Manohar Khushalani’s Team Building Exercises

This Exercise I use often in my theatre classes, but in smaller groups. Working with a large group provides a very exciting possibility, for me. The idea is to sensitize participants to their own vocal potential. To experiment with variations and nuances in sound. Participants learn to listen not only to each other but also to sounds in the environment within and without the space they are in. Results vary,  it can create a catharsis in some cases, but a very powerful bonding in all cases.  We start the interactive exercise by asking people to lie on the carpeted floor together in alternate circles with heads together or feet together. Those who cannot lie can sit on chairs in circles facing each other or with their backs to each other .

While representative images have been chosen to illustrate this complex interactive game., you can watch the video of the entire exercise shot by my dear friend Stuti Samanvay during one of my workshops with my students. The relevant links on TheStageBuzz Youtube channel are cited at the bottom. You can also watch the student feedback videos on the same channel
Please Subscribe to TheStagebuzzChannel to see many such training videos on Theatre and Cinema by clicking on the link below

Circle with feet together
Circle with feet together

Everyone is asked softly by the conductor to relax.  In fact he gives them auto suggestion to relax each part of their body muscle by muscle and joint by joint, helping them to lose awareness of their bodies. When they are fully relaxed and kind of mesmerized,  they are asked to listen to sounds within the hall. Some special sounds are created by volunteers. Example:  tearing a piece of paper.  Flapping of cloth.  Shaking  a Keychain.  There will be many ambient sounds they will be expected to recall later

Participants sitting on chairs

In the next step they are asked to listen to sounds outside the room. Those can be ambient sounds or sounds created in the corridors outside. Participants will be able to listen exclusively to external sounds without listening to sounds inside the room.

A very subtle beat is created, very softly,  with recorded sound of some percussion instrument(s)

Now in any one circle one participant starts a vocal abstract sound. The participant next to him adds with his own sound. One by one everyone in the circle adds his own vocal bit. Until they all create their own vocal band. The same exercise is repeated in all circles.

Participants-creating collective sounds

There is a gradual build up in the hall as every circle resonates with each other’s sounds. They are asked to see to it that what they create should not be noise. They should listen to each other within the circle and without the circle. The percussion sound played on the speaker system provides a reference beat for all groups

Circle with heads together

In some circles, people who are feeling more active can all sit up in their respective positions maintaining their orchestral vocal compositions.

Sitting Posture
Sitting Posture

People who were sitting in chairs can get up move either in circle shoulder to shoulder or walk in circles.

Circle shoulder to shoulder
Circle shoulder to shoulder
Participants walking in circles
Participants walking in circles

Everything can end in an euphoric crescendo or in a soft sublime end. The climax will depend on the collective choice of mood. At the end if the participants feel upto it, they can share their experiences.  Which from my past experience can be very positive.

By now you must be very excited to see the actual workshop conducted by Prof. Manohar Khushalani. Please watch the film of the actual workshop and listen to participants feedback here:

Blood and Rain

A View from an Ex-Aristo (Mumbai, 2014)

Mother of God!
There you stand
tall and proud
the blade across your torso
like a grey black sports bra
but you have no breasts.
Why no breasts?
Only straight lines
running true
without curving
without bending.
I stand for my turn
sometimes sit waiting
always waiting
for you
to christen me again
your pen
writing my name
in blood,
in drops of red ink
rolling with my severed head
across the floor
my thoughts disembodied
stuck in limbo
for a soul to pick them up
off the mainline.
I think they've lost my number
I've been waiting for hours
the never-ending minute
seems to stretch across eternity
like a rubber band
carrying within it
infinite tension
never breaking
always teasing
just a little further ...
Your blade is dull today
it carries rust
there is no one to whet it.
We are saved by gravity alone
Madame la Guillotine!
May Thou always be
so merciful.
Hallowed be Thy Name.

Sand and Yang (Mumbai, 2014)

The safest place in the universe
is the eye of a hurricane.

Walls of steam rise up around me
making havoc of buildings, trucks
breaking trees like pencils
carving messages into uranium
reactors that pop and fizz
like corks and balloons
now spurting blood
as if some wrathful Goddess
in the steam-colored garb of Isis
drawn like oil paintings
from the wells of fantasy
threw a party
for a fan following of misshapen clowns
and half-baked misanthropomorphic entities
hanging out
the bored masculinity of the ancient desert
having been assured
that there is no water on the red planet
and no little blue men worth waiting for
hooded or otherwise.

The balloons we live in
are fragile
and yet the storm
protects us
for the whirlwind has no center. 
His dark anger spins Him
in the vortex
of memory.

And who are you
to talk of fantasy
said He
you who live in the land of Bell Curves
and Sorting Hats?

August (Philadelphia, 2002)

As you walk by
the air becomes so heavy
I am pushed against a wall
Is it you or is it just the heat of August?
Hiroshima breeze
you are so heavy
I am hanging like the leaves 
on the drying summer trees
pulled down towards the earth
Is it you or is it just the August air
that makes me droop with so much longing?

The August sun was always known to burn
us lesser mortals 
with his august glare

We sacrificed an apple for the rain 
I kissed the earth
I heard a little girl cry out
as if she knew the presence there
If August comes creeping
like a whisper
through the hollows of your mind
tell me, love
then does September trudge behind?
If you were a pebble 
in the walls of Jerusalem
would they come crashing down?

