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‘I can play anybody on stage’

art-and-culture Updated: Dec 13, 2010 15:07 IST
Jayeeta Mazumder
Jayeeta Mazumder
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Lillete Dubey finds herself wafting through memories when you ask about her long-running plays such as

Dance Like A Man

. The actor-director has been doing theatre for the last 35 years and her company, Primetime Theatre Co, now in its 20th year, is bringing a retrospective of her most popular plays to the city.



From her days as a founder member of Barry John’s Theatre Action Group, Dubey insists she has come a long way. “From Shakespeare to Bertolt Brecht, Greek tragedies and comedies, to absurd plays, to musicals, I’ve covered a vast range,” she says. The festival includes her productions —

Sammy

,

Dance Like A Man

,

30 Days In September, Love On The Brink, Wedding Album and Womanly Voices.


Just back from the shoot of John Madden’s

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

, Dubey never tires of returning to her first passion, theatre. “Working with Madden, who has directed films like

Shakespeare In Love

and worked with

Judi Dench and Maggie Smith was simply exhilarating, almost like staging a play. It is theatre that allows me to do films. As an actor, I can play anybody on stage,” she says, adding that she would love to bring her older plays back.



“Plays like

Me And My Girl

, an adaptation of a well-known musical, and Jaya, based on the

Mahabharata

, are always on my mind. Jaya was a rock musical, performed in a 5,000 square feet open area, with 25 dancers and live singers. I remember Shyam Benegal and Yash Chopra congratulating me,” Dubey recalls. Jaya, she adds, is special because of the variety it presented, with an Indian story being told through several genres of music — jazz, blues, Hindustani, Carnatic, Baul, rock, ballad and more.



“It’s not possible to mount a mammoth production on a small stage. Also, it would wipe out all the money I’ve made in the last 20 years,” she laughs. But Dubey promises to be ready to present it in a couple of years.



Nostalgia hits her again when you mention

Dance Like A Man

. The day it opened, it got a standing ovation. In the audience was Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, who came later with tears in eyes, to congratulate Dubey. In 2000,

Dance Like A

Man

was staged at Robert De Niro’s theatre Tribeca and received a rave review from New York Times. And that’s the only review she has kept framed.



“I was so impressed by the knowledge of the critic who had drawn parallels from

Natyashastra

. It was the most informed review the play has ever got. I would tease Mahesh, asking him, “Did you know you had these elements in your script?"As of now, she can’t wait to direct her first Hindi play, an adaptation of Mohan Rakesh’s

Adhey Adhure

next year.