“I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, doing what I’m supposed to be doing”: Tanvi Rajgharia

Tanvi Rajgharia gets candid about her experience in the field of musical theatre and reveals how she navigated the high seas of Broadway in the quintessential “Jhansi Way”


How did you find your calling in musical theatre?

When I was 14, I remember watching a live performance of “The Phantom of the Opera” in Her Majesty’s Theatre, London, and boy was I spellbound by it! I don’t know what took over me or why I did that, but I walked up to the backstage after the show and told one of the performers there that I would be back there as a performer someday. This passion kept me awake at night at times with these recurring images in my head of me doing something huge on stage. When browsing for colleges to apply for after my +2, I stumbled upon courses being offered in musical theatre across Lasalle College of Arts in Singapore. My mother encouraged me to apply to this major in performative arts that they were offering, along with psychology, which I had always wanted to do either way. I was on cloud nine when I received my acceptance letter. There were people who told me to choose other options as this wasn’t a very popular or ‘secure’ career choice to be chosen in India. But my parents backed me up, saying I could drop out if I didn’t like it, but not before giving it a try. So I gave it a try and here I am today. I mean, whose parents actually say that dropping out is an acceptable option?! God, I was so lucky!

How has the experience been for you in musical theatre?

For starters, it’s been absolutely great. I won’t say there haven’t been any lows or struggles, but I guess every career path has its own share of them, and so does mine. I have worked really hard teaching myself the ropes of this from scratch and learning to navigate my way on and off stage with my skill set. From being a part of Queens of Comedy, which was aired on TLC, Netflix, and Amazon Prime, to now being the first Indian to be invited as a lyricist to the prestigious BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop in NYC, it’s been a dream come true! It’s just constant new fields and doors that keep opening up, and it’s been so very exciting to bring something new here!

Who has been your inspiration in this chosen field of yours?

There have been two artists that I have always looked up to. One of them being Lin-Manuel Miranda known for creating Broadway musicals like Hamilton and In the Heights, and the other being Rachel Bloom who went on to create the Netflix comedy-drama series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Both of them started writing as there was no one to cast them in projects of their choice, so they cast themselves in their own productions and pulled everything off single-handedly. Their success has been such an inspiration to me. Man, I can’t wait to someday work with them!

What do you have to say about people adapting to this new format of entertainment and your role in it?

People usually tend to stick to their comfort zones. I have seen people being extremely hesitant before coming to my live shows, and then witnessed the same people just sitting there in the audience and imbibing the experience, at the end of the show. It’s incredibly gratifying to know that something I wrote can move both a 40-year-old and a 16-year-old at the same time. I have always aspired to have a peaceful and productive life, just consistently making art and connecting with people. And up on the stage, in the middle of a performance, I get this sense of fulfilment as I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, doing what I’m supposed to be doing.

How do you choose your topics for your shows? What is the process you follow?

I have always believed that if you want to connect with your audience, write something that they can relate to, even if it’s the daily issues they face or the most common things that they go through. If you write about something that’s foreign to them, it is most likely that they will only enjoy it superficially and then forget about it. I want to tell the stories of India in a musical format to establish a connection and create curiosity at the same time. The themes I go for mostly revolve around Indian youth, marriage, women’s equality, goals, dreams, aspirations, growing up, change, comparisons, anxiety, desperation, and hope.
And as for the process, there isn’t one as such that I follow as the ideas come to me at the oddest of times and in the most unexpected situations. For instance, the idea of “Terrified of Twenty-Five” came to me in the middle of a night in the pandemic!

Are there any major differences in the training and performance styles in India and other countries?

I feel that the current landscape of musical theatre education in India is unfortunately lacking in many aspects. There aren’t many options to pursue here in terms of training or even many opportunities to showcase your talent thereafter. People here either train to be an actor, or a singer, or a dancer. But what we need to realise is that musical theatre is all about delivering a unique, complete experience as a performer who can do all three. Being fortunate enough to have gotten all the support that I could ask for, morally and financially, to pursue this path, I intend to help other artists out there realise their potential. I want to conduct training workshops and even open a training institute down the line.

How do you plan on exploring and expanding the Broadway style theatre further amongst the Indian audience?

In India, musical theatre is still at its nascent stage, but I intend on taking it to a large scale with original scripts, live singing and triple-set performances. After a lot of solo shows, I have recently ventured into group material with my latest song, “We break up because of family reasons.” It is a big Broadway-style song, shot in a very western format, touching on a topic that is so inherently Indian. It’s my way of getting musical theatre to people’s phones, and thus making the awareness even greater! I am also set to collaborate with Hypocrite Productions in New York City, for a production based on the Mahabharata. All in all, I plan on inculcating the Broadway style of musical theatre as much as possible into the everyday entertainment of the people here.