Theatre Speaks

Suruchi Aulakh
Actress, Producer
[English Theatre ]

Which is the last good play you saw and why?

I saw BONE OF CONTENTION IN COSMOPOLITAN HOUSING SOCIETY" by Faezeh Jalali and really enjoyed it. It brought together so many issues of prejudice, social mores, etiquette, caste in an engaging and humourous way. The play was in verse with a very talented, ensemble cast and I loved that.

Your favourite adda to see a play...

Prithvi Theatre and Jamshed Bhabha

Your favourite playwright...

Ramu Ramanathan, Purva Naresh, Girish Karnad, Shakespeare and many more

Your favourite play character...

These questions are impossible to answer!

One character would be Medea by Euripedes. Imagine having the Gift of Prophecy, putting the man you love above your father, watching that same man bring home a second wife and then, carry out the murder of your own children. Phew.

A play you would like to see filmed. Why?

I loved seeing Akira Kurosawa's THRONE OF BLOOD based on Shakespeare's MACBETH. Sheer perfection because it is so dramatic and powerful in its fluidity and its stillness.

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

The Appeasement of Radhika by Muddupalani [translator Sandhya Mulchandani]

The most hilarious play you have seen...

I am really bad at recalling and answering these questions. Some that come to mind are KAMDEO KA APNA BASANT RITU KA SAPNA by Habib Tanvir, ALL THE BEST (by Devendra Pem), PIYA BEHRUPIYA by Atul Kumar and ensemble, A MARRIAGE PROPOSAL by Satyadev Dubey

A play, which is over-hyped...

This would be difficult to talk about without causing some bad blood. I'm very diplomatic.

An important play (but ignored):

Many of Faezeh Jalali's plays.

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

Nina from SEAGULL by Chekhov. Maybe I can convince her not to run away and thus save many lives from being ruined.

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

Sigh. None...

A classical play that you should have read...

KING LEAR [Yes, it's possible. Don't judge me]

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

PEBET performed by Sabitri and company and directed by Kanhailal. I think I saw it at Horniman Cicrcle when Sanjna Kapoor used to organise wonderful theatre festivals. The play and the performances in an open air setup managed to grip me, in spite of the lack of props and a set. Her performance in DAKGHOR was also unbelievable, shaking all one's ideas about age and gender.

How do you regard the Mumbai theatre scene?

I think it is the best we've got in India. The dedication, drive and love of all theatre people, working against all odds, working without money and working 'against' Bollywood, in a way, is highly commendable. There is a choice of many languages to choose from and plays happen 365 days of the year. Yes, there is a litany of woes and I wish the government would fund more rehearsal and performance spaces but, the Mumbai theatre scene is flourishing because of the amazing spirit of its theatrewalas.

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

I enjoy all of Vikram Phukan's articles on plays and theatre. They are well researched and interesting to read. The Mumbai Theatre Guide is also a great resource for reading up on theatre. I recently read and felt moved by "The forgotten art of assembly" by Nicholas Berger. It was written during the lockdown and spoke about the need to wait it out, to grieve and not go into a tizzy about moving theatre online.

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

One morning, I interacted with the ghost/spirit of a character I played in 3, SAKINA MANZIL, a play by Ramu Ramanathan. The character was based on a real person whose story, life and times we used in the play. The incident happened the morning she passed on. She enveloped me and gently nudged me in the direction of her residence in the Dockyard area of Mumbai. Bits of her story and parts of the neighbourhood flashed in my mind. I found out later that she had passed away around the same time that I was experiencing this.

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

A DISAPPEARING NUMBER by Complicite comes to mind. There are many others, of course. I recall this one because it used technology in a wonderful way not witnessed by us before. It also told the story in an engaging way.

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

Recently I have loved the sets of Areen Attari as he uses eco-friendly and recycled materials to make sets.

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

RITUSAMHARAM by Ratan Thiyam. The stunning use of well trained actors, set design, script, movement, music was a spectacle that one could watch many times.

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?

There are the usual suspects - the discounted tea given to theatrewalas at Prithvi. It made it so special somehow. The Irish coffee at Prithvi many years ago and the bhel right outside Janki Kutir. The lovely cafe at Harkat Studio, Mumbai. The vada paos outside Chhabildas, Mumbai. The filter coffee and vast array of goodies at Rangshankara, Bangalore
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