Theatre Speaks

Abhishek Pattnaik
Playwright, Director, Actor
[English/Hindi Theatre ]

Which is the last good play you saw and why?

Umm..I haven't seen a play in a long time, but I was invited to watch a play by a management institute before the lockdown, the performance by the students was quite lively and the play was written by the students themselves which is commendable. I loved the fact that it was an original, contemporary, relevant and not just adapted from a text. The students put in a thought and did absolute justice to it.

Your favourite playwright...

Quite a few. Luigi Pirandello, i enjoyed reading Vijay Tendulkar, of course Shakespeare, we had it in our course in school as well in 9th and 10 th standard.

Your favourite play-character...

The stepdaughter from SIX CHARACTERS IN SEARCH OF AN AUTHOR. I had read it aloud to myself the first time. i re-read her lines again and again aloud. I was in my room, doors locked, it was an adrenaline rush.

A play you would like to see filmed. Why?

Not because I have written them, but they were imagined as films as well. TWO ADORABLE LOSERS, LAST OVER and my latest KAISE KARENGE. I think the plays are socially relevant to today's times and the characters are relatable like for example in TAL we identify ourseelves with the shy student akshay dealing with his low self esteeem and his professor Jolly Mahapatra trying to make people realize that English diction is not important as long as you can speak the language, as and when neccessary. Knowledge is far superior to dicton.

The most hilarious play you have seen...

There are lots, will not be fair to name just a few. we have some really nice regional plays, with superb comic timing.

A play character you would like to "dialogue" with...


A passage from an important play that you can recite...

Anthony's speech from JULIUS CAESAR, also because i recited the same in school during my oral communication in English, I forgot the lines midway, hopefully I won't forget if given a chance. Also the stepdaughter's monologues from SIX CHARACTERS IN SEARCH OF AN AUTHOR

A classical play that you should have read...

So many. i have read very less.

A play that changed your perception about the theatre....

From a reading point of view, SIX CHARACTERS and Neil Simon's plays. I used to enjoy reading Neil Simon plays aloud, as the different characters, the way i perceived them. It helped me play with my voice. As a viewer MUGHAL-E-AZAM, when I saw it from the second last row but couldn't get over it. I remember travelling back from NCPA to Andheri, and listening to the songs continuously trying to sing passionately. Passersby in traffic shot me such funny looks, I avoided eye contacts trying be in that zone.

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

So many. I remember it was the last day of a Lucknow tour, we had two shows on the same day. after finishing the morning one, we had to head to Sitapur. I was dead tired because we had completed five shows in three days already. i had to remove my make up and wig of Jolly Mahapatra from TAL. Darsheel and I had fallen sick, both of us are allergy patients. i popped a Levocet ( anti allergen) and made him pop one. Now we both are drowsy... the evening show begins, everyone is worried will these guys put in the energy, will they pass out... i took my first line in the amphitheatre and the reception to my first punch resonated back. Then there was no looking back, that was one of the best and most energetic performances we gave. The crowd reminded me of my responsibility that day as an artist.

Razzak Khan just witnessed our performance at Prithvi Theatre of TAL. i remember during the performance he would say things from the audience like "bahut khoob" and "kya baat hai". After the show he came upstairs and he was like Abhishek, "kya performance tha", the only thing he was shaking hands with my co-actor. Then with the same generosity he shook mine "kya performance tha."

I think most recently with KAISE KAREGE, when people send me back videos performing as my characters, I feel we have a purpose to make theatre more reachable to people, device ways of building a culture and get them interested to watch it. More the audience more the appeal more the growth.

Your favourite director/actor/music or set designer...

Director- Suketu Shah, he allows me to unleash as an actor. Hes like the perfect coach who knows how to get best out of his players.

A significant Indian production that you may have witnessed.....

MUGHAL-E-AZAM... they got non theatre audiences to watch theatre. That is what I want to work towards and make theatre grow.

Life in the theatre without the humble batata-wada or the cutting chai... or can you recall the best gastronomic experience you've had in the precincts of the theatre to date?

My entire team is a foodie. we are all young and have a great appetite. when we travel we discuss food, films and theatre. If we have a good show, we eat with pleasure if we have a bad show we binge with sadness. we had some samosas, sandwich, chips and chai as props. we were in Delhi, I had made a plan that after the show, i'Il head to the backstage and eat. Unfortunately my entire team had finished the food and as consolation I got some Parle G and chai.
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