AK's Various Thoughts

Theatre Director Akarsh Khurana shares his views on theatre in Bombay and across India.

ACTING AND ECONOMICS

"Acting is easy if you know it."
- Popular Stage Actor Sanjay Dadhich

Clearly I don't know it. After five years, I returned to the stage in a lead role. The process was grueling. Learning lines was harder than I remembered. Rehearsals became pretty serious, focussed gatherings, and not the picnics I was used to. The butterflies in my stomach turned out to be moths. It had been a while indeed. Anyhow, the play opened, had five decently attended shows, but left me exhausted and broken. I am quite close to being a vegetable. I now fully understand the meaning of the term "inertia".

Producing, directing and watching plays are easier tasks than acting in them. Period. This is not to say that I respect actors any more now. Just that I know my preferences rather well. Speaking of watching, I managed to watch Makrand Deshpande's latest, Miss Beautiful, which, as most of his work, is about many things - theatre, parents, women, actors, nostalgia, illness, the works. Among other stellar performances, there was a wonderfully 'easy' turn by Sanjay Dadhich, the talented gentleman quoted above. The most rewarding part of the experience for me - in the show I saw, as the play reached its denouement, I looked around when I heard some sniffling, and was amazed to see people of both genders, with tears in their eyes. Many chords around me had been touched. Impressive achievement, to say the least.

I also watched and enjoyed The Skeleton Woman, which opened in Mumbai as a part of Thespo at Prithvi. I think every play should have a large boat on stage. The play is written by and stars Kalki Koechlin, famous for her portrayal of Chanda in Dev D. The play is produced by Anurag Kashyap (director, Dev D), who claimed to enjoy the process so much that he wants to dedicate more time to the theatre, promoting more original work. Soon after, his little daughter was the scene stealer in five shows of a mystical thriller called Don't Look Now.

Somewhere in the middle, I flew off to Muscat for 24 hours, for a show of our estrogen filled entertainer, All About Women. We performed at the Indian Embassy to a great audience. The Indian Ambassador has the distinction of being the only person we have met who has also watched the original Croatian version of the play in Zagreb. He claimed to prefer this version, primarily owing to the portions he referred to as "punjabified". We also dealt with some rather quaint censorship. After much contemplation, the organizers hesitantly asked me to replace the words "blow job" with "oral gratification". I think we may just keep that for every show in the future.

As of now, Akvarious is going through a frenetic phase, with 31 shows in a span 30 days. Yes, we counted. How I wish our account statements posted such strong numbers. But no, the financial drought continues. The term 'outstanding' features with amazing regularity in our ledgers, and it doesn't have anything to do with the quality of our work. The bright side, as I have inferred, is that theatre is the only field not affected by the crippling recession, since it's always walked hand in hand with bankruptcy. What the recession is doing, is bringing all other fields to the economic levels of theatre. This, I'm afraid, is the truth, however inconvenient.

"The truth cannot be rehearsed."
- Popular Stage Actor Sanjay Dadhich