Saumya Joshi's play WELCOME ZINDAGI, produced by Bharat Thakkar and Umesh Shukla of the veteran Gujarati theatre group, 'Khelaiya' is gaining increasing popularity. Jyoti Vyas speaks to the Ahemdabad based writer-director-actor Saumya Joshi of his debut on the professional/commercial Gujarati theatre stage.
Saumya, your earlier work like DOST, AIN CHOKAS NAGAR VASTU HATU and ADHAMA TAARA NU AAKASH were plays for a more experimental stage and were received very favourably. But WELCOME ZINDAGI changes things for you and your group completely given that it's a professional production produced by a Mumbai based company.
Well, fortunately WELCOME ZINDAGI is receiving the same kind of response, even if it might be from a different kind of audience. Basically I am a passionate theatre lover and my immense love for the same compels me to look for new challenges and new audiences. But the one thing I would always stick to and never compromise on is honesty and complete honesty. As a humble soldier of the theatre I only follow this one principle and whether my play is happening on the commercial or parallel circuit makes no difference. WELCOME ZINDAGI like my plays earlier is an uncompromised effort. My characters are people you and I know, and who are familiar instantly without the need for elaborate costume, make-up or grand sets to support them. It dosen't matter that they are being watched by hundreds of more audience members than they were in my earlier plays. The quintessential middle-class Mumbai family that I show is a complete deviation from the normal commercial Guajarati theatre ethos. Even the theme does not deal with high comedy or the usual melodrama.
You have a comfortable day job as a Professor of Literature, and you have gained respectability as a poet too. What lured you to the stage?
My family background has played a major role. My mother was an actor, and my father was a keen observer of the cultural scene. It was almost mandatory for me to do something. At the age of sixteen I entered theatre as an actor and the lack of good Gujarati scripts compelled me to write. Directing too became a passion as I like working with people and the experience of it. I also grew interested in the exploration of the performance space and to break set boundaries that are traditionally set between spectator and audience. Space has been confined and I am constantly interested to see how the world in my head and in the heads of those working with me can come to life on stage.
WELCOME ZINDAGI is poised for huge commercial success and may even change the direction of contemporary Gujarati theatre. What is next?
Frankly, this instant commercial success is a pleasant surprise. What next is a difficult question to answer, and it may very well be a disaster. The only thing that I can assure you of is that the effort would be cent percent. For another new production I may take over six months and then the same amount of time to put it up.
*Jyoti Vyas is a senior theatre person and writer. She is an alumnus of the National School of Drama (NSD) and has studied under the pioneer Ebrahim Alkazi. She has extensively worked in television, and her articles have been published in various publications such as The Asian Age and the Prithvi Theatre Newsletter