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“It’s high time plus-size theatre actors in India get meatier roles,” Anuradha Rao says to us with a straight face, making us wonder if ‘meaty’ is meant to be word play or not. We realise in the course of our interview that she seems to pick bread and meat metaphors often, but let’s get baguette to that later.

One of the founding members of Bangalore’s favourite Ranga Shankara theatre, Anuradha recently launched The Big Fat Company (TBFC), a medium to help plus sized artists XL and realise their full potential as actors.

When we call her, she’s in the middle of workshop week at Untitled Arts Foundation, but takes a breather to tell us about why she started TBFC. “I get my bread and butter from my corporate job, but the cheese and marmalade has always been theatre,” she says, chewing on that last sentence a little. “Add to the fact that I’ve always been a big girl, and you will get the bigger picture. It’s why I wanted to start this troupe.”

“We get to play the comical friends, or worse, fathers and mothers, and often star as the butt of ‘fat’ jokes, providing clichéd comic relief.”

Costume Change

Today, Anuradha rues the fact that plus-size actors tend to be stereotyped during casting. “We get to play the comical friends, or worse, fathers and mothers, and often star as the butt of ‘fat’ jokes, providing clichéd comic relief.”

With the rise of ‘big’ retail stores, curvy fashion bloggers and spike in plus-size models on international runways, Anuradha believes there is a newer understanding that ‘fat people’ have lives too. As a theatre troupe, they’re planning to integrate larger actors into lead roles, so you could soon for instance, be seeing an XL Juliet or a plus-size Padmini in Hayavadana, where the artists have real acting chops and the weight is just incidental.

Worth Their Weight In Gold

Adding mass to this skeletal concept are instructors like contemporary dancer Shabari Rao, who will be taking workshops with the seven actors who make up The Big Fat Company. “Every body moves differently, and the challenge is to attain a level of openness that connects the art to the audience,” believes Shabari, a student of the Royal Academy of Dance, London. While a slew of different workshops will continue all month, The Big Fat Company promises us an on-stage production by the end of the year.

Sounds just like the kind of artist jam that Anuradha and her bread metaphors could use.

Getting there: Reach out to The Big Fat Company through the Untitled Arts Foundation on Facebook here.

Photo credit: Ranga Shankara Theatre

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