Theatre Through my Lens

It was during the Covid lockdown that I decided to pull out all kinds of data recording devices in my possession, and began to convert and transfer files. For nearly 15 years, I had procrastinated and procrastinated; there were tapes, CDs, DVDs, pen-drives crying to be moved to one single hard drive. With plenty of time and the virus lurking around outside, I found all the motivation I needed. So from 9am to 9pm every single day, this became my Covid Project.

What I did not imagine was how this exercise would open a treasure trove of information. It took me back in time, to many events, spaces and memories. It reminded me of the trajectory of my journey documenting theatre and various other forms of art. It brought me face to face – once again – with my mistakes, failures and challenges.

In the early days, mid-2000s, I would sporadically capture stills of plays as favours to friends, or sometimes out of my own interest and passion. But archiving these images was not a priority until 2008, when a chance encounter with a very senior theatre veteran and an important archivist of theatre, H.V. Venkatasubbaiah made me realise the importance of his work.


Slowly but surely, I began to archive all the work that I captured on camera, both stills and on video and I’m thrilled at the chance to share some of these images and memories with you.

At the outset, I want you to know that there is no particular chronological order in this photo essay. The images I have included may just be some interesting moments I have captured, not necessarily ‘perfect photographs’. Also, that this is different from any other article or story previously published on my work experience in theatre photography. So when I take you through these little episodes of discovery, failure, magic and learning, what I’m hoping to do is give you a glimpse of what theatre photography truly means to me, what it has meant to me through all these years.

It has been a journey filled with tiny triumphs and plenty of learning. Every process I witnessed on a shoot taught me more about theatre. In a way, I learnt theatre through photography, and photography through theatre.

(a packed auditorium, Ranga Shankara, Bangalore 2014)

I can’t describe the joy of experiencing a play sitting in a packed auditorium, being invisible and discreet enough to hide the soft shutter click of my camera… I would gently press the shutter button during laughter, clapping, singing, music, shouting, fighting and all the action that happens on stage.

I learnt this very quickly and gradually added to my bag of tricks. To camouflage myself in black, hold my breath while taking handheld shots, at times not change lenses so as to not disturb a live performance.

My favourite plays (at least the ones I enjoyed at heart) are mostly made for children.

A production of ‘Death, Duck and the Tulip’ by the German theatre group Couturier Und Ikkola and directed by Martina Couturier that was staged at the AHA International Theatre Festival for Children in 2012, left a deep impact on my visual memory as indeed it did on my soul.

Tale of Haruk, a goofy movement and musical puppet performance for children and adults, produced by the Performance Theatre Tudia of Korea based on a Korean folktale was stellar. I was lucky to get an opportunity to watch multiple performances at different venues and festivals. The images here were taken by me at the Hindu Metro festival in Bangalore in 2013.

RK Narayan’s Swami and Friends was beautifully adapted for screen as Malgudi Days by Shankar Nag, and it remains an eternal favourite of mine from those days. So in 2015, when Aruna Ganesh Ram directed an adaptation for stage ‘Swami and Friends’, I was filled with nostalgia. These stills are from a show at Jagriti Theatre, Bangalore.

Bends & Flows’ (2015) and ‘Dinner is at 8’ (2017) both produced by Headstart Montessori School for Children are plays for toddlers. Directed by Subhashim Goswami, these plays introduced the magic of theatre to toddlers between 18 months to 3 years. I had been working very closely on both these plays, right from when the ideas were conceived, and even toured with these plays to some festivals. The experience was very different from documenting any other plays for children.

Besides the learning, everyone on this team is very dear to me, an integral part of my life and my theatre work, and perhaps this is why I felt the need to share them with you.


Moving on from children’s work, there was ‘Komedy-e-Eshtebahat’ (based on Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors), produced by Rah-e-Sabz, an Afghan theatre group from Kabul which performed at Ranga Shankara in 2012 in Dari Version. My involvement with the team began while they were rehearsing. Their stories, coming from a war-torn country, made it imperative for me to capture some cherished memories.

Perch is a Chennai based theatre group whose work I have enjoyed watching as much as documenting. A vibrant bunch of very talented, amiable artists. Among several plays that I have shot for them, here are a few pictures from their productions – ‘How to skin a Giraffe’ (2013) and ‘Monkey and the Mobile’ (2016) both directed by Rajiv Krishnan.


Another spectacle on stage was ‘Maya Bazaar’ from the famed 125-year old theatre group – Surabhi Theatre Company from Hyderabad.

Watching their magic tricks and special effects on stage was breathtaking enough.

But with about 50 people in the cast (100 with the crew) including young children – even new born babies – watching this group prepare for the show was a spectacle in itself.

I keenly followed them around with my camera and captured whatever I could. This was in 2008. I was lucky to capture their production again in 2014, when they came back to perform at Ranga Shankara, Bangalore.

Stories in a Song’, researched and conceived by Shubha Mudgal and Aneesh Pradhan, directed by Sunil Shanbag was another special show for me. I’ve watched this play more than 5 times and captured moments for a couple of shows at different venues. There are a few productions like this I would happily watch over and over again and still enjoy them. Thoroughly.

A few more plays that were fun to shoot include – ‘The Wedding Party’ (2016) – Directed by Konark Reddy and Kirtana Kumar.

Squirrels Birthday’ – with Arundhati Nag and Margrit Gysin performing for children.

Rogorts Genebot – 2012’, was another extraordinary production from Georgia. The play (an adaptation of As You Like It) was produced by one of the oldest theatres of Europe called the Marjanishvili Theatre of Tbilisi. A high-quality production with stupendous performances, exquisite costumes and sets made this a phenomenal experience for me to watch and to shoot.

And now for another leap. Many may disagree with me, but for me, the shows are just the final presentation.

What I witness while I document a rehearsal, a setup, backstage shenanigans, is what I truly think theatre is.


On my journey of unlearning and learning my craft, I have created a massive mine of information about the arts that I keep visiting between long work-breaks.

This is just to understand where I have failed, my limitations, challenges, strengths and the infinite possibilities still ahead of me. Someday I wish to groom younger people to explore photography in the arts. It is not lucrative (though it does pay better than before), so one has to keep the balance with other career options parallel to this. Documentation in the arts is definitely for passionate individuals who wish to give wings to their creativity, experience the joy of live performances, and get a better understanding of the arts.


I look at it as a privilege, because as an actor-documentarian, I get to see both sides of this magical world of theatre. I have met and interacted with inspiring individuals, legends in their fields, who have generously shared their life and work experiences with me. And this has inspired and motivated me to strive on and forge a discipline for myself and for my craft.

Virginia Rodrigues
Virginia Rodrigues
Virginia Rodrigues, is an independent photographer, theatre and film actor currently based in Mumbai. She has worked in theatre for nearly three decades and performs in several regional languages and in English. This piece was conceived and commissioned by Bhasha Centre.

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