He’s a one-man theatre ‘team’! — singer, actor, make-up man, guy on the lights and, at times, director as well! And, he’s accessible to all.
Internationally acclaimed Shekhar Sen presented his one-man play Kabir on the last day of the just-concluded Lucknow Mahotsava.
The anecdote goes that one day, during his days of struggle, Sen wrote a play “in despair” and showed it to Hindi litterateur Dr Dharamveer Bharti. Dr Bharti was so impressed by the play that he advised Shekhar to act in it ownself instead of hiring any other actor. The play was Kabir. Sen has staged the play more than 240 times across the world from Surinam to USA and Zakarta to Belgium.
Possibly talent is in his genes! After all, Sen’s the great grandson of former Vice Chancellor of Shanti Niketan Kshitindra Mohan Sen! His parents (Tamil mother and Bengali father) were renowned singers as well.
Sen says he had, actually, penned several plays for example, on Tulsi and Vivekananda. He always wanted to highlight in his work the great personalities of India. But it’s been Kabir that’s been the most popular.
Watching Sen perform at the Mahotsava was a treat. Meeting him was another. When scribes approached him, he silently stayed busy with his make-up and then, flashed his charming smile before answering questions. While other singers at the Mahotsava were more worried about the wattage of output of the music system, Sen depended on his voice alone—the sweetness of which, Lucknowites would vouch for, by the time he concluded his performance.
Sen recalls how he migrated to Mumbai 27 years ago to become a music director but after shuttling from one studio to another it was Kabir that changed his destiny.
But then, that is why Sen calls himself a singer by training and an actor by accident!
Kabir is a 45-minute play and also includes bhajans written by Saint Kabir. Sen lends his mellifluous voice, in the play, to some much-loved bhajans like Kabira khada bazaar mein, moko kahan dhoondhe re bande, Man laago mero yaar faqiri mein and sahab hain rangrez.
Sen sings all the bhajans himself with hardly an instrument to lead him. For him, it’s the magic of his melodious voice that leads him along and lends the play play it’s serene mood.
All his other plays, including Tulsi and Vivekananda, are one-man plays. The protagonist’s role is always played by Shekhar himself. And, of course, he does everything else himself as well—make-up, lighting, song compositions, stage setting et al! But nothing deters Sen.
Sen also asserts that art does not come by “reading books. It is inborn and cultivated”.
Incidentally, Shekhar speaks flawless Hindi with no accent and charms you off-stage as well.