Dreams do not pay, say artists in b-schools, who are trying to balance their professional and personal goals

Pic: (Flickr)
All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts,…the words by William Shakespeare make particular sense in the b-school scenario today, given the number of ‘artists’ pursuing an MBA degree. Almost ever top b-school has a couple of artists, singers – those who have left the stage or the movie/television screen to give MBA a shot. These ‘artists’ are those who believe that life is a stage whether you are rehearsing lines for a play or preparing for a placement interview. They have chosen (some permanently, others temporarily) to exit the ‘stage’ and adorn the part of an MBA student for now.

So why an MBA?

A bouquet of answers to that – all leading to the same underlying thought of learning something new. Gagan Jeevagan from the Bharathidasan Institute of Management, Trichy says that business is a way of life and “I wanted to strengthen my knowledge of business so thought of doing an MBA. This MBA will give me a foundation to run a business in any industry, even theatre if you look at it as an industry.” Gagan, who has been doing theatre since the age of 12, co-founded his own theatre company in Bangalore called Va-U Tiatr, when 18. He has spent more time on the stage than anywhere else.

For Ankana Mehra from XLRI – GMP (1-year Program), Jamshedpur, the MBA fulfils the need to understand the changing business environment. Ankana was a model and also worked for UTV, Balaji Telefilms and Sony before joining XLRI. I wanted to evaluate the possible scenarios that can affect business starting from macroeconomics, strategy, business evaluation to organisational behaviour. I wanted to consider all such aspects before leveraging my others skills, hence the MBA, she says. Ankana had ample opportunities to make it big in the field of glamour but decided to give it a miss to pursue higher education.

Dhananjay Wanare, a first year student from the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, was an assistant director with the critically-acclaimed movie Harishchandra Factory. Some of the best days of his life, he has spent behind the camera for the movie. For Dhananjay it was ‘personal development’ that got him to do his MBA. Alongside theatre, I worked in various domains in software. While my theatre kept my passion going, professionally I felt restricted to one specific industry. MBA was the only way to meet and interact with people from different backgrounds and learn something new. As a theatre boy, Dhananjay has won several trophies and theatre competitions across the country. He is also given credit for initiating new art forms such as sand animation, shadow events, UV light choreography – all of which are different prize categories in events today.

Talking about artists and one cannot ignore the bunch of students (Ravi Agnihotri, Abhishek Mohunti, Sandeep Goel, Pritika Idnani, Manoj Nuthakki, Nithin Ramachandran and others) from the Indian School of Business (ISB) who got together to make a Hindi movie last year. The mover of the group Ravi Agnihotri told PaGaLGuY that the MBA was a thoughtful decision to get closer to his dream film making. I wanted to learn the way a business is done and no better way than an MBA to do it. I had the ideas but wanted to learn more on how to run the ideas properly. I knew that my school would support me to learnt the art better. That we were able to shoot on campus and my school helped me in every way, only proved my decision right, he said.

Ravis production company is called Friday Night Productions and the name of the movie is Buddha in a Traffic Jam, which should be releasing anytime soon.

Ankana Mehra from XLRI
MBA has become part of the dream

Gagan says that his dream and MBA are on the same track now. This MBA will teach me how to run my theatre company like a business. I want to take my theatre to the next level and branch out into different kinds of entertainment. Hollywood is run primarily by MBAs from Ivy League schools, so why not here,? he asks. Ankana, on the other hand, looks at her MBA more practically. For her, the MBA has widened her knowledge about business operations and practices. After working at different places for seven years, her MBA have given her an insight into her past. Today I understand why certain acquisitions were made, why outcome-based processing was stressed upon and how efficiency and effectiveness weighed against different improvement initiatives. So though I am not pursuing an active television line, I understand today why things happened the way they did, while I was there.

For Dhananjay, it is slightly different. He loves the people process at his b-school. There is a new dimension to life. I am getting to interact with different kinds of people. I have developed new interests in photography and painting, thanks to this MBA course. Ravi, on the other hand has already made it clear that had it not been for the MBA, his dream of a movie maker would not have materialised so soon. All that I learnt in the MBA class is helping me in film-making. That profit equals to revenue minus cost is what I am seeing everyday. Be it negotiations or shareholder patterns or just marketing everything is coming to use in my art.

