This evening, Bus Itna Sa Khwab marks the return of Shefali Shah on stage after a decade and she admits she’s never been more nervous in her life. “Earlier, I just followed my director’s instructions since I didn’t know any better. But now that I have grown as an actor and raised the bar for myself, I don’t want to fall short of anyone’s expectations, most importantly my own,” admits the National Award-winning actor.
She will be making her comeback with the Hindi play produced by her husband, Vipul Shah, who himself is returning to theatre after a chaudah saal ka banwas (14-year exile). The socio-psychological thriller explores the relationship between husband and wife, and a child and his parents. “As the play progresses, you realise that the content is universal and bonds fragile,” points out director Chandrakant Kulkarni.
Kulkarni has also directed the original Marathi play, Dhyanimani, that was first showcased 15 years ago and enjoyed a 500-show run. “Although my roots are in Marathi theatre, I’ve done Hindi and Gujrati plays too,” he asserts. “Vipul has been interested in this play for a very long time. Its powerful writing demands intense actors and it was a challenge for Shefali who is from the theatre background. We needed passionate actors who can read between the lines and Shefali is brilliant.”
The lady admits she hasn’t watched the original play, but is prepared for comparisons with Neena Kulkarni’s landmark performance. “My interpretation is different from Neenatai’s though, and Chandrakant Kulkarni, who directed her too, is happy with my performance. That’s a relief because it’s a role with many layers and in theatre, facial expressions are lost beyond the fifth row. You need a strong voice and a magnetic pull to hold your audience for two hours.”
Even before the grand opening, Shefali admits to having been undone by the character after weeks of gruelling rehearsals. “I can’t act, I don’t have the craft. So I have to literally break down every time, then collect the pieces and put them back together again,” she sighs.” “My husband and director have been telling me I’ll need to detach myself once we start, but I’m not even going there now.”
She is all praise for her co-star, Kiran Karmankar, Om Agarwal of Kahani Ghar Ghar Kii fame. “While I’m all jittery, he’s settled and steady, like Vipul, and makes me believe that we’ll get there,” she laughs.
While Shefali admits that Shalini’s world is completely different from hers, she admits to one common point — they are both mothers. “And after playing her, I’ve begun to value my children even more if that’s possible. I feel so lucky when I go home and hold them to my heart, tight,” she says emotionally.
You wonder about the long break given her passion for theatre and she points out that she was waiting for something precious to come her way. “I love acting too much for it to ever become a money-making job,” she reasons. “And Bus Itna Sa Khwab has been a liberating experience for me not just as an actress but more significantly as a human being. So it’s only appropriate that this dream is materialising on Independence Day.”
Bus Itna Sa Khwab will premiere at Rangsharda Auditorium, Bandra (W), on August 15, at 7.45 pm