Denzil Smith Interview
He can boast of more than 50 plays, about 60 films, TV shows and web series in a span of almost 33 years! Denzil Smith is a versatile actor on stage and screen. Smith began his career on stage way back in 1988 with Pearl Padamsee's LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES and then moved on to join Naseerudin Shah's Motley Productions. He is also a regular in Lillete Dubey's productions. Whether it was playing Jesus in JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR or Nehru in LETTERS TO A DAUGHTER or the Superintendent Daniel D' Mello in THE MIRROR CRACK'D Smith did it all with equal ease.

 By Jahnavi Pal

"I started theatre very early when I was in school and college," he says. "It was in the late 80s that I began doing professional theatre, and films in 2000. I have been really busy over the years but the pandemic has been the toughest as all actors have been out of work. It was a very difficult time especially for theatre actors.

"The primary thing I had to worry about was looking after my mental health. And that's what I did during this phase. During the first phase we sort of stood up to the occasion but the second phase was devastating. I could have lost my mental balance but I looked after my health and ensured I didn't sink. I have had so many friends who committed suicide or who went into depression and hence it was very important to focus on my mental well-being."

Despite the fact that the actor has played power-packed roles in films and theatre, he believes his journey is still incomplete. "I think it is not the end game that is important to me, the journey should be fulfilling. My journey is not complete yet. I don't think it will ever be complete until I move on to the other world. I look forward to more challenging work. There are projects that I had planned before the lockdown but unfortunately never took off. Of course I am planning to revive these projects and I hope things will look up. I hope to have a fulfilling time doing them."

Talking of plays that he enjoyed doing he says, "WAITING FOR GODOT for sure is my all time favourite. In fact we tried doing it online but it wasn't the same. All that technology just comes in the way. My other play that I thoroughly enjoy doing is BOMBAY JAZZ which I am soon going to perform at the Qadar Ali Baig festival in Hyderabad on the 24th of October. The subject is also very close to my heart. Another of my favourites is Agatha Christie's THE MIRROR CRACK'D."

Coming to the current craze of OTT platforms where most are hooked on to alternate entertainment avenues and if these pose a threat to live theatre Smith says, "I don't think live theatre can ever be threatened. It is only a passing phase as people are wary of going to theatres and I am confident people will soon return to theatres. The magic of seeing live theatre can never die. It's the same with cinema. People will go back to watching films in theatres once the pandemic dies out. In fact doing online plays too isn't fulfilling for the performer or the viewer."

Smith believes that he does theatre for the sheer love for it. "Though I get paid much less for my plays than a film or TV serial, I would opt for it any day. Yes, I am aware that the new generation uses this as a stepping stone to films. I can give you loads of instances where established actors have returned to the stage for the sheer joy of doing a play. As for me I often get into a conflict because my dates for plays are given almost a year in advance and then even if I get a lucrative film offer I decline as my priorities are different. A lot many young actors have opted out of a play in favour of a film. But those who are committed to theatre never do that. Let me give you a recent example. I had committed to the play for the Baig Festival after which I got a job which required me to be in Delhi. I was to get almost twenty times the money. Regardless of it all, I refused. In fact even when I was struggling I did the same. Though it didn't get me money I earned a good reputation as I was respected for keeping my word. "

After having successfully straddled films, TV, stage and now OTT, Smith says he derives the greatest pleasure by doing plays. "Once you have tasted blood you have tasted blood! I will always return to the stage. Though many discourage me from doing so as they feel it's not lucrative enough I will keep doing theatre."

With theatres opening up Smith is a busy actor. After his play in Hyderabad he is doing a few things with Lillete Dubey for her festival. "I hope Naseer will revive WAITING FOR GODOT. I am also scheduled for a play by NCPA which will be in theatres in January and a couple of more plays that I am eagerly awaiting. I am now looking forward to rehearsing for all of them once theatres open up fully."

*Jahnavi Pal is a journalist, writer and theatre buff

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