Kewal Kartik is an actor from the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan. His artistic journey began from hosting and acting for various events in his hometown. He left his home region due to the lack of opportunities, in order to pursue the arts as a profession.
Kewal holds a Diploma in Dramatic Arts from Madhya Pradesh School of Drama, and completed a year-long internship where he created and directed several original works.
He has travelled and worked with various theatre groups across India, such as Rangrez Theatre Productions and Breathing Space- The Drama Company. To better himself as a performer, Kewal decided to come to ITI.
In the future, Kewal plans to develop the theatre scene in his home region.
Kewal is a recipient of the Tan Chay Bing Education Fund Scholarship and a beneficiary of the Möbius Fund.
What were you doing before coming to ITI?
I was exploring India and working as a freelance actor with different theatre groups and film production companies.
What made you decide to come here?
I’ve always wanted to get technically trained because I realised that it is required if I want to work with different kinds of systems, methods and all sorts of new techniques, and be able to adapt them. Metaphorically speaking, if I want to grow a tree, I need to make sure its roots are strong enough to stand tall. So I knew I had to make my own roots stronger first, to be stronger on my own grounds. That made me even keener on learning more and training myself.
There is this notion that for art — you have to have it innately, you just can't learn it. I agree with that to some extent, but technically, to understand that, to be able to adapt to all the different changing systems around you, and the technicalities which we have developed through time, training can allow us to be very precise about our work.
Also, when we are working with a director, they shouldn’t have to keep repeating their directions. If they’ve told you something once, as an actor, you should be able to adapt. For these kinds of punctualities, this kind of conditioning, and to understand the kinds of vocabulary for the work, to make it easier and cleaner, training is necessary.
When I was freelancing as an actor, I felt something amiss, especially with regards to my physical conditioning. I was doing yoga before I forayed into theatre, but I felt the lack of physical training. That was also one of the main reasons why I was looking for an institute that can offer this where I can learn the different types of physical training, and not just one because my aim is not to become a movement artist, I want to train myself as an actor. Somewhere I can learn different techniques in order to understand the basics of physical movement. That’s what made me interested in ITI.
If I want to grow a tree, I need to make sure its roots are strong enough to stand tall. So I knew I had to make my own roots stronger first, to be stronger on my own grounds.
Think back to your first day here, how did you feel then?
On the first day of school when I sat in that circle and introduced myself to everyone else, I felt like I was a part of a community where people are committed to taking care of and learning from each other.
What is it like to train here?
It’s amazing. Training here is like a three-year-long group study session where no one comes to class to sit idle. In ITI, trainers and teachers enter the studios with an open mind and attitude. Everyone comes together to share what they’ve learnt and are always willing to learn from each other. ITI helped me to understand that nothing is just right and wrong straight away. It’s just different. It’s the culture here that makes ITI so special.
Could you share some of your most memorable experiences?
I will always miss the intercultural sessions led by Beto. Tiger time with Yoshi sensei and Kuwata sensei. Visiting Sasi’s for Diwali and getting together at Khalid’s. All the fun I had at my first Angels Dinner in 2019. Ushering for our seniors’ productions. Watching the internal presentations with everyone — oh, that feeling. I’ll never forget the acting presentation we did with Guillermo, and the tears he shed watching us perform.
How has what you’ve learnt here shaped or changed you as an actor?
At the moment, I’m so overwhelmed with all I’ve learnt and experienced, that right now all I can say is that I do feel like the vision and ideas in the path I’ve chosen are much clearer than before. For the rest, I’ll have to go out and try it for myself. Only then will I be able to figure out how else ITI has changed Actor Kewal.
What are your plans for after graduation?
Since I started doing theatre in 2012, I’ve wanted to return home and establish a theatre scene in my region, and start something there so that students like me who really want to work in theatre won't have to leave their home and travel thousands of kilometres away to do it.
There’s also something stupid that I haven’t done yet but would love to do.
I have a dream that one day, after rehearsing or practising in my studio, I could go back home and eat my mother’s food. This has actually never happened in these ten years as there’s no theatre at my place. My appetite only works when I'm practising, working on a production or when I'm learning something. But when that happens, I'm not home. I am barely home. I want to set up a theatre there so that I can enjoy what I do with my family. I still have a long way to go.
The ITI experience is a lot about sharing. What kind of sharing has impacted you?
Basically, ITI is a system where teaching is not just teaching, or somewhere that you only learn. It’s basically a system where you share. By this, I mean when a teacher teaches, they don’t make you feel like they’re someone who just stands in front of the class, and looks at a group of people who are ‘so-called’ students who will have to accept whatever that teacher is saying.
In ITI, the teacher stands together with them as if they are a member of that group, and not a separate entity who is from the outside. Of course, they will impart their superior knowledge, but that is not the common attitude they adopt. On the contrary, the attitude is “this is a different system that you can learn, this is my understanding of voice, movement or acting, and I would love to share it with you, and if you have any thoughts on it, or a different understanding, share it with me too”. This changes it into sharing sessions instead of just a stereotypical class.
A teacher is also ready to be called wrong, or to be challenged. When a student in ITI points out to a teacher that maybe they are wrong, you won't find them taking it personally, or be upset about it. You will find them curious, open to learning and experiencing some new things. In ITI, teachers accept that challenge, which is not very common.
ITI is a system where teaching is not just teaching, or somewhere that you only learn. It’s basically a system where you share.
How do you reconcile differences during these sharings?
I see two ways in moving forward when you end up at a point of difference. Either you make your peace and accept it, or meet halfway and find a solution together. In ITI, we work towards both ways. There are going to be differences, and not all of them will have a solution, so we learn to accept them. By accepting the differences, that’s how we accept the intercultural.
What would you say to someone thinking of joining ITI?
Think twice. Think thrice. And then rethink.
ITI is not everyone’s cup of tea. To come to ITI, you have to be ready to break your own boundaries. To relearn and unlearn the ideas or systems that you subscribe to. You should be able to say, “Yes, I am wrong, and I am ready to accept more.” You have to hold a deep respect and acceptance for art and humanity. Then you should come to ITI, otherwise, it’s useless.
There are going to be differences, and not all of them will have a solution, so we learn to accept them. By accepting the differences, that’s how we accept the intercultural.
Any special words of thanks?
It’s been a beautiful journey. It’s been a life-changing experience. Three years is a long time.
I want to thank Sandeep for being one of the most beautiful human beings I’ve ever met. For tolerating me and living with me under the same roof from our very first day in Singapore, to the very last one. Jiarui, for always being so patient with me and supporting and loving me unconditionally. Marvin, for making me believe that innocence still exists and that kindness is the answer. Aaron, for being the mature one so that I can take a break and be the mischievous one instead.
Thank you to all my teachers, who took care of me and always inspired me to keep going. It’s the honesty as well as the practical and positive mindset that all of you possess that fuelled me with the energy to work every day.
Thanks to the dedicated marketing and management team of ITI, who tolerate all of us and make things happen magically with a smile.
The Kult Kafe for accepting me and making me a part of their family.
My heartfelt regards and gratitude to the Playwright Commune and Brown Voices, for all the love and opportunities.
Thank you Tan Chay Bing Education Fund for supporting my training.
My housemates, who showered me with love and accepted me with open arms. Ramith, Abinaya, Mika, Yolanda, Swathi and Sandeep, I will always be grateful to you. Along with the adopted housemates, Prajith and Rhian.
Thank you, Ayatullah Khan and Abhishek Goswami, for making me the artist I am today.
And last but not least, a very big thank you to Uncle, for everything that you are. ITI wouldn’t be the same without you.