Devika Ashok's Hema
Creating a back story is an essential component of character development. It is one of the first things we ask all our actors to do as we start the process of rehearsing. It allows an actor to create a reality that he or she can inhabit. A living, breathing, thinking, feeling person rather than just a character in a playwright's imagination.
In the warm Australian summer morning, the alarm clock wakes Hema up promptly at 5 am. Before the sun rises, she is up in the kitchen with a cup of green tea. She quickly starts putting breakfast together for the family. Soon her darling son Ketan and elder daughter Samyukta will be up. So will her husband Chandrakanth. She prepares their school lunches while still in her nightgown. After she has finished with the chores in the kitchen, she sets out clothes for them to wear. When they are up, she makes fresh coffee for Chandrakanth and pours out juice for the kids.
By 7 am they all exit the house and Hema is alone at home. Finally she relaxes and has her ‘chai’, the one dairy product that she allows herself – after all, she wants to look young forever. She likes to sit by the French window and watches as other children walk hand-in-hand with their parents to the bus stop, a young couple strolls by with their arms intertwined, and an elderly couple saunters at a leisurely pace enjoying the early morning bustle all around them.
She is proud of the nest she has built. Her home, her family, and how well she manages it all. Her impeccable attention to detail and her razor sharp focus on organization that makes everything run smoothly and with clockwork efficiency.
Yet, she is lonely. When they all leave home, a deafening silence ensues and fills her mind with unwelcome thoughts. When she looks in the mirror, she reminisces. Wasn’t she beautiful once? The object of many an admirer in India? As the topper in the college did she not have many job offers? The future beckoned, bright and promising. She had dreamed, like every girl, of a wedding with beautiful saris and gorgeous jewelry. She got none of it. Her wedding was a hurried low-budget affair – not even a photograph to remind her of the fateful day that changed her life. She left home feeling the way she always had when she had lived with her family – empty.
So when the news came that her younger sister was to be married off in a grand fashion, the past and all the betrayal it carried with it came flooding back. But it was her baby sister after all. She would try to put it all behind her. She would be happy at this wedding. She would go for Vidula’s sake. Yes. For Vidula's sake.
- Devika Ashok