Theatre Speaks

Jayati Bhatia Theatre Speak

Which is the last play you liked and why?

The last play I watched was in February 2021, with Covid restrictions, KAALCHAKRA at Prithvi Theatre...I just wanted to visit a theatre and watch a play to feel alive again. I really liked it because of the subject and very honest performances.

Your favourite adda to see a play...

It is and will always be Prithvi Theatre as I feel the presence of the footprints of all the actors who have and are performing there. They all leave a part of their souls to guide others towards a comitted performance.

Your favourite playwright...

In English Tennessee Williams and in Hindi Mohan Rakesh.

Your favourite play-character...


A play you would like to see filmed. Why?

KHATIJABAI OF KARMALI TERRACE because of the journey this woman takes, the various eras which will be visually fascinating and will give us a glimpse of society, architecture, costumes and social norms. Khatija’s change of perspective, her loneliness and the futility of all her struggles and aspirations.

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

I have read the short stories of Tennessee Williams and they have tremendous
potential to be staged. The stories bring out the conflict and desires of the human mind...we need to have subjects in theatre which will take us back to the time when theatre meant progress, when all art was a mirror to society. Nowadays we have all become very cautious and that is not a good sign.

The most hilarious play you have seen...

Come to think of it, I have not watched many comedies, but the ones that immediately come to mind are KHABSURAT BAHU, directed by Rajit Kapoor and ALL THE BEST in Hindi, directed by Feroz Abbas Khan

A play, which is over-hyped...

There are many!

An important play (but ignored):

I would like to apologise for my lack of knowledge..this confirms my belief that I must watch more theatre.

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

All Tennessee Williams's characters.

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

A classical play that you should have read...

All Kalidas's plays... I wish I was proficient in Sanskrit.

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

Being Ebrahim Alkazi's student, I had a very unique perception of theatre. But, Watching Atul Kumar's and Abhishek Majumdar's plays, I have started liking the idea of a minimalistic approach towards creating stage dramas. Quasar Thakore Padamsee also brought about a change in my perception of theatre, when he did not create any background music for KHATIJABAI OF KARMALI TERRACE... he played on the silences and the two characters were the change of lights and the actor herself. Then there is Nissim Sulaimanpore whose play I read in Hindi as LAL KHARGOSH SAFED KHARGOSH... not knowing the script made me so focussed and I made so many faux pas, but also unknowingly created some wonderful magic.

How do you regard the Mumbai/Indian theatre scene?

I am actually very excited about the theatre scene, because youngsters are finding an outlet for their creativity through theatre. So many small venues and theatre studios have some up, which are giving theatre people the chance to explore new spaces. So much theatre is happening, theatre workshops, etc., even corporates have woken up to the fact that theatre activity can provide a better work environment. I wish this corona pandemic had not come and robbed us of our soul's happiness that is theatre.

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

During the pandemic, I went back to the basics, that is studying Bharat Muni's Natya Shastra, rediscovered the basics and revelled in it. I realised that creating a character is like creating a game with Lego.. one by one you pick and choose and voila, a new entity is created.

Can you recall an event that was insightful, significant or simply humorous during your theatre journey?

I was studying theatre with Alkazi in Living Theatre and we were performing Mahesh Elkunchwar's WADA CHIREBANDI translated in Hindi as VIRASAT. I wa playing Anjali Deshpande. Something happened in the make-up room and i got distracted and started changing for my next entry, totally forgetting that I have missed a very important entry. The backstage person was pounding on the door but I could not come out as i was in a state of undress and then in total shock at what I had come. Anyway, the play got over and I could not find Mr Alkazi anywhere so I was relieved. The next day as we were getting ready for the show, Mr Alkazi called me on stage and made me apologise to each and every cast member, backstage people, technical staff, because, as he explained, one missed entry by me had jeopardised everybody's equilibrium for a few moments. Everyone had to improvise and balance the situation. I learnt that day, that small or big, we are all a part of big machine and each part has to work in tandem with the others. I understood teamwork. I understood theatre!

Can you think of a foreign production that you found remarkable? Why?

When I went to USA for the play MAHATMA V/S GANDHI, with very little money in my pocket, I managed to save to watch PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. I was mesmerised by the sheer scale of the play, the spectacle, the music, the dance. And then as we introduced ourselves to the stage manager as actors from India, he very sweetly gave us a tour of the stage, the backstage and green rooms. You realise that everything is so fine tuned and practised, such a huge amount of work goes in to out in this grand show. Although I cannot sing, i would love to be a part of such wholesome theatre.

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

My favourite will always be Ebrahim Alkazi, not only because he was a fabulous director, but also a great teacher and a visionary.

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

THE KITE RUNNER by Akarsh Khurana

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?

Love for theatre and love for food goes hand in hand. Although I cannot bring myself to eat anything before a show, rather, I prefer not to eat after 3 pm for a 6 or 7 pm show, except for a big cup of cappuccino, my director Lillete Dubey has thoroughly spoilt me. I look forward to the surprise goodies she brings for us. But what I love the most is the after show dinner. it could be lavish or a small get together, it is the most cherished moment for me. Discussions, love, laughter, out team and the bloopers we made on stage that particular day. At that moment I look around and say to myself, Life Is Good!
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