Published: 26th February 2018
The Big Fat Company is slamming all the body shamers through theatre
Bengaluru based The Big Fat Company is a theatre group exclusively for plus-sized people
Remember the chubby kid in class? You probably called them laddu and assumed that they ate everyone else's leftovers and you did not miss the chance to make fun of them. Or were you that unfortunate kid? Were you told that you wouldn’t find a partner in life and therefore you would have to earn more money? How about being told (as a joke) that the side of the car that you sat on suffered a flat tyre? No, we’re not here to make you relive those hurtful moments, we’re just letting you know that you're not alone. There are many like you. And a lot of them are forced to give up playing dream roles like Cinderella, Alice and Juliet, or Caesar, Narcissus and Prince Charming, owing to their size.
But one woman knew that things had to change. Her name is Anuradha H R and she is a plus-sized theatre actor. Sometime in the last year, the followers of Untitled Arts Foundation's Facebook page, run by Anuradha, came across a post that called for actors for their theatre group, The Big Fat Company's next play. Though this might seem like an ordinary casting call, it had an uncommon requirement. The dress size of every actor must be XL or above. Before you raise your eyebrows and say ‘What!’, let me ask you something. When was the last time you saw a play or a film that told you that it was okay to be heavy and dark and still be the protagonist? Most of the time, actors who are not fair and lovely, and their bodies not so slim, are cast as the mother-in-law, the funny aunt or the maid.
Unfair, right? Well, Anuradha was one of them. With an experience of over two decades in theatre, she tells us how she was sidelined all the time. "There are so many of us around. But we're never the protagonist. In that scenario, none of us saw ourselves grow as actors. That ache remained in my heart," she recalls. And hence, when the idea of starting The Big Fat Company, a theatre group where all the actors are plus-sized came up, she didn't hesitate to pursue it. "I was always looking for a platform to enrich and challenge myself," she tells us.
Monsy matters: The Big Fat Company is running a crowdfunding campaign on Ketto to get sufficient funds for the production of their first play
Putting up the Facebook post was the first step towards that. But unfortunately, nobody responded. But Anuradha was not ready to give up. She started approaching actors personally. "While some people were thrilled about the idea, many were not very receptive. They were offended because they were called 'fat'," says Anuradha. Finally, all went well and with 15 theatre enthusiasts, The Big Fat Company was formed in July 2017.
Since then, the actors and the crew have been going through a series of workshops and training sessions. Earlier this year, they started rehearsing for their first play, which is set to hit the stage soon. While their big day (pun intended!) is around the corner, Anuradha tells us about Sushma, one of the actors. "She is a phenomenal actor, but she's always been given sideroles. Many times, women with toned bodies have been given the heroine's role even though Sushma performed better. But she has often been asked to train the heroine. So, if she can train them, why can’t she portray the character too?" asks Anuradha.
Gender Neutral: Anuradha doesn't want The Big Fat Company to be an initiative only for plus-sized women. The team already has one male actor currently
She also tells us how she was shamed, not just in theatre, but in the outside world too. "I've always been a plump kid and was mocked because of that. This has continued even after growing up. It is obvious that I occupy more space in a bus. So, people start giving me judgemental looks and assume that I'm 'strong' and that I should stand up and give the space to two people. Also, I don't remember the last time I saw pretty clothing for heavy people," she says, asking us to take a closer look at the world around.
After the current production, they are also planning to expand their work and reach out to school children. "Plump children are always considered funny or dumb. But that isn't the case. We have to work towards accepting our own body and redefine these set body standards," she says, assuring us that the Big Fat Company is set to change it all. And soon enough, if you see a plus-sized protagonist and it doesn't make you frown, you should thank Anuradha and her Big Fat heart.