Playwright Mahesh Dattani and Sanjoy Roy, the producer of the Jaipur Literature Festival, released the former’s I, Me and My Plays and the Odia translation of Dance Like a Man by Manu Dash at the Char Bagh tent in Diggi Palace on Sunday afternoon.
The session, presented by Hindustan Times, had Dattani talking about how he took to writing as well as filmmaking, and about the power of theatre and cinema today. A Gujarati, who grew up in Bangalore, where the native language is Kannada, Dattani claims to "have no ownership of any language" and says he chose to write in English as he "had been sufficiently cultivated into thinking in it".
Dattani developed a "childhood crush on theatre" during frequent trips to Bombay with his a father. "The only language I ever learnt was theatre," he said, revealing that attending workshops gave him the confidence to actively participate in theatre.
Always slightly ahead of his time, Dattani’s play On a Muggy Night in Mumbai, which deals with homosexuality, was first written and staged when the Indian LGBT community was still firmly in the closet.
"The theme of gay love may not be a big thing today, but when I wrote it back in the 1990s, it was," Dattani says, adding that the play was set in Mumbai as he was fascinated by the city’s vibrant gay sub-culture. "However, when he directed a movie based on the play, he chose to shoot it at a farmhouse in Bangalore."
"I believe theatre belongs to the playwright and the actors whereas cinema belongs to the director," said Dattani adding that when a play is adapted into a film, the playwright has to let the director take over.
The audience was then treated to a five-minute video clip of Dance Like a Man. The session also included readings from the two books and a discussion of the Odia translation of Dance Like a Man, which Dash said he worked on because he “fell in love with it”, and because he wanted those who did not understand English to experience Dattani's work.