Naseeruddin Shah is planning to revive Motley’s first play and the rehearsals are going on in full swing!(Brahms Dirsipo)
Naseeruddin Shah is planning to revive Motley’s first play and the rehearsals are going on in full swing!(Brahms Dirsipo)

Going back to Godot: What is Naseeruddin Shah up to?

The thespian is not a man to let the lockdown dampen his spirits, in fact he is already rehearsing his next play, albeit over Zoom calls!
By Ananya Ghosh | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON MAY 19, 2020 11:32 AM IST

“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… . There is no point waiting either for Godot or a Golden Age... If you want to do theatre, just do theatre!” wrote Naseeruddin Shah while penning a year-end essay on his hopes for theatre in 2020.

“Ben (Benjamin Gilani), Akash (Khurana) and I have been rehearsing the play on Zoom! It is very weird... . But it is better than not doing it.”

And he is a man who is showing precisely how to do it. In the last two months the world we knew it has gone through a tectonic shift and we are staring at a new world with uncertainty and apprehensions. Among the worst hit but not being talked about as much is the performing arts segment where unlike movies, live audience is a prerequisite. And this is especially true for theatre. With uncertainty looming over the reopening of auditoriums and theatre spaces and the new audience dynamics, many are opting for recording plays. But for Shah, that is not theatre. He is optimistic that the future of theatre is in theatre and not in Netflix. And instead of worrying or waiting for better times or for Godot, he is reaching out for both.

Homely act

While in quarantine, Shah is helping with household chores (and even trying his hand at chopping vegetables...a first for him he admits!), he is ticking his pending reading list, and watching a lot of old Dara Singh movies -- a childhood love of the actor. He is also recording poems and stories along with his wife and fellow thespian Ratna (Pathak Shah) and actor son Vivaan. And he has even started working on his next play! He is reviving what started it all for their theatre group (Motley)... Waiting for Godot!

“Bigger productions will face more of a quandary. For us, who do experimental theatre, we can still put up show in smaller theatre spaces, which will be able to get active sooner”

The year was 1978 and Shyam Benegal was shooting Junoon in Lucknow. One day, two of his actors decided to sample the coffee at Indian Coffee House after the day’s schedule. While chatting over a cuppa they casually decided to do a play together someday. The two actors were Naseeruddin Shah and Benjamin Gilani, and the later even came up with a play that they could probably put together. A few months later they had formed a theatre groups and started rehearsing. Next year, Motley presented their first play, Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. It’s been 40 years and 42 productions since.

Motley’s Waiting of Godot was first staged in 1979
Motley’s Waiting of Godot was first staged in 1979

At it is apt that for a new beginning post the pandemic scare, he has chosen to go back to the same play, and with the same cast! “It is for all of us at Motley our most beloved play, it was our first play. It is astounding that Mr Beckett wrote the play in his early 30s. He understood a lot a life and aging. The play talks, in very abstract terms, about almost all the issues in life, especially various kinds of relationship,” said Shah in the Instagram Live session held by HTbrunch earlier this month.

“Our theatre performances have to get smaller and it is not impossible. One can do poetry readings, story-telling sessions, and even plays...”

But as a 27-year-old, Shah wasn’t too keen on the play when Gilani had first suggested it. “Ben and I knew each other from our film institute days. But we weren’t friends then. He was a class senior and in the film institute the seniority is very much observed. I had heard about him in drama school in Delhi, he was big actor in the St Stephen’s College Shakespeare society. I had read about him in play reviews that would come in magazines at that time. Eventually we got to know each other and found many common grounds,” he said.

Staging the future

“But when he suggested we do Godot, I was sceptical. Because I found that play very obtuse. But Ben insisted and I eventually gave it! When we first started off with it, none of us really understood it properly. But as years have gone by and we have aged with the play, it has acquired more and more meaning,” said Shah, who will turn 70 this July.

