Theatre Speaks

Vinay Varma
Director, Actor

Which is the last good play you saw and why?

HO SAKTA HAI DO AADMI DO KURSIYAAN, written and directed by Vinay Sharma. It was great original writing in Hindi (not seen much in mainstream Hindi theatre) and brilliant performance by the actors who kept the rhythm and graph of the subject very much in control.

Your favourite adda to see a play...

With few options in Hyderabad, Lamakaan still remains the best bet. In Bangalore, it is Ranga Shankara, in Kolkata - Minerva, Bhopal - Bharat Bhavan, Mumbai - Prithvi, Ahmedabad - Natarani...

Your favourite playwright...

David Mamet

Your favourite play-character...

Aurangzeb in Bhisham Sahni's AALAMGIR.

A play you would like to see filmed. Why?

Peter Shaffer's BLACK COMEDY. It happens in one location for about two hours, and the challenge would be to shoot it in a sequence like one big master shot. The play belongs to the actors, and for once it would be good to see how they pick up the gauntlet in a largely director's medium. It would be a great example of a cross between a play and a film. Much as the actors would be put to test, the lighting department's flawless contribution only will ensure the success of the project, what with reverse lighting happening during a great duration of the play. When the power is ON in the house, it is pitch dark for the audience, but when the power goes OFF the entire place is lit up and the actors move as if in complete darkness. What beauty! they can see each other, cross each other, see entries, and exits yet show they're completely unaware of the happenings. And no eye contact. A complete antithesis of a theatre performance. Reacting to sounds, and groping for people and props, when there is actually full light! What is more, it would be a great reflection of the prevailing hypocrisy - back biting. I can't think of a better allegory.

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

Munshi Premchand's short story RAMLEELA. One, it explores the journey of Ramleela the way it unfolds in Kaashi and nowhere else. Two, it gives a fillip to our depleting folk arts. Three, the story unambiguously shows the strong secular fabric what with a Muslim danseuse making an appearance. That could be a good ‘item number' thrown in without deviating from the script. A great commercial angle! Four, how the audience perceives the actor while performing a role vis a vis the latter's real self. God falling from grace. Five, how local artistes/artisans are mere toilet rolls in the hands of the organizers. Icing on the cake: kabhi kabhi bhakt bhi Bhagwan ke kaam aata hai...or is it...always! Premchand's visualization in writing would also, to a large extent take off the screenwriter's burden. As far as treatment of artistes is concerned, this story written in 1926 still resonates.

The most hilarious play you have seen...

Macchindra Kambli's VASTRAHARAN

A play, which is over-hyped...

Can't think of any

An important play (but ignored): ...

Jaishankar Prasad's CHANDRAGUPT

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

Aurangzeb

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

Dr. Rahi Masoom Raza from MAIN RAHI MASOOM

A classical play that you should have read...

Bhasa's KARNABHAARAM

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

A long nazm called QATL by Hyderabad based Academician Dr. Anwar Moazzam, which was dramatized and Directed by Prof. (retd.) Bhasker Shewalkar here many, many years ago. Till that time for me theatre was only exchange of dialogues between actors with some use of space and props. But here it was, a mere long text with no dramatic dialogues, and the way it was devised was completely non-conventional.


How do you regard the Indian theatre scene? ...

Transitory...always...

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

None, I'm not much of a reader except that I read scripts of plays that I plan to execute.

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

While performing MAIN RAHI MASOOM at Watermans Arts Center in London, there were issues with licensing for smoking on stage. I was asked to drop the smoking part. What the hell! Rahi Masoom Raza without smoking a cigarette! No way. Then I was suggested vapes. Well, they never existed during his time (at least that's what I thought), besides there was no compromise on the characterization. It was finally decided that I would just hold the cigarette in my hand and mime that I was smoking without actually lighting it. I'm no smoker, but that was quite a task. So, throughout the 75-minute monologue, whenever I had to light a smoke, I used to just mime, take a drag and blow out the invisible smoke. Show over. Standing ovation, and since the entire crowd consisted of Indians and Pakistanis there was obviously an instant feedback session, where there were quite a few people who knew Rahi saab personally. But there was one gentleman, very elderly, I think his name was Dr. Syed, who from the audience told me that he was Rahi's classmate in Aligarh and that I talked, walked, chewed paan and hold your breath...SMOKED like Rahi saab! That is the magic of theatre.

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

The Broadway Musical CATS. Working with an ensemble cast and a musical at that, is no mean task. I wish we had that kind of resources, consistently.

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

No one in particular

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

Manoj Joshi's CHANAKYA

Can you recall the best gastronomic experience you've had in the precincts of the theatre to date?...

Keema paav in Prithvi Theatre
 
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