Neeraja Ramjee’s one-woman show Broken Images is a psychological thriller that examines self-delusion and self-worth. The play takes a look at the Indian literary establishment, the desire for fame, and the need to win at all costs.
Neeraja works full time as a business consultant across the globe, but over the last few years has been pursuing her true love of acting. Originally from the New York Theatre scene, Neeraja has moved back to Toronto to continue her growing theatre career here.
SDTC: What is Broken Images about, and why were you drawn to this play?
NR: When Manjula, a mediocre Indian writer gets international fame for a book she wrote in English rather than her native tongue, she gets flak from the literary community, and is questioned without warning by her ‘Image’ to unearth the scandal behind her sudden rise to fame.
I watched Broken Images over a decade ago, and it stayed with me because it was a unique storyline that was edgy and I knew people would connect to it. Fast forward a decade, when the opportunity presented itself to produce a play, I knew I wanted to recreate Broken Images. The play explores themes such as identify crisis, reality vs hyper-reality, and the desire for fame, which are all still very relevant in today’s digital/social media world. As an avid fan of theatre, one would be hard pressed to find many diverse actors in lead or one person shows, and I would like this show to open doors, and nudge diversity in theatre a little bit further.
Social media pushes people to represent a certain image of themselves — one that is not necessarily aligned with reality. Why is this dangerous?
Today, we are our own paparazzi, and there is this pressure to be ‘perfect’. Most of the posts you see online are of people having a ‘perfect’ time, it’s the way we like to project ourselves. You seldom see posts about challenges in people’s lives on social media. I don’t know if our lives can be as perfect as Instagram.
I was reading an article recently on how social media is harming the mental health of young people. There is a need to constantly feel a sense of ‘self-worth’ with the number of likes you get, and a fear of missing out and not being looped in with your friends. I think we chase ‘perfection’ that we see on social media/television, which quite frankly does not exist, and can be quite harmful, if it affects the emotional well-being of people.
When were you first drawn to theatre?
I have always loved the performing arts – theatre, movies, dancing. I grew up in an academic family and went down that route – did my engineering and then my MBA. A few years ago I went through a very challenging time in my life and I was looking for a creative outlet. I was living in New York, and came across signage for an acting class. I decided to sign up and have not looked back. I have never felt as happy and free doing anything else. I starting acting on stage in New York, after one of my shows an agent approach me, and that’s when I thought, well maybe I can do this professionally.
You’re also a business consultant. Do the worlds of theatre and business have anything in common?
The two worlds I live in are on either end of the spectrum. As a consultant, your emotions are always in check, controlled, it’s the exact opposite as an actor – emotions are raw, with no inhibitions. At the end of the day – art imitates life, it is about people, human behavior and there are elements from my personal and professional life that I bring to the characters I portray. The discipline, professionalism and analytical side of me helps me as a producer and actor, and my creative side helps me look at solving business problems with a different lens.
You took a leap and made a career change. What advice do you have for other young women that may be thinking of tackling a similar unknown in their careers?
I would say explore different options, try it and see what you love – go with your gut. Get something stable (financially) to get you through day to day and then explore the unknown, take an acting class, or pottery, photography, dance…anything you think you have an interest in, and see what instinctively gets you…if you are truly passionate about it, you will pursue it and there is no stopping you.
Best life/career advice you’ve been given?
Trust your instincts and have the courage to be vulnerable enough to explore what you don’t know
Broken Images will be presented at the Red Sandcastle Theatre (922 Queen St E), from Aug. 11th-20th. Get tickets here.