Theatre should not be used as a stepping stone for Bollywood: Mahesh Bhatt

  • Sweta Kaushal, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Aug 06, 2014 17:20 IST

Veteran filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt has an opinion on mostly everything in life, and is never scared to air them either.

He was in Delhi recently to attend the premiere of the stage adaptation of his 1989 film Daddy. One of Bollywood's most critically acclaimed films, it mapped the life of an alcoholic trying to kick the habit with help from his daughter. A few months ago, another Bhatt classic, Arth, too was adapted for theatre by Delhi-based artist Imran Zahid.

Speaking about the role, Imran said, "I read up about people who are fighting addiction and watched the film twice or thrice."

Speaking to HT, Bhatt said he loved the idea of adapting popular films to a theatre audience. "Taking a story or experience (of a certain film) to another medium (theatre) only adds to the 'immortality' of the work," Bhatt said. He added that it was Imran Zahid's idea to revisit the film with a completely different perspective.

Zahid had also essayed the role of Kulbhsuhan Kharbhanda in the stage adaptation of Arth. He had earlier also acted in Bhatt's production The Last Salue, and hails from Asmita, Delhi-based Arvind Gaur's theatre group.

Imran Zahid in a still from the play Daddy where he essyaed the role of Anand Sarin -- a role that Anupam Kher did in the movie.

When asked if he has any plans to adapt Saaransh or Zakhm similarly, Bhatt said, "I do not deify my own work. I am not too hung up if someone wants to recreate it. I do not think any irreversible damage will be done if someone recreates it in a way I did not want or I had not thought of. People ask me why do I allow. My answer to them is that I don't care."

He added, "I don't think Zakhm can be adapted, because it's a personal narrative and deals with catharsis on a very large canvas. I wonder if there is enough bandwidth in the construct of theatre to capture all of it. The narrative depended a lot on juxtaposing past with future, from the bedroom where the child battles his emotional burden to the streets where the riots happend. I guess it is too large a canvas."

"Saaransh too was larger-than-life and I doubt there could be stage adaptations. Swayam, a movie I made with Waheeda Rehman, is the story of a woman who is self-sufficient at a ripe old age because she had two daughters who felt obliged to look after their mother after the husband died. It is a dignified story of the life of this woman.That might be the next one."

Bhatt claims that he was "not at all involved in the adaptation". He adds, "I just came like all of you and saw the work at the premiere. I am not a great theatre critic.".

Talking about the nostalgia of revisiting a classic he made 25 years ago, he said, "Two anonymous people I ran into an airport told me that Daddy changed their lives. That makes a difference. And theatre is one route through which we could achieve some kind of 'immortality'."

When asked if theatre artists are getting their due in the film industry, Bhatt said, "I dont think cinema is the only place where they move to. Theatre should not be used as a stepping stone for Bollywood. Manoj Bajpayee, Om Puri, Naseeruddin Shah and many others have given a lot to the film industry. Om Shiv Puri was the first person to come to cinema from theatre. I think the National School of Drama has given a lot to Indian cinema. TV is also another medium. Sadly, television is seeing an all-time low now."

Does he plan to mount any film with his protege, Imran Zahid, any time soon?

"You see, there are the heats, the quarter finals, the semis and the finals. Imran has certainly qualified for the heats. Let's see if he makes it to the finals. I cannot lower my strandards for him. I did not do that for my daughter."

The play will be staged again in the national capital on August 24. It will then travel to Bangalore, Kanpur and other small cities like Jamshedpur, Ranchi and Patna.

Imran Zahid will soon make his Bollywood debut with Marksheet -- a film based on the education mafia and the notorious kingpin

Ranjit Don


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