‘The world treats old people callously’
Shernaz Patel, who will be seen as Miss Mistry, a 76-year-old single woman living alone in Goa in the play Mirror Crack’d — the Indian adaptation of Agatha Christie’s murder mystery, says it’s indeed a “whodunit but it’s still quite different”. “There is enough humour in it. But what I find interesting is that nobody is two dimensional in the play. Each and every individual character has a story,” she says.
Shernaz, whose character is the Indian version of Miss Marple, feels that her character has the ability to look at crime by understanding what people are like as — “she observes everything!”
Talking about her character grappling with ageing, she says that the world treats old people “very callously”. “Retirement hits people and they already start feeling like they have nothing to give back to society. We make people feel bad about growing old. Here, we are just doing one play where an old woman (Miss Marple) is solving crime, but Agatha Christie wrote her in so many of her books and stories, and made her iconic. It’s incredible,” Shernaz says.
The play has been adapted for theatre in the UK, and is recreated by the NCPA by director Melly Still and reimagined for an Indian audience by Ayeesha Menon. Shernaz, who is one of the most popular faces of the Indian theatre community is the daughter of Gujarati stage veterans Ruby and Burjor Patel, and was born and raised in a theatre-loving family. She says, “Everyone I know who started watching theatre when they were young have always continued to watch it.”
Talking about the state of theatre in India, Shernaz adds that the money usually goes into production of big musicals. “That’s what, unfortunately, our audiences pay to watch. I feel we need to do a lot of work at the grassroots level. We are not doing enough in our schools,” she says, adding that things are changing. “NCPA is doing good stuff, G5A is doing experimental and interesting plays, Prithvi has an entire gamut of fantastic stuff that’s been happening for years. Aram Nagar is doing these smaller productions. So, it’s a good time for theatre, because everyone is able to coexist,” she concludes.