Debanshu Shekhar Interview
Debanshu Shekhar is a Mumbai- based writer and founder-director at Naatakwale. He is an acting coach at Rangshila. His latest play THE LAST INNINGS, is based on the lives and challenges faced by the senior citizens. RAJA MASTER DRAMA COMPANY and THE LOSER are some of his other plays.

 By Diiva Dhanoya

What attracted you to the subject of senior citizens?
Well, it goes back to my years at Delhi University when I was 18 and we were a bunch of students at our college's dramatics society- Anant. We came up with a theme for a street play with a social message for senior citizens to have a positive outlook in their lives and to live their new phase of life to its best! That experience stayed with me. During lockdown I started writing short stories on this theme.

Is it influenced by real-life scenarios ?
Not exactly I'd say, because the play is a complete fiction. But yes, for the research I have been to several old age homes and talked to my grandmother who is based in Delhi. What I personally observed about people around from the senior age bracket helped me a lot in creating my work. I wanted to experiment with the treatment and premise of the stories. So concepts like time travel, body odour specific to age etc. were weaved in the stories. The eye with which this age bracket is represented in this play has never been explored in any content form earlier.

How long did you take to develop the play?
I took roughly twenty days to write the first draft of these stories. Later when I was developing them to become a full fledged play, an anthology, it took me almost two months to be ready with a full bound script for the play.

How long did artistes take to rehearse for the play?
Our workshop pattern at Rangshila, gives a beautiful experience of play-making to every student after they have completed their four months of rigorous training in theatre. For THE LAST INNINGS we took 20 days in all. From table read to characterization to scene making, lights, music etc. everything was done along with the students.

How did you begin your creative journey?
I started my creative journey when I was pursuing my graduation in Mathematics from Delhi University. In 2008, when I was in my 2nd year of graduation, I joined Anant - the dramatics society of my college. This decision completely changed my life and influenced my career choice. In 2011, I decided to make my passion, my profession. I joined Drama School, BNA (Bhartendu Natya Academy) for professional training in theatre. Those two years in BNA helped me to understand the nuances of theatre acting, design and direction. In 2013, I formed my theatre group Naatakwale and since then, the journey continues...

Any tips for people who want to explore theatre ?
Don't think twice and join a theatre group. For good acting, you need good training and good people to creatively motivate you. Theatre will not only make you a better actor, it will also help you to be a better person. It will help you understand the psychology of people, which will in turn help you to build your respective characters with minute detailing each time you work.

What are you currently working on?
RAJA MASTER DRAMA COMPANY, which is a Rangshila production and has been popular for years now.

What other plays have you directed or acted in?
THE LOSER, which is a solo comedy act about a writer's struggle in the merciless corporate world.

*Diiva Dhanoya is a Mumbai-based writer, actor and voice artiste. She is the lead actress of the film Jacqueline I am Coming and is currently working on translating a book by John Britton.

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