In a conversation with actors Arun Kumar Kalra, Sarbasis Bhattacharya, Indrani Dutta, Arnab Basu, Arundhati Banerjee, Seshadri Ratna Mitra and writer Anurag Sikder during the making of the play “My Darling Clementine”, I, as their director, asked them about the relevance of data privacy and leaks in their individual lives.
Piyali: How relevant is data privacy in your life? Why? How are you impacted by it? Any incident where you feel your data was misused or compromised?
Indrani: Data privacy is important because it can be misused by third parties for fraud, scams and identity theft. My personal data which I have shared with a particular organisation for a certain reason has been done keeping in mind that it is safe with that organisation. Medical records, financial transactions, personal data etc. can be wrongly used by other agencies for their purposes. When I get pesky calls from banks/financial institutions, it is a clear example of the sharing of my personal data without my consent.
Arun: When the internet and social media happened to me, I too felt empowered, as now I could broadcast myself in ways that one could not have dreamt of before. The monopoly of many institutions and individuals was broken. There was a democratization of sorts especially in the field of communications. An individual could now stand alone and their voice could be heard. One could air thoughts with the world just as many big powerful organizations could.
But slowly, the other part of this saga appeared, as it turned out that it was a game run by corporations who would like to make more money and have control over its customers.
Arundhati: I can never trust what I’m reading on the internet because more than half of it is fake.
Talking about my experiences, I have had many instances on social media which pushed me into depression more than once. People have compromised my privacy online and misused my data to take revenge, make fun of my vulnerability, plagiarized my hard work and stolen credit from my work.
Seshadri: A relationship becomes stronger depending on the kind of emotions I share with a person. Emotions are built when I share more information, stories and definitely what’s happening in my life with the other person. A leak of such data means, a part of me gets totally exposed out to the public. On a personal note, I have lost a few of my closest people in life because I was a victim of data privacy leak.
Anurag: I was born at a time when the wave of swift technological transformation became the norm. Through it all, what wasn’t clear till recently was what we were giving in return for adapting to these new technologies. Now, with the knowledge that big corporations are using frivolous data extraction techniques, it feels like I sometimes have a difficult time adhering to my own beliefs. I feel like my decisions are being influenced on a subconscious level by another mystical force. That scares me a bit and as a result, I have become very careful with my activities on “connected” devices.
Piyali: How has been your experience working in a science-based play?
Seshadri: Today, when you can live a day without food but not without technology, these stories become even more important. Hence, I feel lucky that a project like this came into my life, where I am getting the chance to question some of the most believed facts of today’s generation. This play helps me to act and spread awareness about things still unknown to a lot of people around me.
Being a person who is fascinated by technology and all the time surrounded by it, the most difficult thing was maybe to make myself realise that no matter how much we depend on it, technology has its adverse effects and those adverse effects are man-made to safeguard the interest of some organisations/people. Once I realised the importance of the situation, I was ready to put my energy into spreading it to the maximum number of people possible.
Sarbasis: My experience of working in the play has been a catharsis of sorts, as this play is an amalgamation of scientific research, science fiction and performing arts. In the first few narrations of the story, I was baffled by the facts and technicalities of the subject. I was concerned how we will present it in a dramatised form to the audience that will be accepted and appreciated. However, you (the director) approached it with new perspectives and dramatized it. Now it seemed vital to tell this story.
Arnab: In my personal life, I work in the financial sector. However, theatre is my real passion and here I get to play the character of a scientist. It seems like an unbelievable dream coming true for me. As I honed myself to develop this complex and multidimensional character in such a contemporary play, I challenged myself to bring it to life like never before. I have approached it with completely fresh and new perspectives, where I challenged my own self, unlearnt and learnt, discovered new dimensions to my own approach.
Arun: In Delhi, most of the theatre being done is just about repeating much-staged classic plays. Very few original and relevant plays are being done these days and this play stood out in its intent to me. It might not be like a traditional dramatic play for some, but for me, its heart is in the right place. I consider it as a trailblazer and I hope it starts a movement for many more such contemporary and relevant topic based plays in our society.
Arundhati: I’m a person who is comfortable with any genre. Plays on such topics are not easily made so I’m really happy that a science-based play has now been added to my theatrical repertoire. Since I have a background in traditional theatre, I find this play very informative, I haven’t done anything like this before. I’m always up for doing something that I haven’t experienced before. With that, I have a lot of faith in you (the director), as to how you are bringing it alive. People need to know these ugly truths in detail.
Piyali: What was the most difficult thing for you to do in the process of making this play?
Anurag: This play is the first one I have ever written. It has been a journey of adapting to a new means of storytelling and respecting the opportunities and challenges that it presents. Also, it has been a stellar lesson in managing talent for a live performance. It’s all a part of the learning curve and I am glad I approached it all with an open mind and heart.
Arun: The most difficult part of a science-related play is to get your facts and logic absolutely right. One ought to have a scientific temperament or inclination for doing such plays. If you are not keen on science and technology then you will have very less to contribute here. The most important thing which is tackled in making a scientific play is to make it very simple, clear and understandable for the audience. That is only possible if the actors put in the effort to develop their own knowledge and clarity about the subject as guided by the director. I like to add additional dimensions to the character, that go on to strengthen the playwright and directors belief about the subject. I have done exactly that. This play very crucial as it would lead us as close to the truth as possible.
About the Author: For the past 19 years, Piyali Dasgupta has been working across industries like education, development sector, writing, CSR, corporations, brands, arts and aviation with expertise in strategy, events curation, teaching, capacity building, experiential learning, counselling and writing. She has been writing for various digital media publications, plays, children’s novella & a documentary film. She curates children writer’s, theatre, art festivals and events. Her first directed documentary film was part of the international film festival. She has acted in plays and movies and now directs her own plays. She is the founder for an experiential festival for children from underserved communities with participation across Delhi NCR. She is part of international storytellers group from 47 countries. She has studied Expressive Arts Therapy, Palliative Care Counselling, Hypnotherapy, Narrative Therapy and English Literature.