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Facing theatre audience is an immersive experience, says Suneeta Rao

Suneeta Rao, the famous pop and playback singer of the ’80s and ’90s, has returned to theatre with the play Gaa Re Maa, which was staged recently in Delhi

art and culture Updated: Nov 04, 2018 16:53 IST
Henna Rakheja
Henna Rakheja
Hindustan Times
Suneeta Rao,Theatre,Delhi
Suneeta Rao’s roots lie in musical theatre.

Recently, when Delhiites headed to watch a play titled Gaa Re Maa as part of the recently concluded Old World Theatre Festival, they heard a voice that brought back memories from the ’80s and ’90s. It was the voice of pop and playback singer Suneeta Rao, who was part of the play’s cast. Remember the song Paree Hoon Main?

As Rao returns to the stage after a sabbatical, we speak to her about a memorable past in music and eventful present in theatre. “My roots are in musical theatre,” says Rao, sharing how her career began from acting and bloomed in music. “I started out as a chorus dancer in the musical called Evita that is based on Peron’s Mistress, and later even toured India with my plays. I portrayed lead roles and was active in theatre from 1983-88. Then my pop career took off,” she says.

So, today, when people assume that she’s a singer who has turned actor, Rao finds it amusing. “It’s funny because I have always considered myself as an actor because even if you are doing a music video, you are always expressing...”

But her return to theatre has a story, too. “My last album was in 2008, after which I did a few shows such as one in front of the Taj Mahal where I was the sutradhar between a flamenco and a Kathakali dancer. After this I started pottery, and even wrote a blog on motherhood. Then I once randomly said I want to do serious acting and went for an intensive workshop that my friend was conducting. Immediately after this, I was offered this play Gaa Re Maa... As it turns out, the role was tailormade for me because the creative producer (Ishitta Arun) wanted a singer who could act. And, the one who recommended my name was none other than singer Ila Arun though she had never seen me perform as far as I remember...When she saw me perform in this play, she said: I knew you would be the right person for this. I had told them (crew) all.”

To compare the experience of performing on stage as a singer and an actor is quite enriching for Rao. She says, “When singing, you are giving your energy and the audience is taking it in. In acting, you don’t know how they are going to interpret the lines... But, the moment you know that you have to face a theatre audience — be it in Mumbai or Delhi — you know that it’s going to be an immersive experience. And the kind of magic that this audience makes you feel, I hope that continues in future...”

One thing that she never fails to do when in Delhi? “Meeting my aunt and relishing gulab jamun and butter chicken. The gulab jamuns in Delhi are just yum!”

First Published: Nov 04, 2018 16:51 IST