In his message for World Theatre Day 2013 (on March 27), Italian actor-playwright Dario Fo hopes for the creation of a new diaspora of progressive theatre artistes. In India, on the other hand, Bollywood is king, and talented actors abandon the stage to move to cinema because theatre doesn’t pay as much.
We talk to four young but established personalities —from English, Hindi, Gujarati and Marathi theatre — about the future of the medium.
“No returns without investing money”
Playwright-director Irawati Karnik, 30, works in a niche genre — Marathi experimental theatre. She has also explored Hindi and English productions and recently won an award for her play Gasha. About the present scenario in Marathi theatre, she says, “Commercial Marathi plays are doing fine, but experimental works need to be pushed. It’s a change that can be brought about only if it is done consciously.” She admits that there isn’t much money in theatre. “But how can you expect returns without investing money first? We need to work on more productions and encourage talent,” she adds.
Paywright-director Imran Rasheed, 36, feels there is a lot of talent in Hindi theatre. But he worries about the lack of a support system. "If I produce a Shakespeare play, various parties will want to sponsor me. But if it’s a Premchand play, it gets tricky. The government should take more initiative to support Hindi drama," says Rasheed, who has plays like Papa and Bade Miyan Deewane to his credit.
“People don’t just want a play”
Director Meherzad Patel, 25, runs the theatre company, Silly Point Productions, and has several English plays, like The Class Act and I’m Bawa And I Know It to his credit. He doesn’t fear being overshadowed by Bollywood. “Today, there is probably one film worth watching among 20. That isn’t the case with theatre. It’s getting diverse, there are opera screenings, and plays combined with stand-up comedy. People don’t just want a play, they want something different,” he says.
“I’ll stay put in theatre”
Playwright-director Pritesh Sodha, 30, is a popular name in Gujarati theatre. “Since the first play I directed, Korat in 2009, to my most recent effort, Made In America, my faith in theatre has doubled. Gujarati theatre has seen path-breaking productions in recent times,” says Sodha. He further says that neither limited funds nor the invasion of films will take him away from the stage. “It must seem sensible to be part of a more scalable media, but theatre is the mother of all of them. I’ll stay put.”