Upon first speaking with Archana Kumar, the first thing that becomes glaringly obvious is her unabated warmth, and passion for the Arts. It is no wonder then that to date 6,000 students have walked through her studio doors eager to learn from her, and her team.
Though her career began in the world of dance and choreography, winning multiple notable awards, she has since furthered her ambitions, setting her sights on Theatre Production.
Her debut show “Mrs Kapoor’s Daughter’s Wedding” was a considerable success, offering a joyful celebration and comedic take on life within a British Asian home. Thus far, 86,000 members of the public have had the pleasure of attending the show, therefore it comes as no surprise that this year’s Asian Achiever’s Awards nominated Kumar under the Arts and Culture category for her significant contributions to the field.
Reeln had the privilege of catching up with Archana this month, giving us an insight into what drives such a talented, motivated and inspiring creative.
What age was it that you thought, okay, I’m going to pursue a career in the arts?
So, I started dancing from the age of three. That’s where it all kind of originated me. And it’s a young age, but I think that’s when my passion for pursuing that started. And as I started doing events/competitions, the interest became a lot stronger. I think it was my late twenties, I decided actually I want to venture into this, and thought ‘I want to do this and take it seriously’. I started training and I wanted to become a choreographer so I could pass on what I’ve learnt and to actually teach dancing as well. I wanted to push the arts and the culture that we have through the dance school, and now 12 years later, we’ve had over 6000 students come through the doors!
A journey for sure.
In your journey, when do you think you have faced the most obstacles?
As well as dancing, I also direct and write for the screen for a stage production. I think over the 12 year journey within the industry, I think the obstacle highlighted for me was lockdown. That was the toughest time for us because we had only three months ahead of us. We were pretty much ready to go. Rehearsals were done. Tickets were out on sale, so it was pretty much we were ready and then lockdown hit and everything just kind of stopped and theatres were the first to close.
We didn’t really know what was going on yet. We had a team that was ready to go and were asking us questions. Spectators on social media accounts were kind of wondering what’s going on? And we also didn’t know the answers, but we decided we’re going to put into place some structure, some systems. We’re just going to keep our team motivated. So, we kept the Zoom sessions. We can zoom, call the scenes and script reads. We did wellness sessions with our teams and all sorts of different things just to keep them still creative and keep the juices flowing.
And then we decided to actually revamp the script because we didn’t know when we were going to come back out of it. So, we thought when we do come back out, let’s do something a little bit different, let’s do something that’s related. So, we decided to write Mrs. Kapoor’s Daughter’s Wedding Revisited, which is a lockdown version of a wedding. It had the whole 30 people maximum at weddings, the social distancing, the vaccines. And one of the things that you kind of went through in a light-hearted way, that’s how we wanted to present on stage. When we did come out of lockdown, my team were pretty much ready to get back into it. And yeah, that was a highlight in terms of how we managed to pull through that one.
I love that you pivoted so uniquely and made sure to use such a disaster to your advantage
Yeah, we tried we tried to use that as thinking time as well, to kind of really dig down into what has been working, what isn’t working, to kind of utilise the creative skills that everybody had. And it was really good to just keep going. I think that was the one thing that we learned, just don’t stop and just keep going, keep the juices going.
What has been the highlight of your career?
I think out of the 12 years of this journey, I think it was when we launched Mrs. Kapoor’s daughter’s wedding, two. And it wasn’t so long ago, actually. And I remember standing on the sidelines backstage waiting for Mrs. Kapoor to deliver her first line, and I was still unsure about how the audience were going to receive the jokes. And so that to me was a highlight when I heard the line and literally heard a roar of laughter. The applause, the standing ovation in that first show. I was crying backstage. Members were asking, What’s wrong? What have we done wrong? I said, There’s nothing wrong. It’s just such an overwhelming feeling because all the time during rehearsals, I felt like it’s all kind of like within me. And I’m waiting to hear it out in the audience and then to see your work out there and see how it’s received… It’s just a different feeling. And that feeling will stay with me for a long time. I will definitely remember that as a highlight.
Who are the creatives who have inspired you on your journey?
I think with the production as a whole, it is very much about the audience members as well. When we put on a show, the audience have to enjoy it. They really inspired me and the reactions that we get from the audience members, just from people that have actually never been to theatre. And when they came to see our shows, they were open to the world of theatre and they were amazed at how amazing these kinds of arts and crafts are, and how accessible it is. I think they also inspired me to work a lot more harder to make it accessible for them.
And we’ve had people that have been partially sighted and even blind that have come to see the show, and they have absolutely loved the show. They’ve been listening to the jokes. They were laughing their heads off, and it was very, very inspiring. And we feed off that energy. Also, as cringey as it sounds, my husband is a big inspiration and support for me. I do the creative side of the business, and he does all the logistical stuff. He’s my biggest supporter and as well as him, I’d say my team, the crew, all of us have kind of worked on this journey together. They supported my wacky ideas. They really believed in the ideas, and I told them, ‘Look, I want to do this huge show and I’m going to go on tour and we’re going to show it to thousands of people’. The whole team have helped me throughout this journey.
How did it come about that you decided to write and direct this show?
With the dance school, I tend to teach families for wedding dances. I teach couples for their first dance. So I’m pretty much involved in that wedding industry. I’ve helped plan a few weddings, so I’ve seen first-hand a lot of the drama as well in planning the wedding. I kind of wanted to show not only the drama, but the beauty of the South-Asian wedding and to kind of put that on stage because there’s so many days, there’s so many festivals and it can easily make a three hour show there’s just so much that goes into it. And I think through the dance school, I wanted to also open up opportunities and tools for dancers to step into theatre. And I felt super proud that through the theatre production, we’ve been able to give opportunities to singers, to actors and different artists and musicians and to show their creativity through this platform.
From dance to theatre, will a movie be next?
Mrs Kapoor is literally on her way to becoming a household name. So, watch this space.