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'The point is to make theatre viable'

Kavya Balaraman, Dec 5, 2012 19:19 IST
focussed Nandita Das

Nandita Das isn’t the sort of actress to shy away from trying something new. With her compelling performances in movies like ‘Fire’, ‘1947: Earth’ and ‘Provoked’, she has managed to carve a niche for herself in the film industry, distinct from the glittering song-and-dance routines that Bollywood is normally associated with.

She pushed cinematic boundaries with her directorial debut, Firaaq and now, the actress is trying her hand at theatre as well. She recently scripted, directed and featured in ‘Between The Lines’, something which she describes as heady and fun, but very different from the film-related processes she’s used to.

“Theatre is a world apart from cinema. In fact, writing Firaaq was very different from writing this play. When it comes to theatre, you tend to draw from your own
experiences and exposure of working with people,” she explains.

Possibly because of this, she finds it very difficult to compare cinema with theatre and near impossible to pick a favourite.

“I’ve always ended up wearing different hats without planning to. But I can’t pick a favourite — at this time, since I have a small baby, theatre would be easier to handle. But that being said, it comes with its own challenges and isn’t as simple as I imagined,” she says, adding, “what I love about theatre is that it’s a very live medium, constantly evolving. When it comes to films, what’s done is done.”

Given that a lot of people are talking about the experimental phase that Bollywood is going through right now, it would be natural to assume Nandita would want to be a part of it. But the actress gently dismisses these notions, saying, “The film industry will keep changing.

In the 80s, a lot of people were talking about the phase of independent cinema. Truth be told, some of the older films I’ve seen are a lot more progressive than the ones made today.” She adds, “Today, everything is so commercialised — small films have to compete with the big fishes, and how can they possibly survive?”

This doesn’t mean, though, that the actress is knocking the concept of commercially-viable projects. Given that she runs a production house, it’s not surprising that she does keep the financial angle of her plays in mind.

“The point is to make theatre viable. Many theatre companies have to struggle to survive — others just follow it as a side profession. I want to pursue theatre for the love of it and still manage to pay my bills with what I get from it. So yes, plays have to be commercially viable — but that doesn’t mean we compromise on their quality,” she reasons.One of the best ways to do this, she feels, is to make sure a play or film is relatable.

“The audience shouldn’t only be laughing at a joke — they should see themselves in that particular situation. That makes all the difference. It
isn’t fair to assume people don’t like strong content,”
she concludes.

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