Theatre Speaks

Pranay Gupta & Sohini Gupta
Playwrights, Actors, Directors
[(Cross-Cultural Theatre) Theatre ]
Pranay GuptaWhich is the last best play you saw and why?

Pranay: I thoroughly enjoyed the off-Broadway production of Kander and Ebb’s musical CABARET.

Sohini: Bibash Chakraborty’s Bengali version of HAMLET moved me. It had a certain subtlety and soul about it. It seemed very contemporary without losing its classic proportions.

Your favourite adda to see a play

Pranay: The Globe theatre in Southwark, by the bank of the Thames in London. Even though only a reconstruction of the original Globe Theatre, it gives me a flavour of what it must have been like in the Bard’s day. Hence it’s my absolute favourite! Of course,the sense of dynamic stillness – and the goose bumps - one gets while contemplating the Greek amphitheatres is unmatched, and in a way connects the dots for me as far as ancient civilizations’ take on theatre goes (including the Indian). So I would love to make my way to the Epidaurus Festival in Greece.

Sohini: Nandan-RabindraSadan - still retains that sense of joy and celebration that theatre has always meant to me!

Your favourite playwright

Pranay: It has to be the Bard for me. Marlowe, Goethe, Tagore, Kalidas are way up there too!

Sohini: William Shakespeare definitely, and Tagore for the absolutely new fragrance of man’s mystic longings he brought to his plays.

Your favourite play-character

Pranay: It’s difficult to ignore Hamlet, inasmuch as one has conflicting emotions about this thoroughly indecisive man!

Sohini: Hamlet, and Nandini in RAKTAKARABI. When I learned that the actress Sarah Bernhardt was the greatest Hamlet of her day, it made my respect for Shakespeare’s characterisation of this complex being grow even more – the character transcends categorisations!

A play you would like to see filmed. Why?

Pranay: To me, Kurosawa’s ‘Throne of Blood’ and ‘Ran’ are the definitive Shakespearean films. Still, it would have been interesting to have had him recreate Shakespeare’s other plays for the screen.

Sohini: Tagore’s MUKTODHARA, because it can be very contemporary and can have a very significant socio-political relevance. It is amazing how well it can reflect today’s world situation, and it captures the very heart of Tagore’s vision.

A novel/short story you would like to see on stage? Why?

Pranay: Too many to name!

Sohini: Saradindu Bandhopadhyay’s ‘Moru O Shangho’. Set against a backdrop of a Buddhist vihara, it relates the story of four survivors of a natural calamity, including two monks, and a youthful boy and girl who fall in love. The sheer drama of love against odds and religious sanction, of power and human authority, of morality and passion, would make for a compelling and powerful play. And from the West, it would have to be the stories of Tolstoy – some of them are so dramatic - and stories by O’ Henry.

Sohini GuptaA play character you would like to "dialogue" withThe most hilarious play you have seen

Pranay: Edmond Rostand’s CYRANO DE BERGARAC

Sohini: KHARIJ by Harimadhav Mukhopadhyay. Rip roaring entertainment, while having so many layers! A brilliant satire.

An important play (but ignored)

Pranay: Goethe loved Kalidas’ plays. We all love to include Kalidas in serious theatrical conversations, but do we actually initiate much of his timeless drama? When a giant of drama such as Goethe could borrow devices from Kalidas’ ABHIGYANASHAKUNTALAM while writing his masterpiece FAUST, it seems a shame that we ignore such plays ourselves.

Sohini: I’ve always felt that the youth in particular are quite unfamiliar with the works of classical Indian playwrights such as Bhaas, Bhavabhuti and Kalidas simply because mainstream theatre chooses to bypass them. But they do contain a timeless essence, relevance and an entertainment factor for all ages. They must be given more prominence in curricula and on the modern stage.

A play character you would like to ''dialogue'' with

Pranay: I’d have loved to meet Ophelia early in the play and warn her against Hamlet!

Sohini: King Lear

A passage from an important play that you can recite

Pranay: Haha... the ghost of Hamlet never leaves me…his soliloquies.

Sohini: Nandini’s part from RAKTABARABI

A classical play that you should have read

Pranay: Too many! A little more of Sophocles and Aristophanes would’ve been good - but life is too short! But as playwrights, reading is perhaps essential for us. The paradox is this: in striving to be original while writing a play, it helps to be familiar with the devices and methods used by the greats.

Sohini: Yes, in our writing process particularly we realise the need for being well versed in classical drama. So a lot more of world drama from both the East and the West should be on my reading list.

How do you regard the Mumbai theatre scene?

Pranay: Far less ego-driven than much of the country. A certain openness pervades the Mumbai scene, vis-à-vis several of the ‘cultural bastions’ that people in other cities profess their city to be. And I am talking about both audiences and theatre personalities.

Sohini: I was impressed by how attentive Mumbai audiences are to details, open in their perceptions and not over-burdened by theory of theatre!

Have you read any interesting books/articles concerning the theatre? Why did you find them interesting?

Pranay: I found Ingmar Bergman’s journey from the Gothenburg stage to the silver screen quite absorbing, from what I have read. Also, it was tremendously moving to see Orson Welles’ last interview, in which he says how he should have never moved from theatre to film, and should’ve made theatre his life’s work.

Sohini: Stanislavsky’s ‘An Actor Prepares’ has had the most profound influence on my theatrical journey. It’s just so dynamic, and Stanislavsky works! That’s what separates him from several other theoreticians.

If you have ever been a part of a theatre production/s, can you recall an event that was insightful, significant or simply humorous?

Pranay: Every time an actor forgets his lines and a fellow-actor fills in with a quirky on-the-spot witticism (which is quite often, let me tell you) makes for hilarious memories, told and retold!

Sohini: In the street theatre I have done, the very impromptu nature of the productions made a fertile ground for all sorts of hilarious situations!

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