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Home / Brunch / Dear 2020: Naseeruddin Shah’s open letter to the coming year

Dear 2020: Naseeruddin Shah’s open letter to the coming year

Leave the spectacular to Broadway. My fervent wish is that the youth realise the value of the stage

brunch Updated: Dec 28, 2019 22:58 IST
Naseeruddin Shah
Naseeruddin Shah
Hindustan Times
Naseeruddin Shah recently staged reading performances of the works of Saadat Hasan Manto and Ismat Chughtai; location courtesy: Prithvi Theatre
Naseeruddin Shah recently staged reading performances of the works of Saadat Hasan Manto and Ismat Chughtai; location courtesy: Prithvi Theatre (Brahms Dirsipo)

Dear 2020,

In this year my wish for theatre is for it to be original, true to its roots and self sustainable. Whether the corporates who have stepped in as sponsors are doing good or harm is moot. They give cartloads of money with the rider that the production must be a spectacle. It is very difficult to keep such plays alive after the initial few shows because most theatre companies can’t afford the production cost on their own; most don’t even have the space to keep such huge sets.

“My fervent wish is that the younger generation discovers the true function of theatre”

I have never been a fan of spectacular theatre anyway and I don’t think we should model our plays on Broadway, because we don’t have the technical knowhow, the infrastructure, or the right kind of imagination for it. We should use our traditional forms of theatre and storytelling, maybe derive something from folk theatre and attempt plays that are within our means and possible to sustain.

We shouldn’t wait around for the ideal opportunity, cast, venue or producer. If you have the itch to do theatre then just do it. That’s theatre! All you need is one actor, one text and one audience!

I hope the kids realise that this is where they need to begin. I wish they draw upon what already exists in the country, travel a bit, watch different indigenous theatre forms and come up with writing that will embellish spare theatre presentations, which are more effective than decorative sets.

“We will never know when that Golden Age will descend on us and we can’t aspire to something as nebulous as ‘someday things will be better.’ We have to aspire to the immediate”

My fervent wish is that the younger generation discovers the true function of theatre. I think they are on the verge of it. I just judged a college play competition and there were a hundred entries from colleges across Maharashtra, all in Marathi. This kind of youth participation was unheard of when I started off. Not all teenage writers are very good but they are writing from their heart. At that age I was only thinking of meeting girls!

Right now, the number of people involved in theatre is growing. That is fantastic, though I have been in theatre long enough to not anticipate a ‘Golden Age.’ We will never know when that Golden Age will descend on us and we can’t aspire to something as nebulous as ‘someday things will be better.’ We have to aspire to the immediate. Set right what is within your power to set right. If you want to do theatre, do it!

(As told to Ananya Ghosh)

Piyush Mishra’s open letter to 2020. Read here

Makarand Deshpande’s open letter to 2020. Read here

Faezeh Jalali’s poem for 2020. Read here

HT Brunch cover story: By the people, for the people, of the people… Four thespians write down their wishlist for 2020. Read the entire article here

Also read: Naseeruddin Shah on the subtle art of ageing

From HT Brunch, December 29, 2019

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