Lakshmana KP is an actor, director, writer and teacher from Karnataka, India. He graduated from Ninasam Theatre Institute in 2012 and has travelled across India, working in various productions with different theatre groups. Lakshmana has had the opportunity to work not just in professional theatre, but also in theatre-in-education with children and young adults.
In Singapore, Lakshmana has worked with Chowk Productions as an actor, dancer, musician and technician.
He is also a published poet and an activist for marginalised people and cultures of Indian society.
Lakshmana is a recipient of a scholarship sponsored by a private philanthropist.
What was your life like before ITI?
My life was a big mess. I was roaming around Karnataka and doing many things that I was drawn to - acting, directing, teaching, conducting workshops, storytelling for children, participating in protests, screening films in villages, documenting folk traditions, writing, bird-watching and many more.
What made you decide to come to ITI?
I heard of ITI from alumni Sankar Venkateswaran and Shakeel Ahmmad. The school sounded very interesting to me. At the time, I was starting to feel that my training in theatre was very limited. I wanted to learn more about world theatre and also wanted a space to practise theatre-making. I felt then that ITI could be a space for it.
Think back to your first day here - what was that like?
Unfortunately I was not here on the first day of school. I couldn't be here in time because I didn't have my birth certificate, which made it difficult for me to get my passport. After quite a dramatic time in India - in the court, the police station and the passport-issuing office - I received my passport and arrived in Singapore a week after school began.
Initially I felt shocked and scared. Coming from a small village, it was my first ever flight experience. The city was also too much for me - its speed, aesthetics, language and expression were all very different for me. I felt like the environment was very man-made and artificial. On the way to school, I passed by Mount Emily Park. I saw some trees, birds, squirrels and worms, and that made me feel slightly better. At ITI, I felt welcomed and received. It’s funny, but the most exciting thing for me was seeing a jackfruit tree on campus. It made me happy, perhaps because I had my own jackfruit tree back in my childhood home.
What is it like to train at ITI?
It is full of contradictions, complexities and struggles, but at the same time, it is beautiful - just like how life and poetry are. Or perhaps I am glorifying it… I cannot really express it.
What have you learnt from working with your classmates from various countries?
I have learnt many things. I learnt to live and survive in this country. I learnt to take myself less seriously and learn from my mistakes. I learnt to be open to all cultures and their beliefs - to respect them and to live with all our differences. Thinking about this now also makes me laugh, but I guess I also became good at working with women, because I am the only guy in my class.
Any particularly memorable experience in class?
It's difficult to choose one as there are so many. But I cannot forget the way we were so naked, vulnerable, transparent, miserable and happy when we were learning clowning. I feel that experience was very rich for me and for my cohort.
How has your ITI training changed you as an actor?
I found that in the beginning, whatever I learnt here restricted me within certain rules and structures. I hated it then, but now I am starting to realise and accept that these rules help me to break my physical and psychological patterns and limits. Now I am starting to believe that there are infinite possibilities to act, to learn, to teach, and to make theatre or any art. This sense of infinity gives me a refreshingly wonderful vision to perform and to create.
Thinking back to day one, how does your ITI experience compare to your initial expectations?
My experience has been very difficult, often stimulating creativity in me. I think that before coming here, I was expecting to gain something from ITI, but now, training here has made me expect more from myself.
I am starting to believe that there are infinite possibilities to act, to learn, to teach, and to make theatre or any art. This sense of infinity gives me a refreshingly wonderful vision to perform and to create.
Any post-graduation plans?
I certainly want to return to Karnataka. There, I will look and listen to my land, the people and their lives, struggles, politics and discriminations. I would like to do this with more sensitivity - more open-heartedly and with less judgement. I want to be open to the kind of theatre practice and aesthetics that might emerge there, and try to find my own expression through theatre. I also want to make theatre more inclusive and diverse. I believe in this magical term, "transformation” - I believe that theatre can bring transformation to this world and to humanity.
Do you have any advice for someone thinking of joining ITI?
Join ITI. I am sure you will find your own ITI and it's going to be different from the ITI I have seen.
Is there anyone you’d like to thank?
First of all, I have to thank Dr B.R. Ambedkar, the great Indian scholar and the father of modern India. Like me, he was from an untouchable caste. I feel it is because of Dr Ambedkar's great work for Indian society that I am here. And I believe he is the reason for the compassion and love I have for humanity and for the world.
I am also thankful to my mother Gangamma and father Poojahanumaiah, who have lived and still live in a small village, working in the fields everyday for food and survival. Also to my sister and brothers, friends from my village, Shiva, Seena, Sriram, and my friends and teachers in the theatre world in India.
Here in Singapore, I have to thank Sasi, Beto, Chin Huat, and all the teachers and staff who gave me the experience of this journey in ITI.
Thank you to Raka and Chowk for having me with them.
Thank you also to the donor who has been supporting me throughout my studies.
And finally, thank you to my wonderful classmates and schoolmates who made this journey more beautiful.
Not to forget the trees, plants, birds and cats which are always around our ITI campus.
Photos by Bernie Ng