Deshik Vansadia
Deshik Vansadia directed a play, VINCENT, which depicts the grim reality of Vincent Van Gogh's life. In this interview, he talks about his research on the famous artist, theatre as an incubator, and more.

 By Deepa Punjani

What made you opt to do a play on Vincent Van Gogh?

Years ago, I came across Vincent Van Gogh's painting, The Starry Night, in a book and it mesmerised me. I started to look for Van Gogh's paintings in museums and books. Soon I started to learn about him and found out that he extensively exchanged letters with his brother. Rarely do we get a first hand experience of a world famous artist's journey. I mean we'd kill for a half torn letter by Shakespeare and here there are all theatres easily available for it. It was fascinating. Reading the letters led me to see The Starry Night in person and it brought tears in my eyes. I knew I would do something with his life one day and here was my chance.

How much of the play is fact, and how much is fiction?

All of it is fact. Every line spoken can be found in a letter by him. The only time they didn't converse through letters is when Vincent visited his brother, Theo, in Paris, but even that period is written about by Johanna Van Gogh, Theo's wife.

What alliances were crucial in making the play take off?

Studio Tamasha takes the credit. They started this wonderful initiative of revival of theatre and curated shows and provided a platform. I wanted to take the opportunity to revive my show, SHAKESPEARE'S LOVeRS, that lost its journey due to covid but looking at the space size I thought of doing this long brewed passion project and Sunil Shanbhag supported the idea.

How many plays have you done, in which you provided the leadership, worked as a director?

My first in India was SHAKESPEARE, WHO? Which was followed by the All India Radio (AIR) commissioned Shakespeare's MEASURE FOR MEASURE and then THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, CYMBELINE and SHAKESPEARE's LOVERS.

During Covid we, under The Shakespeare Company of India, produced online versions such as HAMLET PROJECT and radio production of MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.

What lessons do you draw about the artist's life while studying the play on Vincent?

That the work you do matters. We must have faith because the labour of love yields what matters. It is so very easy to forget it all in the hurly-burly of city life, where all that matters is that one is advancing in life in terms of money and recognition.

How has doing plays enriched your career?

It hasn't. It has probably impoverished the career. I would have been better off putting all this time and energy into the world of cameras and OTT. But theatre, doing plays, enriches my life.

Even though theatre can be a low risk incubator for creative ideas, it seems theatre also has very little space for experiments. What do you think is being done to tackle the situation?

In my opinion, very little. Since there is very little money in it, theoretically plays should be more of passion projects but somehow that isn't the case. Lot of theatre is commercial and a lot of it is disguised as new or original but yet is commercial. Something experimental or original requires research and deep investment but in our case theatre is more of a platform which prompts you to OTT or people do it for reputation.

What is the quickest duration from having content for the play in hand and putting up a show?

Once the world of the play is known and well invested, and provided actors are available to rehearse everyday for about 6 hours, the quickest could be a month and a half.

(*Tarun Agarwal is the author of Hope Factory: Business Ideas For Everyone and has directed a short film, Honesty Weds Dishonesty)

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