On Friday, Shabana Azmi brought in her 60th birthday with the premiere of her new play, Seven, in Delhi. She wouldn’t have chosen another way to toast the momentous occasion. "Lack of good roles in films has kept me going back to theatre," says Azmi, who has a performance of Kaifi Aur Main coming up in the Capital soon, followed by a US tour of Broken Images.
Shefali Shah cites a similar reason for her return to the stage, a decade after Ant Vagar Ni Antakshari. Bas Itna Sa Khwab Hai got her a standing ovation from Amitabh Bachchan himself. Bachchan who played a Shakespearean actor in The Last Lear, insists that "a theatre actor is superior to a film actor".
Anupam Kher recently hosted an exhibition of paintings based on his autobiographical play Kuch Bhi Ho Sakta Hai. "This play saved my dignity and my career. The theatre audience shows its pleasure or displeasure instantly and hence keeps you alive as an actor," explains Kher.
For Konkana Sen Sharma and Kalki Koechlin, it’s about creativity and experimentation. After Wake Up Sid, Sen-Sharma has gone back to playing a psychiatrist treating Ranvir Shorey in Atul Kumar’s Blue Mug. "During my college days, I’ve acted with Roysten Abel in Much Ado About Nautanki and did a play with Joydeep Sarkar as well. So, when Blue Mug was revived I was happy to be back on it," says the actor.
Koechlin worked in plays such as Casanova with Satchit Puranik and Hair with Ajay Krishnan before Anurag Kashyap discovered her. Dev.D’s Paro is back to her first love. She co-wrote Skeleton Woman and acted in it too. "The roles I was offered after Dev.D were not exciting so I turned my attention back to plays. All you need is a place to rehearse and a handful of passionate actors," she points out.
Her film roles have now got meatier with Zoya Akhtar’s Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and Kashyap’s That Girl in Yellow Boots, but Koechlin still managed to make time for Rajat Kapoor’s Hamlet – The Clown Prince. “My theatre fix is like that of a tigress who having tasted blood once, keeps coming back for more,” she asserts.
For Rajat Kapoor, film and theatre are like his two children. “I can’t choose one over the other. In theatre, there’s the joy of rehearsing and performing. You know what the audience wants instantly and can improvise accordingly. Films don’t give you that liberty,” reasons the actor whose commercial hits include Dil Chahta Hai and Corporate.
Kunal Kapoor uses theatre to re-invent himself. Kapoor who has just replaced Arjun Rampal in Don 2, recently attended a workshop anchored by Argentinean, Carla. “Clowns and their ability to make people laugh with one droll expression has always fascinated me. It requires talent and timing, so I’m looking forward to Hamlet — The Clown Prince,” he enthuses.
Kapoor has acted with Naseeruddin Shah in The Prophet is wide-eyed about the senior actor: “Naseerbhai’s passion for theatre is unparalleled. From him I’ve learnt performances don’t happen by accident, practice makes for perfection.”