I have worked in this industry for almost 25 years. Different challenges, ideas and opportunities arise at various stages – professionally and in personal life. Like in the creative field adaptability has influenced decision making process. No matter what comes along, in order to achieve our goals we must be able to go with the flow as the means by which we achieve those goals are at times much more fluid. Success and failure also influence decision making – consistent success is elusive, failure is more common but successful people adapt, learn from mistakes and move on.
Best Young Leader 2019 – Shalaka Randive, WE CAN DO IT
A project or an accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career?
Launch of DASTAK in Singapore – Singapore’s first and only Hindi theatre festival – was launched in 2016. A creative idea can’t be held back for long, DASTAK is one such idea that took seed in 2015. On a lazy evening over a cuppa, a bunch of us theatre enthusiasts (now the DASTAK organising team) were discussing Hindi theatre and reminiscing of everyone’s early days in theatre. I remember saying “It has been years since we did a play in Hindi. There is a great pool of local talent we can tap into now in Singapore and the Indian diaspora is missing a Prithvi type experience – affordable, enjoyable, local shows. Let’s do one!”.
The structure of a festival was right in front of our eyes. Disrupt the traditional format – so instead of one play lets have 10, why one director when we can bring together 10, from 1-2 hour play format to 10 short plays of 10 minutes each – the idea evolved. A ‘knock of opportunity’ for artists, a knock of Hindi at Singapore’s theatre doorstep and DASTAK was born. I am extremely proud of this achievement.
The festival is now in its 4th year and has its success is largely due to:
Unique format of 10 plays by 10 directors for 10 mins in each show transcending genres
Over 70 members of cast and crew and almost all of them locally based talents – from established names to fresh entrants
Featuring recognized Singaporean, non-Hindi speaking theatre directors
Includes a mix of scripts – new, adaptation as well as international classics.
All plays have English surtitles
A platform for cultural exchange between India and Singapore
How do you integrate corporate philanthropy or corporate social responsibility as a part of your business strategies?
The model of my business is bringing together individuals from various cultural backgrounds to encourage and develop their passion for theatre/arts. Theatre as an art form transcends boundaries and the CSR element is to create and expand awareness within the Indian/Singaporean community. The stage is a powerful medium that can entertain, provoke thoughts and convey messages. In line with Singapore’s multi-racial ethos, the intent remains to showcase talent via Hindi theatre but not limited to Hindi-speaking audiences. DASTAK provides a platform for cultural integration in Singapore by including a good mix of Hindi speaking Indians, Indians whose first language is not Hindi and involving non-Indian artists of various ethnicities in the creative process. The English subtitles for all our plays to further broaden the appeal of the festival to all nationalities. Language nor age is a barrier as the festival has something for everyone whether you are 10 or 80 years old.
What has been your driving force or philosophy in life?
If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, don’t sweat it. This should not an indictment of you, your character, your morals or work ethic. The career path one follows is not always easy and is prone to change. A job for life does not exist anymore. More often than not, our work will challenge us and force us to do things with which we might not be 100 percent confident. However, at its core, we should ultimately enjoy what we do. If not, then why would we spend so much time doing it? Think about how much time the average person dedicates to work. Now, if you are spending all of that time being miserable, that is hardly being successful.
What are the other philanthropic works you are involved in?
I just do what I can as an individual, which is to support arts organizations and artists. The support is not necessarily financial in nature but contribution of valuable time and experience. Everyone wants meaning in their life and my objective is to create a platform which provides people with the opportunity to do what they want to achieve. I am also a supporter of girl’s education – in today’s new world it is important to inculcate the idea of independence, confidence and that with passion and willingness to put in the effort and time, they can fulfil their dreams.
How do you define success and how do you measure up to your own definition?
A successful person achieves their goals, then lends a hand to help others achieve more. Also success is not necessarily wanting to create the best outcome but it should be to leave a lasting, positive legacy.
After 3 years, I can assuredly say that DASTAK has become a part of the Singapore theatre landscape. Every year people from diverse background and interests – from well-known professional local Singaporean artists to students, amateurs all who want to be part of something creative – come on board on their own accord. This is a testimony of the true success as it has unravelled new talent whether it’s on stage acting, directing or creative input or back stage production and technical support.
We are constantly making things better, faster, smarter or less expensive. In other words, we strive to do more with less. Tell me about a recent project or solution to a problem that you have made better, faster, smarter or less expensive?
The objective of my production company, Wecandoit, since 2009 has been to tap and encourage the local creative talent in Singapore. I have a small super dedicated team and with limited financial resources we launched DASTAK which has now created a niche for Hindi theatre in Singapore.
Over the last 10 years I have tried to build awareness of theatre (largely English) through both social media platforms and constantly encouraging both local Singaporean schools and Indian international schools to include speech and drama classes as part of their after school activities. With the launch of DASTAK, affordable theatre is becoming popular and I am extremely pleased to see teachers from various schools bring along their students to see the performances.
In your opinion what is the most significant aspect of leadership?
Trust – your team has to believe in your ability to deliver and lead by example to build trust and respect. True enthusiasm for a business, its products or its mission cannot be faked. Employees can recognize insincere cheerleading from a mile away. However, when leaders are sincerely enthusiastic and passionate, that’s contagious.
Your perception of an empowered society. How far your industry has/can contribute for the same?
An empowered society should be inclusive but needs to have a balanced view. It will never be possible to please everyone or to meet all objectives of creating an ideal society.
The performing arts and entertainment industry has an important role to play. As I said earlier – Theatre is an art form that transcends boundaries. Today you see theatre staging performances with thought provoking subjects, more acceptance of LBGT as team members and generally more respect to each member of the team – irrespective of what type of work they do – everyone needs to be made to feel important.
One thing you wish to change and one thing you wish to retain about your industry?
I would say universally theatre is ever- evolving. Theatre practitioners are being more experimental while directing plays and mixed or multimedia is being increasingly used on stage. Today’s audience also want to see something new constantly and it is challenging to keep the audience engaged. To pull an audience who are addicted to their technical gadgets the attraction has to be greater.
Hindi theatre unfortunately has not evolved to that extent and keep using the same tried and tested plays/scripts. Therefore DASTAK is an attempt to break from these fossilized ideas and try something new.
One thing you have to let go off as an entrepreneur/leader?
Whom do you owe your success to?
My family who are my pillar, my parents who always believed in me and my team who believe and work towards my vision.
Best thing about your job?
Giving life to your creative ideas.
A message from you to all the future entrepreneurs/leaders?
Be humble, set challenging goals – once achieved, don’t rest on your laurels – dream higher and raise the bar.