It is safe to say that veteran thespians Alyque Padamsee and Dolly Thakore’s son, Quasar Thakore Padamsee, literally grew up on stage. It was, then, only natural for him to follow in his parents’ footsteps, and collaborate with them. However, although he pursued the same vocation, he championed a cause of his own — youth theatre. Under his tutelage, Thespo (his initiative) prospered and emerged as an important platform for young, aspiring artistes. Here, he revisits some of his most cherished memories and challenges, and discusses the future of city’s theatre scene.
How have the last 10 years been for you in theatre?
I have been living a dream. I have been fortunate to work with some wonderful international directors. Our company, QTP (Quasar Theatre Productions), has produced a few shows that we are very proud of. Thespo has also grown by leaps and bounds.
What have been the biggest challenges?
The paucity of venues is a major concern. Mumbai is becoming more and more locality based. You go to cinemas and malls that are near you. But in the civic planning, no thought has been given to theatre spaces. The ridiculous licensing policies make it harder for informal spaces to be converted into venues. The NCPA (Nariman Point), Prithvi Theatre (Juhu), St Andrew’s Auditorium (Bandra) and Sophia Bhabha Auditorium (Breach Candy) are all booked to capacity. That’s surely a sign that we need to build more theatres. Freedom of speech is becoming a challenge too. Even if all the necessary permissions are in place, a show can be stopped by dissenting groups. This was what happened with Evam’s production, Ali J, last year.
How has the theatre scene changed?
Theatre in Mumbai is poised to become part of the mainstream. Today, there are more plays that are about us and our world, and not borrowed from western culture. What has been most remarkable is the number of new arts managers, who take care of all sorts of work outside mounting the production. This position never existed before.
What do you think have been the changing factors?
I think the Writer’s Bloc (WB) workshops would be one of them, especially since they cater to new writing. They help writers say what they want in a coherent form. Even Thespo has been an agent of change. The overall theatre scene is much younger now. Sanjna Kapoor (theatre personality) and Sameera Iyengar (co-founder of a theatre company called Junoon) have also been strong agents of change.
Venues like the NCPA and Prithvi Theatre is all booked to capacity. (HT photo: Vidya Subramanian)
Where do you see this scene heading in the next 10 years?
Today, we have shows that are commercial (Blame It On Yashraj, Jesus Christ Superstar, etc.), non-commercial, but insanely successful (Vagina Monologues, Class Of 84, etc.), pseudo experimental (plays staged at NCPA’s Experimental Theatre and Prithvi Theatre), as well as informal ones that happen in bars, cafés and art galleries. That is a very diverse range of work. I see technology becoming a more important player in theatre. It will raise the production value of the shows.
What have been the biggest highs and lows in the past 10 years?
Personally, there has not been a low. But for theatre, as a whole, the passing away of Satyadev Dubey (theatre director) and the arrest of some of the performers of Kabir Kala Manch (cultural organisation) were real lows.
On the personal front, the biggest high was performing our play, So Many Socks, about Tibetan refugees for the community at an open-air basketball court in Dharamshala (Himachal Pradesh). That was unbelievable. It is among my best experiences in theatre, along with performing in Stratford-upon-Avon, UK, or at a 2000-year-old amphitheatre in Verona, Italy.