Tanvi Rajgarhia's Terrified of Twenty-Five Broadway musical tells fear of growing up
Tanvi, going by her stage name- Jhansi- has set out on a mission-driven sojourn to promote and also to commercially exploit the unique art form called Broadway style theatre
Born in a traditional Marwari business family, Kolkata girl Tanvi Rajgarhia, going by her stage name- Jhansi, has set out on a mission-driven sojourn to promote and also to commercially exploit the unique art form called Broadway style theatre. Trained at Singapore's prestigious Lasalle College of the Arts, Tanvi (Jhansi) is burning midnight oils in creating and producing musical theatres that will not only be accepted as a form of popular stage theatre, but also in the world of advertising and brand building.
Speaking to Bizz Buzz exclusively, Jhansi narrates her journey so far and describes the path she has charted out for future- smart ways of commercially utilising a unique art form!
How did you get into this field? Was it by accident or was it by choice?
My exposure to art and culture in my school days was restricted to stuff which are rudimentarily Bengali, Indian and mostly Tagore plays, Tagore songs and so on. The only different experience came when I was in Class 8 and watched a stage performance with my family. Somehow this whole thing of acting created a lasting impression on my mind.
Initially I thought of studying psychology and then while looking for an interesting place to study, I found an institute and I decided to take a wild swing after school, and attempted to study Broadway Style Performance as my bachelor degree. The almighty must have agreed, because I was accepted (after few rounds of auditions) into the notoriously small class size of 10 at Lasalle College of the Arts, Singapore, for a BA in musical theatre performance. At this point I must say that my parents were of great support. My mom said: 'Not to worry, if you, for some reasons, don't like it, don't feel comfortable or cannot manage to do well, just drop out and do something else one year down the road. And my dad agreed to this. I didn't have to take this route. But after college came the big question... 'AB KYA KARE?!'
India did not have a culture of western musical theatre, and that's what (and possibly all) I wanted to do, so I realised after a couple of years that if I wanted to ever perform, I would need to start writing, as there was simply not enough happening to be cast in. Starting modestly with Broadway style political parodies, I got on a Netflix show: 'Queens of Comedy,' where I was competing as a musical comedian. That was the beginning.
When you say Broadway style theatre, what do you mean by that?
Broadway theatre or Broadway, are the theatrical performances presented in the 41 professional theatres, each with 500 or more seats, located in the Theatre District and the Lincoin Center along Broadway, in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. Broadway and London's West End together represent the highest commercial level of live theatre in the English-speaking world. Broadway style theatre is Western style musical theatre, which has fun elements, sarcasm, music and a socio-political message.
What did you do after the Netflix show?
After a bunch of works in Mumbai, getting cast in the huge Aladdin BMS production, performing with various festivals and storytelling communities such as Kommune to much appreciation on videos, I realised that now it is time to level up, and devote a year to study Broadway Style song writing, as it is so very different from any other style.
So I moved back to Kolkata and found every online resource I could and learnt all new tricks of the Broadway trade, and was halfway into that journey, when the pandemic hit. Confined at home for an unforeseeable amount of time, and turning twenty-five, I had to answer the question that relentlessly started plaguing me… "Am I anywhere close to where I had dreamt I would be in my life by this age, what now?"
All artists and stage performers were hit badly by the pandemic and lockdown. So did you tweak your ways, thought process?
Yes, of course. I had to. Broadway style musical theatre presented in an interesting video (audio-visual) format is the way forward. With mobile video, OTT, other digital platforms booming in India, artists like us will have to explore such platforms- both for acceptability, recognition and for commercial purposes. That is the way forward. And I have already started working on that. But one has to offer the feel and experience of stage shows. One must keep that in mind.
Since you have mentioned about commercial exploitation of this unique art (or theatre) form and also mentioned that Broadway style theatre has elements like fun, satire, sarcasm, music and a message, do you think that this art form can be very effectively applied and utilised in advertising and brand building and campaign exercises?
Certainly yes! In fact, in my initial years in this area, I was drawn to many products and brands and created what could possibly their brand campaigns using Broadway style, in my own way. In fact, this is another way forward. Advertising and brand campaigns are areas where Broadway style theatres will have enormous scope and it will appeal the younger population and millennial hugely. I am doing significant home work in this area and would look forward to any such opportunity. Mind you advertisements and brand promotions are all about sending across a message about the product and the brand to their target group and they often use fantastic jingles. Broadway style theatres also tell our own stories, talk about us, our challenges, our society, our people, using this incredible art form. And music is the prime mover of Broadway style theatres.
As you said that the pandemic was a major setback for performing artists like you. But was there a positive learning or experience as well?
Yes. During the pandemic many sad and depressing thoughts used to consume me for many months, before suddenly, one night, the creative overlords decided to give me a gift. Suddenly in my mind, the phrase 'Terrified of Twenty-Five' flashed, and in that instant, I knew what I had to dedicate my life to for the next couple of years.
Terrified of Twenty-Five, a Broadway style musical, is a show that will capture your fears about growing up, change, comparison, marriage, stagnancy, failed hopes and dreams, and hopefully make you laugh, cry and groove as you come to a sense of peace by the end of the show. I interviewed more than 100 people of all ages before starting to write this show, in order to see whether we all feel the same way, despite our differences. I am touring across the country with my new musical show: Terrified of Twenty Five.
What's up your sleeves next?
Next year, that is in 2023, I will move to NYC where I have been invited to write musicals for two years by the very prestigious BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop. I am also working on an ambitious project on Mahabharata for a well known production house in the US.