Daisy Irani Subaiah Interview
Having spent a lifetime in the arts, Daisy Irani Subaiah is a strong force today not just in India but in Singapore as well. With performing arts in her genes (she is the daughter of well known actress Padmarani and Namdar Irani) Daisy has acted in 18 Gujarati films, several television shows, dramas and docu-dramas and also produced and directed for several eminent theatre companies including The Indian National Theatre and HuM productions which she founded.

 By Jahnavi Pal

Having won accolades for her work in well-acclaimed plays like NAGAMANDALA, WE ARE LIKE THIS ONLY 1 &2, RAFTA RAFTA, THE KANJOOS, PRISONER OF MUMBAI MANSION, BEING MRS GANDHI Daisy was cast in Singapore's first English language soap opera Masters of the Sea.

After having made her presence felt on the Indian theatre scene she migrated to Singapore and carved a niche for herself amongst Chinese actors. Today Daisy is not only an actor but she also directs, produces English and Hindi plays. Best known for originating the role of 'Daisy' in the iconic TV serial Under One Roof, Daisy has her hands full managing her brainchild, HuM which has offered several successful Hindi plays to the Indian diaspora in Singapore.

A grandmom to a nine month old , Daisy leads a hectic life juggling professional commitments and home.

On her growing up years:

"Picture a little girl in pigtails, all of five years old, sitting on her haunches in the wings of the Tejpal Theatre stage, watching in absolute awe her mother Padma Rani perform a Gujarati play to an equally rapt audience. It was the Sixties and the kid was me. How could I not be sucked into this magical world that had my mom and my aunt, the Padma Shri award-winning actress Sarita Joshi inhabited with so much aplomb? If there is need of proof that we are genetically predisposed to a certain way of life, I am it. But then I was no child star, though I share my name with one. I was too busy having a bloody good time through my teens to even consider a life in the theatre. Not that I had any cleverly laid plans that were busted but I was jolted into my stage career when the Indian National Theatre cast me, a seventeen-year- old kid, in the role of sixty year old woman in the Gujarati adaptation of Agatha Christie's MOUSETRAP titled VAAT CHETU MAUT. My character ended up murdered at the close of Act 1 but I ended up with the Gujarat State Best Actress award. That was it. I had discovered the rush of performance and I was addicted."

On her glorious years:

"The next decade was an addict's delight. I did dozens of plays, travelled the world, shared the stage with the likes of Ruby Patel, Paresh Rawal and Siddarth Randeria, enjoyed the direction of legends like Pravin Joshi, Dinkar Jani and the inimitable Shafi Inamdar. Acting in SHABANA THE 2ND and BIN AAYE NA BANE with Shafi will probably, forever, remain my most delightful and satisfying experience of performing on the Mumbai stage. Television was nascent but I was cast in Rajendra Bhatia's Khari Khari and found a leading spot in several Gujarati films.
Yep, I was young, doing what I loved and life was good!

On marriage and more:

You don't toss a coin to choose between your career and your marriage. At least I didn't. I quietly folded my tents and moved to Hong Kong with my banker husband. After a year of moping and weeping over the theatre classifieds in back issues of the Mumbai Samachar I thought, hmmmm, this won't do, how do I reinvent myself in a country where everyone spoke Cantonese? Idea number one - have a baby. Executed that successfully. Idea number two - find the Indian heartbeat in this country and I would find an audience. It was a weak pulse but I discovered it , rustled up a group of actor wannabes (no shortage of those) and entertained the hell out of the small Indian diaspora. It wasn't much but it kept me alive - barely."

On moving to Singapore:

"Next stop Singapore. Now what? Ooooh, these guys had an eager and hungry audience along with a very enthusiastic acting fraternity!! I started a theatre company, did a flurry of Gujarati and Hindi plays, including Shafi Inamdar's ADAA which was a roaring hit. When I say hit, mind you, in Singapore that means ten shows not the 300 we performed in India! But c'est la vie.

"I was cast In Singapore's first major and iconic sitcom Under One Roof and the rest of my life in Singapore is history. I went from acting to directing to producing hit TV shows which garnered several Asian Television Awards to being a juror at the International Emmy Awards. It was great but my passion for theatre remains and my production company, HuM Theatre, keeps me active as an actress and as a director. Our productions like RAFTA RAFTA, NAGAMANDALA, BEING MRS GANDHI and JIHAD JONES have all run to full houses and to critical acclaim and I received the Life Theatre Best Actress award for my role in PRISONER OF MUMBAI MANSION.

On her biggest challenge:

"Telling stories about India and Indians that are attractive to non-Indian local audiences. Of course, there is always the challenge of finding roles in local productions that don't just reflect stereotypical representations of the Indian in Singapore.

"Indians in Singapore are starved of theatrical experiences from back home. But they are also very curious about their own rocky relationships in their host country, Singapore. I produced two satirical theatre pieces exploring the conflicts between the old Indians and the new immigrant Indians for which the Ministry of Culture gave us an award for National Integration."

On what next:

Yep life is terrific and it has been a rocking ride but yet I can't help asking myself 'what next?' And I can't help thinking about the possibility of coming back to Mumbai and picking up the threads from where I left off. It's a thought and if somebody out there is listening give me a shout.

*Jahnavi Pal is a journalist, writer and theatre buff

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