Satchit Puranik Interview
Director, producer, casting director, editor, actor, theatre maker, film maker, lyricist, writer is how he describes himself. The multi-talented Satchit Puranik, who works in multiple languages, is all this and much more. As for his theatre journey he has plays like KARL MARX IN KALBADEVI, LOITERING, AMMI JAAN, ADHBHUT and several others to his credit. Equally passionate about all that he does, Satchit shares his thoughts on theatre productions, his journey on stage and lots more.

 By Jahnavi Pal

What does your calling card read like?

I have been asked this a lot of times either as a compliment, sarcastically and sometimes with a patronising attitude, but I am happy to set the record straight as people have even said that I have to still find my niche. After a lot of reflection I can say that probably on my calling card there should be things that I don't do at all which would be music and breath work! This is ultimately the focus about how one is leading one's life. After this I would include writing and film editing. Even if I am producing something like a documentary or a journal I think it is all an extension of writing. So when I am asked to choose only one I say I won't as all these forms are a relationship with how I look at time. For me the theatre is the present moment. It is how I value the present and what I am doing with a live audience and now even digitally and how I am responding to time. Its all about the present moment. As for editing its about how I look at the past as you are capturing something that has been caught and how you rearrange it and in the digital age a film will outlive you. For me cinema is my fascination with the past. As for writing it shows me my future. So when someone asks me whether I prefer the past, present or future I say they are all equally important to me.

What is it that drives you?

Music drives me and through all the other forms I am trying to find the musicality within them. At a very young age I realised I could surrender to music. I think had I pursued it earlier it would be my calling but I guess it's too late . One has to earn a living and film making it is. I just went with the flow and donned whichever hat that came my way.

What is the biggest challenge you face in theatre?

That's an interesting question. I would say it would be on the growing up level. It varies from show to show. There is an element of play in our day to day existence. So when play is done and the weekend is over and you go back to your day job there is a vacuum. Ultimately it becomes a structured existence. I believe that at some point we have not been able to transcend from the point when people get affected by what someone is doing on stage. I wish we found a way to carry that outside the safe place of theatre. It should be experienced for the possibilities it has.

Which is that one play you are truly proud of?

That's a tough one. I am proud of a lot of my works but the success of KARL MARX IN KALBADEVI is one of them. I got to live with the character and grew with it. At the international level I did a play called MAHABHARATA in Netherlands and since I was a nobody who went to the West and then after being inspired by Peter Brooke's MAHABHARATA and that happening at an age in my life was truly exceptional.

Your experiment with plays has been largely limited to the 'arthouse' kind of plays. Don't you wish to do 'mainstream masala'?

I see myself as a very commercial film and theatre maker. It's my appearance, this beard that I wear and my long hair that gives that impression. I always want to do things that make sense in my journey of life. I have done NOISES OFF with Atul Kumar which was hugely commercial or my play with Sunil Shanbag MARO PIYO GAYO RANGOON in Hindi and Gujarati is all for the masses. We now look at Shakespeare as arthouse but he wrote for the fisherfolk. Even Manoj Shah's work I find very audience friendly. I have wanted to do profitable work. If not profitable, atleast sustainable work. Whatever money has been put in should come back and that's the only way a business can work.

Now that rules have been relaxed are audiences coming back to theatre?

I would not want to judge them with this OTT advent or television because that is going to stay. In fact it will keep increasing with video games or probably robots coming home to entertain you and this may make things difficult. I agree its not safe yet to sit in a closed theatre space. But one has to return to the old normal sometime.

What are your views on the current theatre scene?

I can only speak on the Mumbai and Bangalore theatre scene as I have worked only in these two places. I can say its more dynamic now and though in Mumbai there is a over powering presence of celebrity culture in Mumbai theatre but with multiple theatre practices going on in different kinds of theatre spaces by amateur actors, professional actors its quite heartening. It's thriving in a more dynamic kind of way as space is a huge constraint and we still keep that lamp alight.

What next?

I want to continue the streak of merging fiction with non-fiction like I did in ADHBHUT and now am developing a script for Manoj Shah called TABIYAT in Gujarati. Then there is a play in English which I wrote for children where I only want to do a radio version and then a graphic novelish version which kids can then read. I have recently created a theatre game for children which can be downloaded. In the pandemic I have been working with a company called Building Conversations from Netherlands which is inspired by David Bohm's treatise Power of the human dialogue, which changed the world. How we articulate, how the thought expresses itself and as human beings we have not harnessed it enough so I am working on developing a protocol on how to slow down a conversation.

*Jahnavi Pal is a journalist, writer and theatre buff

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