Setting a benchmark in theatre

Candid chat

Setting a benchmark  in theatre

Film and theatre actors Shernaz Patel and Rajit Kapur are quite unlike your typical celebrities. The veterans are bubbly, amicable and extremely expressive. The two have carved a niche for themselves in both cinema and theatre and say that they want to continue learning and doing more challenging work.

Shernaz and Rajit were recently in the city for a specially curated showcase of original plays written by playwrights from Writers’ Bloc — a theatre programme started by The British Council in association with Rage Productions Mumbai and Royal Court Theatre London. In a freewheeling chat with Anushree Agarwal, they talk about playwriting, theatre and why some actors are opting for roles in television.

Do you find enough talent to mentor at Writers’ Bloc?

Shernaz: Once we read the full-length plays sent to us by playwrights, we know whether or not they have talent and the potential to come into the workshop to write a new play. Last time, we had over 250 entries from India written in every possible Indian language, so there is lot of talent. Someone sent us a script from Nagaland, somebody from a village outside Kolkata and so on.

Rajit: There is a big treasure house of those who are itching to write and develop their skills; people whom we aren’t aware of and haven’t been able to reach out to. We’re trying to spread our tentacles to the entire country.

The most essential quality of a playwright...

Shernaz: They should have a unique story to tell, a story that matters to them and which they wish to tell in a theatrical form. Also important is a sense of dialogues and the ability to understand characters.
Rajit: According to me, you have to love words and play with words in that storytelling.

What’s your favourite theme in theatre? Is there any kind of play that you would still like to act in?

Shernaz: As an actor, I am just looking for work that challenges me. With the kind of theatre that we do, the plays last for years. So I want to have the character as a part of my life for a long period of time. Therefore, I really need to love the character that am playing.

Rajit: We’ve been doing this play called ‘Love Letters’ for 25 years now. Even today, both of us sometimes discover something new in it like a new meaning to the same line which we’ve been repeating all this while. Having said that, I would like to do a Shakespeare play now.

A lot of actors are venturing into television and also Hollywood. Do you think there’s lack of content in films and Bollywood?

Shernaz: I don’t think the content on TV is better. Most actors from Bollywood are only judging reality shows or doing endorsements. As for Hollywood, I think it’s every actor’s desire to get an international exposure.

Rajit: The reason, perhaps, is that television now pays more. Speaking of that, one of the actors who’s now doing  many films, is now part of ‘Crab’, our staged play reading. That’s Ali Fazal. He’s also just done an international venture with Judi Dench.

What’s new on thefilm front?

Shernaz: I am doing a short film where I am playing a witch and I am really looking forward to that.

Rajit: I have to complete work on a film of which I don’t know the title yet. It’s very interesting and mine is a fun part. It’s half complete but there are some issues so I am not sure when the climax will happen!

The most recent film you’ve watched which struck a chord with you...

Shernaz: I loved ‘La La Land’! I enjoyed myself so much and I could have just continued watching it.

Rajit: I want to play Ryan Gosling’s role (laughs). I watched ‘Dangal’ which was brilliant! It has set such a benchmark and I wish a lot of the A-list and other actors learn from Aamir.
His planning and every aspect of filmmaking is so well-thought out. The casting was done one-and-a-half years back to get the right people, to create a team and get a sense of family.

We inculcate that in theatre too but he’s doing it infilms and that’s how it should be.

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