As a young teenager, I attended a theatre workshop conducted by the well-known Neelum Mansingh in Chandigarh, India. One of the greatest things I learnt over there, which I still use to this day and try to inculcate in my fellow actors, is the concept of ‘Nava Rasa’ — a concept based in Indian classical dance and in the Art of Acting.I remember a square diagram being drawn with chalk on the floor, split up into nine different boxes. Each box represented a different emotion, with a corresponding one right next to it. Therefore, standing in one particular box and saying a line allowed me to say the same line with different emotions and moods. The emotion of Anger, for example, has various ‘sub’ emotions. ‘Irritation’, ‘Annoyance’ and finally ‘Anger’ itself. Similarly, there are varying degrees of ‘Fear’, from ‘Distress ‘to ‘Horror. An actor works not from the heart, but the mind. You have no control over your emotions, however, you do have control over your mind. By building such a back story to the character that your mind believes in it, allows the emotions to arise spontaneously. Don’t ‘try’ to cry, develop the circumstances that allow you to. Do ‘try’ to get angry, happy, sad or funny, develop a back story in such detail that part of the mind believes in it, but not completely. That is the Beauty of an actor, two different realities, with, according to Stanislavsky, a third arising, a so-called Awareness. Acting is all about ‘Energy’ being exchanged, and the beauty of theatre is that during that moment, the audience experiences exactly what you do. The most interesting part, however, was standing in two boxes at the same time and saying the same line with two completely different emotions. How do you say a line with laughter and sadness? Or disgust and peace, heroism and sorrow? These are the mysteries of acting that can only be experienced, not explained.‘One has to teach not only through demonstration, but by allowing others to demonstrate as well’Things are different on TV, yet the basic concepts remain the same. That’s why people on TV and in film industry admire theatre actors, for their fundamental concepts. Having performed in front of thousands, they are not fazed by a single camera, or people shouting all around you, tea not being served and other disturbances. The paradox of the conflict between Directors, Producers and Actors can indeed be resolved if people work from the heart. When you work purely for money, fame, and fortune, the ‘Art’ will get lost, drowned out in the noise of the ego. If the industry has to succeed, we need to work with our own culture. I try to drive home the point to people learning from me, that ‘practicality’ comes before the ‘academics’. There is no point giving students pages and pages of lectures and ‘Theories’. Just as there is no point in reading and writing treatises on Cricket or Football, and then expecting others to become great players, one has to teach not only through demonstrating, but allowing others to demonstrate as well.Various books had been suggested to me by one of my teachers, but only when I was ready. An Indian graduate from the National School of Drama created admiration and respect in me for the Art of Acting, that after the month-long workshop I couldn’t help but feel tremendously excited over acquiring the books he had suggested. A new world had opened up before me, a world I always thought my own, and I was keen to discover it. Sadly, those books were not available in Pakistan at the time. The main method I learnt, was through Ajoka — its songs, dances, performances, travels. Whether it be Pakistan or Bangladesh, UK or the States, Norway or Sweden, Nepal or India, it allowed me to imbibe different cultures and traditions. The values of Ajoka have allowed me to succeed as an actor and use it in the countless TV serials and advertisements.Eventually, I found one of the books suggested at that time in an Old Book shop in Islamabad. Dusty and used, it was almost fate. I read hungrily, eager to soak up each notion, each concept. Every time I read it, after years, new avenues and understandings open up. Acting involves ‘Being and Becoming’, but also ‘Living and Forgetting’. I plan to drive home these points to the People learning from me and my team, just as I did from mine, the greatest being the founder of Ajoka, my mother, Madeeha Gauhar.The writer is a director/actor; and a core member of Ajoka Theatre Pakistan. He has been involved in spreading awareness on socio-political issues through theatrePublished in Daily Times, May 9th 2018.