Shah and Gilani, along with their third comrade, Akash Khurana are already rehearsing the play making optimum use of technology. “Benjamin, Akash and I have been rehearsing the play on Zoom! It is very weird, sometimes there is a lag between the dialogues and if you want someone to quickly come on a cue, it seems the person has got delayed! But it is better than not doing it,” said Shah

“Theatre means a meeting place. The energy that is created during a live performance cannot be created via camera”

Shah agrees that the future of theatre will see a gloomy phase. “Things will not open in a hurry. Even when the theatres are allowed to open, social distancing norms will have to be followed and theatres would have to limit the entries, and that means the loss of revenue for the theatre groups as well as the auditorium owners. Bigger productions will face more of a quandary. For us, who do experimental theatre, we can still put up show in smaller theatre spaces, like the Cuckoo Club, OverACT, Tamasha theatre, that have come up in the recent years. Those theatre spaces will be able to get active sooner.”

According to him, both movies and theatre performances have to look at reducing the scale. “Movies and plays getting smaller can only mean a good thing according to me. Reducing the scale will cut down on the paraphernalia. Our theatre performances have to get smaller and it is not impossible. One can do poetry readings, story-telling sessions, and even plays. Akarsh Khurana has just put together a play where four actors are acting it out over Zoom,” he said.

Although he is all for technology, according to him recording a play defies the entire idea of theatre. “Theatre means a meeting place. The energy that is created during a live performance cannot be created via camera. The live audience is an integral part of a theatre experience, the audience interactions, their reactions, add to the play. When you record a play, that part goes missing entirely.”

Read more: Ageism is one thing, feeling old is another: Naseeruddin Shah writes

Follow @ananya1281 on Twitter

From HT Brunch, May 18, 2020

Follow us on twitter.com/HTBrunch

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
app
Close
Armaan Jain says that even when he made his debut as a leading man in a movie called Lekar Hum Deewana Dil in 2014, his passion for food was a notch higher than his interest in films; Make-up: Shibu Khan; Hair: BBlunt; Wardrobe:Anushka Khanna (Rohan Shrestha)
Armaan Jain says that even when he made his debut as a leading man in a movie called Lekar Hum Deewana Dil in 2014, his passion for food was a notch higher than his interest in films; Make-up: Shibu Khan; Hair: BBlunt; Wardrobe:Anushka Khanna (Rohan Shrestha)

HT Brunch Cover Story: The Kapoor family’s best-kept food secrets!

UPDATED ON JAN 23, 2021 08:45 PM IST
Raj Kapoor’s grandson, Armaan Jain, 30, shows how the love for food runs as strong in India’s premier film family as the love for films
Close
Prateik Babbar being his sporty self while posing for a picture exclusively for this HT Brunch column
Prateik Babbar being his sporty self while posing for a picture exclusively for this HT Brunch column

“I slept like a bear in hibernation during lockdown,” says Prateik Babbar

UPDATED ON JAN 23, 2021 08:40 PM IST
The actor confesses he’s a guy version of Monica Geller from Friends and is still crushing on Karisma Kapoor, in an intimate chat with HT Brunch
Close
Instead of High Intensity Interval Training, do a few stretches and some strength exercise like a few push-ups or air squats every one-two hours (Shutterstock)
Instead of High Intensity Interval Training, do a few stretches and some strength exercise like a few push-ups or air squats every one-two hours (Shutterstock)

Fit and fine by Kamal Singh CSCS: Move over high intensity workout

By Kamal Singh CSCS
PUBLISHED ON JAN 23, 2021 07:14 PM IST
Low-intensity exercise throughout the day will keep you physically and mentally fit, especially if you don’t have access to your gym or park
Close
Rohena Gera’s latest movie Sir has received rave reviews in India and abroad
Rohena Gera’s latest movie Sir has received rave reviews in India and abroad

Maid for each other

By Shunali Khullar Shroff
PUBLISHED ON JAN 23, 2021 07:14 PM IST
Rohena Gera’s new film shows a wealthy homeowner falling in love with his domestic help. How did the writer-director do away with Bollywood’s rich-poor clichés and address this with realism and sensitivity?
Close
In India, the only Western condiment we were really familiar with for decades was ketchup
In India, the only Western condiment we were really familiar with for decades was ketchup

Rude Food by Vir Sanghvi: It’s time to ketchup!

