity in his sessions. The five-six hour interactions are cut up into six segments: ‘life lessons’, ‘success through communication’, ‘art of creative thinking’, and so on. Students gather around the performer in a closed auditorium, discussing their inhibitions and enacting small scenes. At the Azamgarh summit, the participants ranged from ages 15 to 60. “We had an old man who came with his daughter-in-law. The pathshala is not limited to film aspirants and can be useful to anyone with confidence issues,” says Rajiv Mishra of Drama Talkies, a Mumbai-based organisation that’s collaborating with Rajpal on the project. 

Besides the main workshop, the pathshala also felicitates local artists and dignitaries. Students who shine out are encouraged to keep in touch for future opportunities. The first workshop was conducted cost-free, with Rajiv and his team reaching out to schools and colleges to screen participants. “We didn’t tell them that Rajpal Yadav is their instructor, otherwise everyone would’ve jumped in,” Rajiv says. “My technical team is working on a website for easy access. We will be charging a fee for future pathshalas. It’s just to keep the crowd in control. The pricing will be done keeping affordability in mind.” 

Rajpal feels excited for his new journey. “My mission is to make acting as simple as possible,” he says, “I just need a closed hall, a wooden floor and a decent sound system. There will be no teachers or students in my pathshala. We are all seekers in the classroom called life.”

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