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Tom Stoppard at JLF 2018: We aren’t drones. We’re born to fulfil our unique destinies

Tom Stoppard, the 80-year-old playwright who came up with some great lines during his conversation with Sanjna Kapoor at the Jaipur Literature Festival, charmed the audience and made them break into spontaneous applause again and again.

JaipurLitFest Updated: Jan 26, 2018 15:49 IST
Prerna Madan
Prerna Madan
Hindustan Times, Jaipur
Jaipur Literature Festival,Jaipur Literature Festival 2018,JLF 2018
Speaking of his childhood in Darjeeling, Tom Stoppard, the 80-year-old playwright of The Real Thing, said he has “huge” nostalgia for his life in India.(Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)

“Last year I invested in hearing aids and by the way, I forgot to wear them today,” Tom Stoppard says to a giggling audience.

With expressive hand gestures, Sanjna Kapoor -- daughter of Shashi Kapoor and Jennifer Kendal, whose sister Felicity was the English playwright’s long time companion -- quizzes him about childhood memories, his India connection and his advice for playwrights.

I approached the subject of the British empire in a positive manner,” Stoppard said, when asked if he would change something in his play The Real Thing.

Stoppard was in conversation with Sanjna Kapoor during the session titled, The Real Thing. (Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)

“If I have to do it again, I would take things into account of what has entered my consciousness,” he added. He concedes Henry’s character in The Real Thing is similar to him, not “in an autobiographical sense” but in an intellectual sense. “I’ve given him a lot of lines that I would actually have liked to say myself.”

Speaking of his childhood in Darjeeling, Stoppard said he has “huge” nostalgia for his life in India. Perhaps that’s why he keeps coming back. “It made me a touch more exotic than the farmers’ sons of Nottingshire,” he says, charming the audience.

The conversation shifted to theatre, with the 80-year-old saying he is “text-driven” in his approach to plays. “When you write a play, it is an illusion that the play is a private enterprise… but when you hand it over (for production), the play is reliant on synonymous technological achievements that make it a play,” he says. It’s the sort of line that theatre enthusiasts thrill to.

Stoppard is, of course, well known for his film scripts too with Shakespeare in Love being everyone’s favourite. Clearly, though, like the Kapoors (the Shashi wing of the family) with whom he has been closely associated down the years, he is a theatre person first. “I think of myself as a theatre writer who does other things.”

Watch: In conversation with Tom Stoppard about theatre and creative expression

Stoppard, whose Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is often compared to Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, believes a society is all about the artists. Without them, the physical world would be a “dystopia”. “We are all believers. We aren’t drones… we’re born to fulfil our unique destinies,” he claims with conviction.

The audience erupts in loud applause and cheers, probably the loudest of the day, as the session concludes with his advice to aspiring playwrights: “It doesn’t actually happen unless you have a pen in your hand.”

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First Published: Jan 25, 2018 20:13 IST