Interview
 
Anand Ingale Interview
Anand Ingale is a veteran Marathi theatre, film and TV artiste who has been professionally acting for more than two decades. Known for his comedy, Ingale is currently doing the play KHARA KHARA SANG.


 By Neha S.

Anand Ingale is a veteran Marathi theatre, film and TV artiste who has been professionally acting for more than two decades. Known for his comedy, Ingale is currently doing the play KHARA KHARA SANG.



How did you come across the script of KHARA KHARA SANG.? How did you get involved with the project?

When everything began to reopen after the pandemic, I was looking for new scripts for a play. Our director, Vijay Kenkre, had sent me some 2-3 scripts, among them this one. Our writer, Niraj Shirvaikar, called me and then the three of us had a meeting. After reading the script, I felt like this could be done, the way it can be filled in, improvised. Besides, this is an adaptation of THE TRUTH by Florian Zeller. I had seen another one of his plays -- FATHER. Naseer bhai used to do it. Zeller has written plays like LIE, TRUTH, FATHER, MOTHER, SON, so that's where this play is from. I was already curious about how this play will be adapted. Even though it is a slightly serious or heavy subject matter, I really liked the way it was presented and that's when I said yes to the script.

When you adapt, how important is it to stay loyal to the source material?

Basically it depends on the writer's point of view. You might like the play, but you know it's not going to work with your local audience. The culture of the play, the references are different. But when you know the subject is global, you try to mix in some of your own references with the original. And then sometimes, original names, references are all retained, only the language changes to Marathi. For example a play about the French Revolution cannot be changed to the 1857 uprising because we are doing it here. A play about the French Revolution belongs to that era, that soil, it must be done as is. But in a play like KHARA KHARA SANG, the name has been changed, local references have been added. So the question is how a writer adapts the play without making it any less engaging and without disturbing the essence of the original. It doesn't matter whether an adaptation is fully faithful or not as long as the original writer's work is not insulted.

This is not your first collaboration with Vijay Kenkre. What is unique about his direction?

The great thing about Vijay's direction is that he gives complete freedom to his actors. He understands the nuances of a script really well. Recognising a good script and then allowing an actor to work on it is the strength of his direction. He fills in the play. He tells an actor where he has to go. Once the actor starts on that journey, he only keeps gently pushing the actor to go further ahead. If you are going down the wrong path, he'll bring you back to the right one. But that licence to make a mistake while trying to find something new is Vijay Kenkre's strength as a director. An actor is very comfortable when working with him.

You mentioned how you fill in a play, how important is improvisation to you? Is there a limit to improvising?

This is different for every rehearsal. You must emote a lot in a certain scene or fill it in more. Even the writer knows that even though the scene is not very attractive, it is necessary. Maybe it's not as entertaining but important for exposition and he knows that if this scene doesn't get through to the audience, the next one won't either. So as an actor if you want to entertain your audience in such a scene, you should know that you have to fill it in a little. But sometimes you know that definitely you must not touch a scene, it has to be done like it is on paper. Now if there are plays written by Vasant Kanetkar or P L Deshpande -- I acted in a play like VYAKTI ANI VALLI, that time I knew I couldn't make changes. The language has a character, When you are presenting the rhythm, the beauty, a fragment of a certain style of speech, you must respect the words of the writer. Unfortunately, not many here think that the most important person in a play is the writer. If the language is different, the actor must make an effort to maintain that style. Sometimes, if actors can't manage that style of speech, they modify it and try to fit it into their own speech pattern. That shouldn't happen. It is the actor's job to ensure that he speaks with the necessary cadence of speech.

Do you have a preference in terms of lengthy or short lines?

No actor will tell you that he prefers one or the other. I always like to explore. I have done serious roles and the language wasn't always ornate. Simple language can be used for serious subject matter. As an actor you need to rethink what is possible, you must polish your craft, keep it fresh. Yes, what roles people enjoy watching me in, is a different issue. People say, you make us laugh, we enjoy that. Now everyone says, how does it matter as long as you have understood? The beauty of language has disappeared in the turns of time. In fact these days I wonder if the way some actors speak Marathi on TV is even Marathi, and even then the audience is okay with it. If I'm playing a village chieftain and I begin to speak like I am from the city or if I'm playing a Marathi professor named Sahastrabuddhe and speak with improper diction, it won't be correct. But these things happen, failing to differentiate between the pronunciation of the two Ns in Marathi, all these things. Are you going to at least think of whether your language matches your character or only do what you know?

What style of comedy do you like?

I enjoy situational or reactive comedy more. If you can create humour in the space between two words, I like that. I prefer situational humour to physical comedy or excessive punning. I have tried farce, character driven comedy. But the linguistic humour in VYAKTI ANI VALLI, the sarcasm, I like exploring that.


A good co-actor is especially important for reactive comedy. What constitutes a good co-actor?

I like to think more about how I can give more as a co-actor. And I always say that it's a prayog (a show of a play that also means experiment in Marathi), so even if 80% remains unchanged, 20% is going to be a little up and down. Sometimes, you start with a different rhythm, so someone who understands that and helps you through it, is a good co-actor. If today I make a mistake, or say my line in a better way than usual, do I get a reaction accordingly? If I have decided to say my line in a certain way, and regardless of what the person in front of me does, I do what I decided before, then it doesn't work. That's why we call it prayog. So even during rehearsals, I don't fix anything fully until the very end, because I keep exploring. You need a co-actor for all this. Drama is a collaborative art. It's important that I make my co-actor comfortable and see to it that he builds his scene well. I have learned something from everyone I have worked with. I learnt what discipline is when I worked with Ashok Saraf. Ashok mama never does anything out of character, or he doesn't change up bits more than say 50%, never does something completely unrelated. There was Sudhir Joshi, there's Suhas Joshi, many colleagues with whom I enjoyed sharing a rhythm. I know that the moment I say this in a certain way, he's going to respond right away.

