Sukant Goel Interview with Omkar Bhatkar
Sukant Goel hailing from Dehradun and in the last one decade has continuously worked in the craft of making theatre be it as an actor, as a producer, as a writer and even director. Though a very large body of his theatre work comprises of Acting ranging from the Satyadev Dubey troupe to Atul Kumar, Bijon Mondal, Trishla Patel, Gagan Dev Riar and Sunil Shanbag. He has experimented from Comedy to Absurd theatre trying to challenge himself and at times even did walk on parts. Coming from Chemical Engineering background, Sukant now only pursues Theatre and films occasionally.

 By Omkar Bhatkar

Omkar Bhatkar (OB): Tell us about the leap from Chemical Engineering to Theatre. How did it all begin?

Sukant Goel (SG): As a child I wanted to become a plastic surgeon as my parents are doctors. I just wanted to leave Dehradun for some reason and my parents thought that I wanted to study engineering at IIT. I thought of acting seriously when I was in the 3rd year of chemical engineering. I also applied to almost all the colleges in Delhi University but was rejected by all. During that time I made up my mind to do theatre and not films, because stage has always been a part of my life. I used to act in my school plays and took part in cultural activities. It is believed that all good actors come from theatre, like Naseer Sahab. So my parents were happy that I was interested in building my career in theatre.

OB: When was the first time you acted?

SG: I used to perform Bhishma's Pratigya when I was a kid, from the serial Mahabharata in 1987. Whenever relatives used to come home I used to entertain them. I would perform scenes and dialogues standing on the chair. My dad used to teach me songs while riding cycles. As a kid I also used to perform small acts in marriages of my cousins.

OB: Your early inspirations?

SG: Arun Govind and all the characters from the serial MAHABHARATA. Also, Kishore Kumar, since my dad showed me his movies as a child and I wanted to be like him. In 1993 I wanted to be like Akshay Kumar. He engaged my generation at the time. I am also inspired by the characters Tom and Jerry.

OB: You have done films. Tell us how you feel doing theatre as well as film?

SG: I have done four films to date: Shaitan, Kapoor And Sons, Kalakandi and Ribbon. I don't think I have done enough to say much about films. I have not done roles which are instrumental or major parts of the film. In films you just have to act when your part comes but in theatre, even if you are playing a small character, it is important. So I want to reach to that kind of a part in films where it is as important as it is in theatre.

OB: You have directed a play reading GOING TO THE SEA and co-directed a musical ISHQ AHA Can you share your experience about being a director?

SG: Firstly, I'd say that I would never direct again. I don't think I am good at it. Directing though is a more holistic experience I feel. What you give to the play as a director is so much more than what an actor would. The sense of ownership is much more and it's more humbling than acting. At some level it's more satisfying as well if you are able to touch upon some point for which you are not going to get any appreciation but somebody else will. You learn much more about acting while directing. But while directing a play, the actor inside you wants to be on stage.

OB: What propelled you to direct the play ISHQ AHA?

SG: I was not part of it initially. Gagan Dev Riar, Raghav Dutt, Bhushan Vikas, Suruchi Aulakh were doing research and Gagan called me for a workshop. The initial idea was to act in the play. I knew that it would be really interesting to work on this play; there will be some beautiful moments in the play but somewhere I felt that I had more to give to this play than just a character. So, on my way back after the second day of workshop I told Gagan that I want to assist him on the play and I don't want to act. So that way, initially, I was just assisting, and then somewhere mid-way, the process happen.

OB: You have acted in the philosophical comedy WAITING FOR NASEER and in Samuel Beckett's KRAPP'S LAST TAPE. Can you share your process of preparing for these characters? and how different and challenging was the performance?

SG:Both the processes were extremely different and overall both the directors were different and to add to it the genres were different. WAITING FOR NASEER being a philosophical comedy had a total different process and at times I wonder if this was more challenging than playing Krapp in KRAPP'S LAST TAPE. Being Krapp was also challenging to the body and the mind but I believe reading more about Beckett helped me pull up this character. With every play the process is different depending on the character and I try my best to live the character at that point of time.

OB: Can you describe your weekly schedule?

SG: So there are three zones. One is very busy, one is mildly busy, and the last one is completely free. In the very busy week I really don't care about things like food, cleanliness, niceties, etc. Through the week, I don't even realise when it starts and when it ends. I can't wait to wake up during these weeks because of the work. In the not so busy week I try to avoid things. I cancel some meetings, appointments. In the completely free week I make time to read books, watch movies, give time to Netflix and other stuff, help my wife in the house. I love this week.

OB: Few directors that you would love to work with in the future…

SG: I think I would like to work with Sheena Khalid and Puja Sarup of Patchworks Ensemble. I want to work with as many people I can. I want to work with Sujay Saple, Rehaan Engineer, Rajat Kapoor, and all those people with whom I haven't yet had a chance to work with. I am very much interested in doing one Gujarati play, may be with Manoj Shah. Then I want to work with Abhishek Mujumdar, Kalki Koechlin and Manav Kaul. The person I really wanted to work with was Sunil Shanbag. What would I not give to work with him again and more? I want to work with people all over the world, actually.

OB: You have worked with different languages. But which languages are you most comfortable with?

SG: I am equally comfortable with Hindi and English. But I really want to do more Hindi theatre, and I am very much looking forward to work on a Gujarati play.

OB: What is your definition of success for your own plays?

SG: When people are initiated to talk about my work which may be after a show or later, and even much later, I think I would count that as success.

OB: Name the character you have played and who is closest to your heart.

SG: It's a very overwhelming character. It's the character of the policeman in NAQQASH. I don't know why but I feel something deep when I play him. There is a lot of emotional investment there. It is a negative type of character but I loved playing it. It excites me. The other one is my character of Krapp in KRAPP'S LAST TAPE. It's difficult for me to pick up one. But I think I would rather die with my character in KRAPP'S LAST TAPE.

OB: If you were stranded on an island, whom would you choose from your co- actors or other actors you would want to be with?

SG: It has to be a woman I feel. If I am stranded alone I will be more human. My needs will be definitely more. I think it is a tricky question. Maybe Jennifer Lawrence.

OB: Name some characters you would love to play on stage.

SG: I would like to work with new writing. I really don't want to go into the shoes of Hamlet, unless it's done in a new way. I loved the character of Danny Boyle in FRANKENSTEIN at NCPA, where he is playing double roles, and the characters of Indrajit (EVAM INDRAJIT) and Oedipus (OEDIPUS REX). I want to do this character of "Bade Miya" that Imran Rasheed does. I am very much interested in doing a character of a sportsman, especially a batsman. And I would love to do a musician's character, for which I am learning tabla.

*Dr. Omkar Bhatkar teaches at the Department of Mass Media Studies at St. Andrews College. He runs the eclectic St Andrew's Centre For Philosophy and Performing Arts. He is also a theatre director, poet and painter.

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