Nandini Chaudhary, a second year student of the Goa Institute of Management, Goa is considered a mini ustaad of sorts in music. Having learnt classic music and Rabindra Sangeet for over 18 years and participated in a number of shows, she chose to do an MBA because with it, she could also pursue her dream of music. “I love finance and wanted a career in finance but I did not want to discontinue with my singing and performances. From where I come from, it is not easy to make roads into music unless one has the right contacts. But with an MBA, I will make sure that my career does well and I make the necessary inroads into music.”

Nandini loves the music scene in Goa and is part of the college orchestra which has earned accolades from the London School of Music. From classical music, she is now into Opera music. As part of placements, Nandini got a job in Mumbai and is thrilled to come to the city of dreams. “In a place like Mumbai, I can make my career and yet not give up my passion for singing. I can do both,” she says.

But the fact is, some chucked their dreams for the moolah?

In a way, yes, say some of them. Others say that both, art and the corporate zing have their individual roles to play – may be at different times. Anakana says that the arts have always been something that has driven her to do better in life but being a part of the corporate scene has been her calling. I know I will always retain an interest in acting but only as a parallel one not as a core profession. My career goal was never going to be in showbiz.

Dhananjay says it is possible to do both, because theatre is more of a passion than anything else. Yes, I want to be part of a corporate industry but I will alongside pursue my passion and both the spheres will help me become a matured person. Gagan feels similar – that ardour for theatre and the corporate way of life can exist together and you dont have to give up one for the other. Art is part of me. I believe that everything I do will culminate in art. I will continue to stage plays even after I finish my MBA,” Gagan declares.

Ravi Agnihotri from ISB
In India, people rarely pursue dreams because they do not pay

This, they all agree. That in the race to make money, run the house and have a name etched on the corporate horizon, dreams take a back seat. That most people inIndia spend much of their life in a rat race to make money and gain material possessions. Gagan says that Indians, by and large, are rule-bound though there is a change happening slowly. I have friends who are engineers but are making a living as wedding planners, some are musicians, some designers so things are changing but quite slowly

Dhananajay says people should multi-task to be able to keep a balance between one’s passion and one ‘job.’ He thinks that people need to pursue different things in life to lead a complete life. “The new skills I acquired in the IT job helped me discover varied interests and that is helping me get closer to my dream of becoming a social entrepreneur, with my stage dream remaining intact.”

Ankana again has a more practical answer. She says that in India people dream about fame and money and recognition and the fastest way to achieve it in India is through Bollywood, show business and cricket. And to achieve this fame, people tend to ignore their strengths. Yes, dreams pay less. If someone wants to be a gymnast, in India you cannot make money by becoming one, so either you retro-fit your talent or give it up all together. Gagan like to disagree a bit on this point. Fame does not drive ambition in India. Today I am seeing people realising that life is short and people want to do what they love. A student from my b-school is today a script-writer in Bollywood. He chose his passion.

Nandini Chaudhary from GIM
So what will it be finally – art or …?

For most, it is going to be a hard-core corporate life for now. The next ten years will be used to trudge the corporate ladder and make a base. Theatre will not be compromised though and every effort to keep take a shot at it will be considered. Dhananjay is sure he will become a social entrepreneur in ten years while Ankana wants to be in a position where she can vision and plan her organisation’s growth. Gagan will use his corporate learning to firm up his theatre company and Nandini will experiment in other kinds of music.

The odd one is Ravi who is convinced that he will stay with films, come what may. After the first movie, am looking at other scripts. I want to take scripts to the level of how they are in the West, where scripts make the movies not like in India, where stars rule the market. In India people go to see the Khans and the Kapoors in the films, they do not go for the story line. I am going to work for the day when people will start seeing movies for the superb story telling and stars will love to work in those films so it will be double the pleasure for the audience.”

Nandini says that whatever be the future, music will always be the way to rewind. “When I feel stressed, I just pick up an instrument and play and stress just goes away. I will need music all the more as I start my career,” she said.

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