Theatre is all about ruffling feathers: Ratna Pathak

Plays should make us see the world with new eyes, says well-known actor
Last Updated 02 May 2019, 14:50 IST

There are popular actors and there are actors whose work leaves you awestruck. Ratna Pathak Shah undoubtedly falls in the second category.

Whether in her comic outings in the TV series 'Sarabhai vs Sarabhai' and romcom flick 'Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na' or in her intense portrayals in 'Kapoor & Sons' and 'Lipstick Under My Burkha', she has ensured her characters remain etched in your mind.

Her experience in theatre is equally impressive. Inspired by her mother, Dina Pathak, who worked in Gujarati theatre and Bollywood films, Ratna has acted in many plays and helms the Motley Theatre Group along with her actor-husband, Naseeruddin Shah.

Here is what she told Metrolife in an exclusive interview:

Is there a role theatre can play in today's society that can't be played by other mediums like web and television?

Theatre is a live medium which, and when functioning at its best, allows human beings in the same space to share an experience together. This sharing of energies between people cannot be replicated by a recorded experience, however interactive you make it. As long as humans need to connect with each other in the flesh, theatre will stay alive.

What changes do you see in theatre in recent times and are these for good or bad?

Audiences are growing and not just in the cities. In fact, some smaller centres are very vibrant; in Maharashtra Jalgaon, Pune and Satara do a lot of plays and there are similar groups operating in Rae Bareli, Bhopal, Goa, Bikaner and Jaipur that I have heard of or seen. That is really heartening. There are festivals and other avenues of performance opening up all over.

But while there are positive developments there are also many issues not resolved or even considered. Playwriting being the main one — we have just not been able to create opportunities for training writers and making it possible for them to earn a living. It is hard for theatre actors, directors, and technicians to survive on theatre alone. By and large, theatre is still an amateur activity by people against all odds, with little support from governments or corporations. It is a labour of love, and so unfortunately rigorous rehearsal and improvements in skills fall by the wayside. There is also no real feedback from critics and the viewing public so theatre-makers function in a vacuum. The box office is hardly a gauge of quality.

You say art should ruffle feathers. Whose?

Everyone's. It should be able to make us face things that we refuse to see or haven't noticed till now; we should look at the world with new eyes through theatre. That is why art and artists are always co-opted by the powers-that-be to reinforce their values and priorities. But equally, it is art that has broken moulds and led to great change in the lives of people throughout history.

(Published 02 May 2019, 14:35 IST)

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