Sandeep Yadav is a theatre practitioner from India, who believes in art as healing and artists as healers.
His theatre journey began in 2009 with Nautanki, one of India’s oldest folk theatres, in his hometown, Allahabad. He holds an MPA in Theatre Arts from the University of Hyderabad, and performed in various university productions such as Woman (an Indian adaptation of Thesmophoriazusae) and A Tempest by Aimé Césaire.
His final-year production, BUTTERFLY, received a theatre grant from the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, and was invited to Prayogam Theatre Group’s online national theatre festival. Besides acting for stage and screen, Sandeep has ventured into roles such as costume designer, technical advisor, and director. His works include Hawalaat, Neela Parcham, Red Frock, Beyond the Land of Hattamala, Gateway to Heaven (which received Special Mention at the 4th Mumbai International Film Festival), and Mitti-Back to Roots. He has also coached acting in various schools and institutions, as well as to theatre groups, across India.
His training at ITI has opened up new dimensions of work for him, rediscovering himself as an artist through theatre. He also wants to continue exploring the training he received in ITI in his future works.
Sandeep is a beneficiary of the Möbius Fund.
What were you doing before coming to ITI?
I was working as a part-time drama educator, freelance theatre-maker and acting in films.
How did you hear about ITI, and why did you choose to come here?
One of my Movement teachers from Central University of Hyderabad, Ram Mohan, suggested I come to ITI. Acting has many broad strokes, and I had to do some self-reflection to pinpoint what I wanted to learn and focus on; to search inside myself what path of actor training I want to pursue. As a performer and teacher to young children, this was a limitation affecting my work and I felt the need to overcome it. In the last few years of working after completing my master’s, I understood the need to further my training, to understand acting in a systematic way, to go through a focused training process that combines practice and theory; gain an acting vocabulary that can work as a bridge, a connecting thread between the traditional and the contemporary cultural practice and its context. I knew I wanted to pursue a training programme that trains modern performers by activating a repository of aesthetic sensibilities and techniques.
Think back to your first day here: what were some of your thoughts and emotions then?
I was happy and excited by the positive vibes I felt from school. When I entered the corridor, I saw how all the students greeted each other. They were running, jumping around and hugging each other, excitedly welcoming us to ITI — it didn’t feel like it was our first day. It was a very warm welcome from them. Then, everyone sat together in a circle in a studio to introduce ourselves, why we love theatre and why we decided to come to ITI — even Sasi was sitting beside me! It was great.
From that first day being at ITI, it was a very unique feeling. I can’t explain it.
What is it like to train here at ITI?
Training here at ITI is like simultaneously creating and going beyond my own limits, and smiling through the pain. Everything I learnt here needed to be done with structure, within the time and with conciseness — no magic, no tricks; only practice. Only then was I able to sharpen my skills, to learn variations of techniques. So I had only one option, just do it.
I learnt so much from the classes — from the traditional forms to the contemporary ones. Going through the traditional forms in Humanities class allowed me to view and break them down through a critical lens, and the Post Modular Lab module gave me the opportunity to explore alternate possibilities. It’s a wonderful challenge because I got to come up with something entirely new; I got to expand my own territories.
Share what you've learnt from working and interacting with your classmates from various countries.
Coming here, I got to experience a myriad of cultures from various countries. With my classmates, we did our best to create an environment where we can talk, learn and have fun together. Humanities class helped us a lot in coming together. It gave me the material to think, to see different perspectives, to see how others live and behave. It’s looking at the people around you, who they are, how they behave with you, how they feel comfortable — that’s what I’ve learnt from my classmates.
What are some memorable experiences you've had at ITI?
There are so many memories. All three years of my journey in ITI have been memorable, because of all the beautiful souls I’ve met here.
I remember in my first Humanities class, Sasi tasked us to do a presentation about ourselves. I found out the next day that Sasi was very moved by my presentation. He found me at the pantry and told me he felt a deep sense of truth from my life story. He also gave me a journal to pen down my thoughts, which I use to this day. I felt so much love and support from his gesture, the sincere respect he had for my journey. It was a very touching moment.
Being in awe of Aarne’s dedication to teaching. I really can say Aarne is one of the most amazing individuals I’ve met in life. A man in his mid-70s, but so spirited.
When I did very well for a Voice presentation in my second year, Simon said to me, “I don’t have any notes for you, everything was good.” When I heard him say that, especially when I was very nervous, it was such a precious moment. It gave me a boost of confidence.
How has what you’ve learnt here shaped or changed you as an actor?
In the past three years, I went through various training processes in voice, body and mind. I’ve built trust in my own skills, inspiring me to execute my work confidently. I’ve also built the discipline that I need as an actor.
The most important thing for me is why I’m doing theatre. Why I’m an artist, why this form. At least now, I have an answer. That this is my medium, and I’m now more precise about the kind of stories that I’m going to tell. When you see professional actors, you only see the tip of the iceberg. You can’t see what’s below. But now, I see that and I understand the processes. That’s how ITI has shaped me as an actor.
What are your plans after you graduate?
I plan to work with an organisation that focuses on the well-being of acid attack survivors, which I hope I’ll be able to follow through despite the pandemic. I’d also love to explore the storytelling scene in my community.
What would you say to a new student or someone thinking of joining ITI?
Just be yourself. Give yourself the time and space to learn, and treat yourself with kindness and honesty. Enjoy your time here.
Any special thanks or words?
My heartfelt thanks to my ITI family. I came here three years ago to learn, and have earned beautiful people along the way.
The amazing teachers, who are so supportive and full of dedication. I learnt so much from them.
My mother, who has always loved and believed in me. My father, who has always stood behind me. A very special thanks to Nidhi, Supriya, Ram Mohan and [alumnus] Noushad Mohamed Kunju.
Our Angels who have always supported the vision of ITI.
Thank you to everyone who has shown me love, support and criticism throughout this journey. It’s been a pleasure. And last but not least, love you Uncle.
Profile photo by Bernie Ng