Her diminutive frame belies the determination and grit that is second nature to her. Actor, dancer, choreographer, entrepreneur, Peeya Rai Choudhuri, wears many hats and juggles them all with ease. Her eyes shine with enthusiasm as she talks to Mini Ribeiro about starting Omaggio, the performing arts studio in Goa that she has co-founded, Circadian, her latest production.
1. How did you foray into acting? And how did dance happen?
I started acting at 17 and the show Hip-Hip Hurray literally happened to me by accident. The director of the show came across my pictures at a common friend’s house and that is how I was ‘discovered’. This was the stepping stone into the industry followed by VJ stints, theatre and films.
Since the age of 6, I have been doing Indian classical dance, then later in my 20s, I went to New York City to study contemporary dance at the Alvin Ailey School, followed by a scholarship in Madrid at the MDC carrying on till Omaggio.
2. What was it like to be an actor? Do you miss playing characters like Kiran (Hip Hip Hurray) and Lakhi (Bride and Prejudice)?
Acting in my early 20s was quite fun, the projects happened quickly then, which was great shaping who I wanted to be. I studied in New York City, learned with teacher Amal Allana at the National School of Drama and then with theatre guru and Film Director Alyque Padamsee. I acted under the guidance of the British Film Director Gurinder Chadha and winning awards for the role, was an era to celebrate and cherish. I do miss playing characters sometimes but Omaggio is surrounded by various characters and stories which keeps me going!
3. When did you shift to Goa and why?
I moved to Goa in 2012 to explore something new and started Omaggio in the following year, 2013. We started with a residency program on full scholarship for all the young potential Indian students. Out of the 20 students who enrolled themselves for the scholarship program, only 6 students completed their training into International level artists that form the Omaggio Performing Company. These six students continue to be with us and will be an integral part of our newest production, Circadian, showcasing their multi-skilled artistry.
4. What is something that you love about Goa?
Goa has a lot in store for everyone. The natural beauty of Goa can inspire you every time you drive out of the house. Right from spending time at the lovely beaches to enjoying yourself at the shack with delicious food, great culture, and lovely local people - Goa is a paradise! The way the ocean can wash away any amount of accumulated stress I guess no other place can offer.
5. How did Omaggio come about?
The thought that gave rise to Omaggio started with our co-founder and artistic director, Tino Sanchez. He taught dance in Delhi many years ago and later realised that the Indian students acquired a passion for arts, but they were unable to receive full training in the field to create and form excellent professionals, so to bridge the gap that existed, Omaggio was formed. Looking back on our inception days, it feels great that after eight years, it has been a successful endeavour.
6. Tell us about Circadian in detail.
Circadian emerged from the uncertainty and loss of freedom that one of us experienced during the lockdown period. And yet our human spirit has the uncanny ability to strive on and looks ahead for joy and laughter. Circadian is a natural internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and repeats on each rotation of the earth. It exists in all organisms on the planet. There are 6 whimsical characters that will transport you into a world of comedy and spontaneity, through a fantastical Imagery that will appear in and around you. The show states an important lesson that life can and will open to its true potential once you accept and give in to its unruly ways. The production will be performed on "Four Seasons'' Vivaldi; the best known work of the Italian composer of the 17th and 18th century Antonio Vivaldi. The music takes you on a journey through the seasonal cycle of a year on earth.
6 What can a person watching this show expect?
Expect the unexpected!
Circadian, the show will be told through contemporary dance and the aerial circus theatre that will allow you to experience your story on stage. Art indeed has the ability to truly reflect society, and with 2020, each one of us whether we wanted to or not, had to self-reflect and rise above in every possible way.
8. What does a typical day in your life look like?
A typical day in my life is all about the perfect balance between being a mother, wife and the co-founder of the most unique contemporary dance and aerial circus theatre performance company in India, Omaggio. To pioneer in a field requires daily reflections and different ways to improve our work. Starting with the overall household management to swiftly changing into the instructor role with teaching students, watching them grow and helping them find their true love for the performing arts. My day also involves overlooking operations and creative brainstorming for the company.
9. Your favourite restaurant in Goa?
Goa is known as the land of unending seafood and with a strong culinary history. I personally love all types of food. If I had to name a few, then definitely Prana Cafe, Matcha and Spice Goa are on top of my list.
You can reach Peeya on Instagram @omaggio_goa.