Manoj Shah Interview
At the first Ibsen Festival in Mumbai (31st October-3rd November 2014), director Manoj Shah will present his Gujarati adaptation of Ibsen's play THE MASTER BUILDER. We speak to him about his version in which he talks about his reading of the play and its contextualisation.

 By Deepa Punjani

Deepa Punjani (DP): You are directing THE MASTER BUILDER for the first Ibsen festival in Mumbai. What are your views about the play?

Manoj Shah (MS): THE MASTER BUILDER is not a straightforward play. Its characters are multidimensional. They are nuanced and as they reveal themselves, we discover their anomalies. The journey of the characters and the situations are reflective of the human condition of each character. It makes the play more complex and dark- like a physiological thriller, which is part tragedy, part human drama. This in fact is a complete drama with Navaras (the nine Rasas) and I found that I could adapt it to my time zone, culture and society. I asked Chirantana Bhatt to do the adaptation.

DP: Tell us more about the adaptation in Gujarati.

MS: I was aware about Henrik Ibsen, but was not exposed to his entire body of work. The day I received an invitation to participate in the Ibsen festival, it gave me the opportunity to go through most of Ibsen's work in all forms and formats. After going through it, I had to check which of his plays could be staged appropriately within a Gujarati context, and finally I pinned down THE MASTER BUILDER. During this process I also discovered, that all of Ibsen's major plays have been translated and adapted in Gujarati, and some of them have even been performed except for THE MASTER BUILDER. So, I am happy, thrilled and glad that my production house Ideas Unlimited will be the first to perform this great classic play in Gujarati.
The original play has Christian imageries, gothic architecture, mythic creatures. In my context, my play has temple architecture, mythic and mystic Hindu creatures and over a three thousand year old tradition of building towering temples onwards from the Vedic period. This history gives me a larger canvas to stage THE MASTER BUILDER in my mother tongue. Chirantana Bhatt has created appropriate references, specific to our context. In our context we refer to the Sompuras, a community in Gujarat known for building grand temples like Somnath and Akshardham. I have even changed this three-act play into a two-act play. The characters are the same in nature and in actions, but they have a new linguistic journey, and this gives a new insight and dimension to Ibsen's classic work.

DP: It will be interesting to watch your production. How do you think your Gujarati audience might react to it?

MS: We know that Gujaratis are very adaptive by nature. From what I have noticed from performing plays since the past 36 years is that they are very receptive and open to such experiments. In the past, Gujarati audiences have responded very well to all my work, and due to this I have a huge fan following. So I expect that THE MASTER BUILDER will be well received.

DP: When you start executing a play on stage, do you have a fixed process or does it differ from production to production?

MS: No, I do not work with fixed formulas. My working method differs from play to play. I even do not know the outcome till the day my play will be staged. I allow my writers, actors, all creative people and even myself to grow, like a tree. I often travel to dangerous zones to be a total failure till the third bell rings... but this is what I enjoy of the live performing arts.

DP: Ibsen's plays have great lines. What would be your pick from THE MASTER BUILDER?

MS: My pick would be from my version of THE MASTER BUILDER - ''Akhil bhram-mand ma ek hunj shree hari'' (I am the only one in this universe) - this is also a famous poem by Narsinh Mehta.

Deepa Punjani is the Editor of this website.

Click here to read Ila Arun's interview about the festival

Click here to read KK Raina talk of his direction and performance in PIR GHANI

Click here for the Preview of PIR GHANI

Click here to read Kåre Conradi talk about his solo performance of PEER GYNT

Click here to read about the seminar in which Manoj Shah will also be participating

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