PUBLISHED ON JAN 23, 2021 07:13 PM IST
From chutney to mustard to Sriracha, it’s the condiments that add a kick to your food on a regular basis
Close
Ricky Pond’s Bollywood numbers like O Betaji have garnered over 500K likes
Ricky Pond’s Bollywood numbers like O Betaji have garnered over 500K likes

Social Media Star of the Week: Ricky Pond

By Karishma Kuenzang
PUBLISHED ON JAN 23, 2021 07:12 PM IST
Meet the American dad in his 40s, who has become a rage amongst Indians worldwide for his Bollywood dance Reels
Close
Kamna Chhibber is a Clinical Psychologist and Head, Mental Health for the Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences at Fortis Healthcare
Kamna Chhibber is a Clinical Psychologist and Head, Mental Health for the Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences at Fortis Healthcare

HT Brunch Game Show: Which personality type lived through the pandemic better?

By Shruti Nair
PUBLISHED ON JAN 23, 2021 07:12 PM IST
The introvert, extrovert or ambivert? Three different personality types talk about productively spending time during the pandemic
Close
Leslee Lewis with his first electric guitar, he brought from Singapore, which was shaped like a gun
Leslee Lewis with his first electric guitar, he brought from Singapore, which was shaped like a gun

“At 22, I had left home to make it on my own,” says musician Leslee Lewis

By Shruti Nair
UPDATED ON JAN 23, 2021 08:43 PM IST
The musician talks about earning 1,700 per month, marrying his girlfriend and making it on his own in the industry
Close
Sex and the City’s new season out next year will not star Samantha Jones
Sex and the City’s new season out next year will not star Samantha Jones

No sex without Samantha!

By Moksha Hegde and Reeti Kohli
PUBLISHED ON JAN 23, 2021 07:11 PM IST
Two fans argue the elimination of Sex & the City’s most progressive character in the upcoming revival show
Close
What really grabs your attention are new headlights capped by a striking LED strip that lift the looks of the car
What really grabs your attention are new headlights capped by a striking LED strip that lift the looks of the car

Sunday Drive by Hormazd Sorabjee: The comeback car

PUBLISHED ON JAN 23, 2021 07:10 PM IST
Audi’s A4 marks the start of an onslaught of new models from the German carmaker, which has been starved of models for the past year
Close
The Olympian exudes an unattainable coolth with perfect poise and a worn-out T-shirt, or none, if you’re Milind Soman!  (Parth Garg)
The Olympian exudes an unattainable coolth with perfect poise and a worn-out T-shirt, or none, if you’re Milind Soman!  (Parth Garg)

Humour: The five kinds of runners

By Rehana Munir
PUBLISHED ON JAN 23, 2021 07:09 PM IST
From form snobs to statistic addicts, the streets are just packed with all types of runners come morning or evening
Close
Bridgerton, the new series on Netflix, is set in Regency London and based on a series of novels by Julia Quinn (Aparna Ram)
Bridgerton, the new series on Netflix, is set in Regency London and based on a series of novels by Julia Quinn (Aparna Ram)

Spectator by Seema Goswami: Facts about fiction

By Seema Goswami
PUBLISHED ON JAN 23, 2021 07:08 PM IST
Many may try, but only some writers can actually bring a world alive in their books. Especially when it comes to regency romances
Close
Sohrab gives tips on how to lose weight efficiently and how making the muscles around your knees stronger can help
Sohrab gives tips on how to lose weight efficiently and how making the muscles around your knees stronger can help

Sohrab Khushrushahi: Of planning your weight loss diet and strengthening your knees

By Sohrab Khushrushahi
PUBLISHED ON JAN 23, 2021 07:07 PM IST
Get back on track with a weight loss plan that focuses on your diet and how you can work on making your knees stronger
Close
Ranveer Allahbadia gives tips on social media etiquette you should follow
Ranveer Allahbadia gives tips on social media etiquette you should follow

Ranveer Allahbadia: Does posting selfies make you get taken less seriously at work? And… should you follow your boss?

By Ranveer Allahbadia
PUBLISHED ON JAN 23, 2021 07:07 PM IST
Is it okay for a doctor or teacher to post frivolous on their social media handles? And should you send a request to follow your new boss if their account is private?
Close
Here’s how you can flaunt the lungi to social events
Here’s how you can flaunt the lungi to social events

Rahul Khanna: Where can you wear the lungi to?

By Rahul Khanna
PUBLISHED ON JAN 23, 2021 07:06 PM IST
You can now flaunt this garment beyond South Indian weddings to make a style statement according to the style icon
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP