Shekhar Sen
Shekhar Sen is a unique theatre persona in many respects. He is talented, he is committed, he is contented, and he has a clear vision about his work in the theatre. Almost a decade back he presented TULSIDAS, followed by KABIR and then went on to add VIVEKANAND to his repertoire. His musical solo performances bring forth his exceptional talent as singer, actor, director and writer. Here Jyoti Vyas tries to fathom the phenomenal success of his theatrical expositions.

 Vijay Shanker

How did you land on stage?
I belong to a musician’s family from Chhattisgarh and I came to Mumbai to give music to films. For five years nothing of consequence happened and this failure lead me towards spiritualism. I started giving devotional music concerts; recorded cassettes with research-based themes; worked for HMV on a five year contract. And things started shaping well. I went to the U.S A. in 1997 to attend the conference on Ramayana; it was an eye opener. I found that the epic was translated in 78 languages of the world. Plus I witnessed that in Surinam and in the West Indies temples, Ram’s idols are small while the one for Tulsidas was life size. It was then that I decided to recreate Tulsidas on stage.

TULSIDAS was followed by KABIR and later VIVEKANAND. Is there any logic in the selection?
No, none at all. Kabir has been my all-time favourite and Vivekanand comes much later. Tulsidas represents Sagun Bhakti (Idol worship), Kabir followed the Nirgun Panth (formlessness) and Vivekanand’s religious belief encompassed patriotism.

You write, direct and act. Would you consider writing and directing for some one else for the characters of female saint poetesses?
I was asked by Hema Malini to write the script for Jaydev’s Geet Govind and her guru-reincarnation of Meerabai. I tried but could not do that. And apart from these three plays I have not written a single line.

How does the creative process of writing a play start for you?
I must admit that I don’t start with some definite plots or plans in mind. I go on writing for almost a year and the characters guide me rather than I write them! I rehearse for months and during the process, the addition and omission continues. Ramkrishna Paramhansa’s inclusion in VIVEKANAND came at a much later stage as I realised that Vivekanand is incomplete without his Guru. Even during the show I improvise.

You have been performing these plays for nine years. What next?
Nothing. I have completed over 400 shows of these plays and more shows are being finalised so I am quite happy with the audience response. These days I am performing my latest play VIVEKANAND.

*The interviewer is a senior theatre and television person who has trained under Ebrahim Alkazi at the National School of Drama (NSD). She has written for publications such as ‘The Asian Age’ and is a regular contributor to the Prithvi Theatre Newsletter (PT Notes). She also offers theatre training to students at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and is an important critical voice for the Gujarati Theatre.

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