Is there a disadvantage to working with familiar co-actors? Perhaps there may begin to be a sameness of expressions and reactions across productions?

This is true. I won't call it a disadvantage as such, but it can happen that some reactions are so natural that as basic human reactions, there's no big difference each time. But then you have to stay alert, see if it seems repetitive, then change it. At the end of the day, each person has a personality and they carry it with themselves. You have to constantly keep a check on it.

You perform at so many different venues across cities. Do you change jokes, or dialogue delivery to suit an audience?

Jokes are not changed, but delivery timing definitely is. When performances turn towards Pune, Thane, the response you get is very different from what you get in say Ahmednagar. The response in Nagpur will also be different, the places where you get laughter is different. The last few plays I have done -- ALI BABA ANI CHALISHITLE CHOR, LAGNA BAMBAL or now KHARA KHARA SANG have been urban in tone. The characters have been upper middle class, literate. So the humour from these plays is more understood, liked and appreciated by a similar audience. Even just in and around Mumbai, the response I get in Borivali or Shivaji Mandir or Parle or Thane is different. So that is definitely on our minds, what rhythm do we start a particular show with, are we going to get easy laughs or will we have to work for it.

Do you get laughter at an unexpected place? Is that a good thing?

Yes definitely! It goes both ways. Sometimes I know a certain line is written to elicit a laugh and I do something accordingly and the audience doesn't react and I think, but the theatre is full! Or sometimes, I have to immediately say my next line, but there's such uproarious laughter for the previous line that I have to change my rhythm for the next one. I don't know if this is a good or bad thing, you must accept it as it is. An actor should be prepared for such things. Your ears should be constantly attuned to what's happening around you. A veteran artiste once told me, when they sound the third bell, a clock should start ticking within you, a rhythm should get set, then you won't go off beat. To break the rules, you really need to know the rules. So whatever note I start the play on, if I know the rhythm inside out, I can take detours and still land back on that note. That's the theory and one constantly strives toward achieving it.

Are there any topics in comedy that you won't do?

Yeah, but maybe that's because I can't do them, nothing else. I respect all of it, but if there's only puns, innuendo or too much physical comedy -- I have tried it, but I don't like it. I like cerebral humour.

Have any topics become outdated in comedy that are not well received anymore?

No, I think it's the opposite. Earlier people laughed a lot at jokes like "Tujha pagar kiti ani tu boltos kiti!" (you earn so little but talk so much!). Today, no one does it. So comedy does become outdated, but it is not so much the topic as it is the way it is presented. A new way of presentation can bring freshness to even dated material.

What change have you noticed in your acting over all these years?

I always think that an actor's career is similar to that of a cricket player, you need to change every time. You can't become Sachin Tendulkar by scoring one century, you have to score a hundred of them. Every time you face a new ball. You need only one ball to get out but you must face 300 balls to make a 100 runs. So you have to constantly keep practicing, keep an eye out for what sort of work is being done around you. Acting has changed from 25 years ago. Today, it's a lot more realistic, low-key. Back then, acting meant elaborate sentences, big declamations. That style was also great, it was great in its own time. Now it's changed, so you should keep yourself updated. That's why I said winning one tournament is not enough, you must play every ball with freshness. Similarly, an actor must approach every role with renewed vigour.

Do you prefer elaborate sets or do you think minimal sets let you be much more flexible in storytelling?
In this play we have what we call suggestive sets. In reality a house is much more than that, here they have only painted (parts of the house on the panels) behind. But when I acted in ALI BABA ANI CHALISHITLE CHOR, the set was filled with detail. When I did SURYACHI PILLE, the drawing room, outside, everything was filled in with details. So I don't think that creates any sort of limit. As an actor you should be as convincing regardless of set design. What's my job? To convince the audience that this really is my house. If I live there, I should move around without stumbling, but if I am in an unfamiliar place, then it should seem as new to me as it is to my audience. You should be able to convince the audience that you are really at that place, set design notwithstanding.

You have done many real-life characters. Are these more difficult to pull off?

Correct, it is harder, and to do that you have to constantly toe a very thin line to ensure that the character you are playing doesn't go wrong in any way. You should be able to pick up their body language, the way they talk, the way they think, if they talk or are more observant, how they look around them. So Atre spoke directly, unflinchingly, but at the same time, he was also really funny, really sharp. As against that you have characters that are constantly observing , there's something going on in their minds like Sharad Pawar -- someone who understands exactly what not to divulge.

Did you ever feel like writing a play?

No, I wanted to, but I knew it's a different skill. I haven't even directed a play because I know I don't have that kind of patience. The way I keep trying new things during rehearsals, if my actor did that, I might run out of patience as a director. Like I mentioned how Vikay Kenkre is patient? I don't possess that patience. I have written features, poems. But writing a play requires a different style, a different thought process, I never did that.

Has acting in theatre affected your acting in film or TV in any way?

Yes, definitely. In a film, you have close ups. In real life do you ever see only the face of a person? When we look at someone, talk to them, we see their whole body -- which you see in a play, right? So in theatre, you learn about body language, expression. But in the theatre, you act for the person sitting in the last row. Films and TV don't have that. So as an actor you must also understand that difference between the mediums.

*Neha S. is an avid theatre goer and enjoys watching old Bollywood movies in her free time.



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