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As told by an improv artist

Have you ever thought that it’s not just your Instagram life that comes with a lot of filters but your actual one too? You need to add a filter to what you say and do every single time. #Adulting 

But what if I tell you that there’s a place where you can be completely free. Yup, here you can go with your gut feelings, trust your instinct and be free of that “log kya kahenge” attitude. 

Confused much? 

Welcome to the world of improv! 

What is improv, you ask?

Improv is literally short for improvisation, which is the act of coming up with something or responding immediately to a situation on the spot. You’re probably wondering, we do this anyway without even realising, right?  Well, here’s when those filters come in where we constantly sieve out everything. 

To undo those filters, let me introduce you to the world of improvisation through the eyes of an improv artist himself, Ankur Sardana. Ankur is the Head of Design for OLX and has been an improviser for the last 3 years. 

Along with his group ‘Nautankibaaz Improv Comedy’ consisting of Anshu Daga,  Ankur Nigam, Mayank Mudgil and 20 other members, he conducts improv workshops in Delhi. Here’s what I learnt about improv from him.

nautankibaaz improv comedy india

Improv is so much more than comedy
Short-form improv comedy or the ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway’ kind of improv is definitely about fun. The audience might forget the scenes enacted, but they always remember how hard they laughed. But that’s not all there is to it. There are other formats as well, which range from drama to realism.

You don’t need to be an “actor” to do improv
Being a natural performer helps but it’s not mandatory. In fact, sometimes it’s great to have no performance experience as well. Some great performers are not great at improv, as they are used to being the best “individually”, whereas this art form is all about making your partner look better. If you’re willing to be vulnerable and open to this art form, it will work for you.

“If you’re nimble and receptive, improv will melt in you.”

All you need are a few life skills 
An improv scene unfolds the same way life does. So, to ace improv and life all you need are a few basic skills like listening carefully, being honest on stage, being giving, failing gracefully and being able to think of options to keep moving on. Apart from that, there are three elements of performing that you need to keep in mind: 

  • You need to be present in the moment
  • You need to enjoy your own performance
  • You should be passionate about your performance

nautankibaaz improv comedy india

It starts with creating a trusting environment
When you take a workshop, a comfortable and trusting environment is created where participants feel relaxed and free of judgements. These introductory workshops could last anywhere between 2 hours to a couple of days. So, you can take your time to get adjusted and be comfortable enough to vocalise your emotions without any filters. 

It’s all fun and games, literally
While improv is about performing, there’s no pressure to perform. Think of it as a series of games that brings people together. There are many warmup and energy-filled games that make it easy for you to ease into the process. One of the games is called “Yes, And” where you’re not supposed to say no (duh) and break. After that, there are a series of games to teach the basics of improv and how the building up of a scene works. A longer session would end with participants performing short-form games.

It teaches you to be more positive
In real life, our mind works a lot around negation. The games in the workshops try to make us comfortable and agreeable. When you ease into the process you naturally begin to have a positive approach towards not only the game but in general.  

nautankibaaz improv comedy india

There’s a little something for everyone to take back to their personal and professional lives
You don’t need to have all the right answers in life, sometimes all you need to do is embrace the situation and improvise! Something as simple as that can often be quite tough and that’s when improv helps you deal with it. Ankur shares a few of his fellow improvisers’ testimonials about how this form of art helped them personally and professionally. 

“Improv taught me to say ‘Yes, And’ .... it made me reflect upon my responses to all situations in life. Earlier I would just be focused on my thoughts and not so much on the other person’s perspective. Applying the ‘Yes, And’ technique has helped me become a better listener and hence a better person.
- Poonam Tandon, Director, Sta Design Studio Pvt Ltd

Improv for me means living in the present. I was a homemaker for 8 years before I decided to restart my career. I had low confidence and had become an overthinker. Then improv came into my life. It gave me the ability to laugh at my own goof ups, which raised my confidence and gave me the strength to face challenges and failures more strongly. 
- Abha Adlakha, HR trainer cum psychologist

As a writer, the workshops helped me present my ideas in a better way. I became more open to my thoughts as improv is an art which needs you to take action every moment. Professionally, I participated in a scriptwriting contest and won. My content writing skills got better as my mind opened up to all situations. Improv is that one thing, that I want to practice till my last breath.
- Jayant Chopra, Freelance script and content writer

The one thing improv really did was to reinforce the importance of listening in life. It taught me that any group can win easily when you concentrate on not just yourself but your team members too. In my professional life, it built my confidence to take on creative tasks which I used to avoid earlier.
- Manish Dhurde, Associate Director, Fidelity International

Improv was a good experience. I got in touch with my sense of humour and managed to learn about principles such as “today is the day that will put me in a more mindful space”. I would recommend it as a way to get comfortable with others as well as an audience.
- Nitya Chhiber, Programme Officer, Centre for Responsible Business

When was the last time you had a new experience that changed your life? Well, improv could be it. If you’re still unsure about taking a class just yet, check out a performance by Improv All Stars staring improv artists like Kaneez Surka, Aadar Malik, Biswa Kalyan Rath and others at the Black Dog Packaged Water Easy Evenings in Kolkata on the 13th of December. Book your tickets here

If you're in Mumbai, you can catch Improv All Stars on the 20th of December at Taj Lands End. Book your ticket here