Is it you or is it just the mushrooms clouds of August?
Sodom and Gomorrah lifted out 
like mushrooms from our lore, our fantasies
borne into reality
and christened Hiroshima, Nagasaki ...
hanging heavy in the firmament
laden with their sixty years
of ripened weariness
your glance is heavy as the August rain
shining through them and the trees.

The stares of the undying lifted through the skies
reflecting points of consciousness
the dying steps of the millenium 
now reborn into the new
thunder like the heavy August rain
and you. 

Waiting for Rain (June, 2005, Mumbai)

Climb, gaze
up where the steeple meets the sky
scribble someone's name 
into the dust-filled clouds.

Casino in the heavens
lit by lightning
somewhere the westerly wind
sits poker faced
covering diamonds
about to be scattered
wait for the sparkling rain.

Shards of Light (October, 2005, Mumbai)

In the shredded darkness of this night
dazzled and undeafened
stupid, staring eyes
stuck in the stupor of unceasing sight
the heaviness of nothingness plodding
tortuous miles of wakefulness
and twisting arms of time
tick-ticking through eternity.

Arise! Awake! Shake off your sleep!
You swept through the room in all of your magnificence.
An army of rays assailed us
nailing me to shadows
that have dared remain.

Eyelids jammed are not like doors
the lock of sleep
cannot be forced with chisels
chisels are at work
carving out my name
into each terrifying minute.

Acknowledgments: I have quoted song lyrics by Iron Maiden and Megadeth in some of my verses.

Other Poems by Acushla Sarswat

Folk Theatre of India: Jatra

The word Jatra implies a journey. Jatra theatre form is based in the regions of Orissa, Eastern Bihar and Bengal. As of the early 2000s, the Jatra’s had a troupe of around 55 groups based in Calcutta and generated a revenue of around $21million USD every year.

Sri Chaitanya, a prominent saint during the Bhakti moment is credited to be the inventor and the promoters of this music enriched form of theatre. It is widely believed that the first spectacle of the play was also done by Sri Chaitanya wherein he played the role of the Rukmini in the play, Rukmini Haran (the play was based on a story in the life of Lord Krishna).

The first stage of Jatra includes a musical concert with the aim to attract an audience. Following, the concert the four-hour-long plays commence. The scene transitions and the endings are marked with dramatic monologues, dances and rich melodic music. Open-air venues are employed for a Jatra performance with the stages being highly minimal in nature and having little to no props giving the actors the freedom and the space.

The composition of the cast is heavily inclined towards the male, with the female characters inter spread. After the 19th century, with the changing society, the female contribution in the cast of Jatra plays has increased significantly which is an affirmation of the ever-changing and ever-evolving nature of the theatre form. The performers join the Jatra troupes or groups at a very young age and they follow a hierarchy of roles. Like Sutradhar in the Ankiya Naat, the Jatra also has two characters Vivek and Niyati which are omnipresent and interact with the audience via dance movements and commentary. The modern alter-ego of Jatra includes loud music, lightning and catchy dialogues. Jatra performances are usually done at weddings and festivities. The peak of the Jatra season arrives in the Durga Pooja times.

Jatra has survived the turmoil of the time were successfully and has waved through the currents only to grow and profess. The reason for this growth is the very nature of Jatra, which provides it with an ability to adapt and acclimatize with the changing fabric of society and to incorporate the new dynamics and life.

Independent Project by Abhinav Sharma
Guide ⇒ Prof. Manohar Khushalani

References :

  1. Jatra Bengali Folk Theatre
  2. Jatra, The Bengali Folk Theatre of East India and Bangladesh

Folk Dances of India: Jhora

Project: Abhinav Sharma. Guide: Prof. Manohar Khushalani

Jhora folk dance is native to the states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand where it is celebrated with all pomp and show during the springtime celebrations by the locals. Jhora folk dance finds its root in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand, historically known as Uttaranchal.

It has been known that certain dance forms require people of a particular caste, age, gender etc, however, in the case of Jhora, everyone irrespective of their social standing, gender and race can be a part of the performance making dance form an all-inclusive and embracing.

Jhora folk dance is usually conducted when the springtime celebrations with the tribal and the local people performing the dance twice a day, that is, in the morning and the evening. Jhora folk dance is also performed at weddings, fairs and festivals to magnify the happiness of the occasion. There is marked high tourist inflow during these times just to witness the spell-bounding and the mystically colourful Jhora dance performances.

The dance performance initially begins with a number of participants and as the music picks up pace, more and more people keep on joining in with a circular formation being maintained at all times. The dancers, standing in a circle, hold the arms of their partners and slightly bend their bodies forward.

The music for the dance has rich tastes of the traditional drum musical instrument called ‘Hurka’. If there are more members then the ‘Hurka’ is accompanied by cymbals. At the initial beat of ‘Hurka’, the left leg is crossed with the right leg to strike the floor. With the completion of the initial beat and the impediment of the second beat, the right foot stands sideways and the dancers make a slight dip and a jump inwards. In this form, the dance progresses in cyclic beats with the ‘Hurka’ player leading the flock.

Jhora dance resonates with the inclusive nature of the hilly areas of North India that is Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand and promotes harmony among the people of varying social standings, all the way adding to the richness and the essence of the hilly culture and heritage.

References :

  1. Folk Dances of Uttarakhand
  2. Jhora Dance of Uttarakhand