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Why theatre rules: a heartfelt tribute by Boman Irani

The actor reminisces about his theatre days...as an actor and as a fan

brunch Updated: Oct 14, 2017 23:23 IST
Boman Irani
Boman Irani
Hindustan Times
Boman Irani,English theatre,Alyque Padamsee
Boman Irani had wowed the audience in Rage’s I’m Not Bajirao (HT file photo)

Those were the days of Adi Marzban and his classy Broadway productions, Alyque Padamsee’s sprawling musicals, and the nurturing tutelage of the giant Pearl Padamsee.

When I stood backstage for the first time, it was the time of Rage: a group with members of varied talents. Rahul da Cunha, Fali Unwalla, Kunal Vijayakar, Shernaz Patel, Rajit Kapur, Radhika Mittal and Rahul Bose. I walked right into their collective intention in a play called I’m not Bajirao. Rahul directed, Rajit, Shernaz, and Radhika produced, Fali designed, and Kunal wore the added hat of acting.

In my mid-30s lamenting that I had never had the opportunity to go to drama school, here I was, drama schooling myself in the theatre. Added to that, I was thrown in with the doyen of Marathi theatre – Sudhir Joshi – who rapped me on the knuckles or patted me on the back depending on what I did on the day.

An offbeat act

The gang at Rage did next what their collective conscience compelled them to do. They started a movement called Writers Block. The intention? Don’t adapt, write. Bravo. This may have played a big part in what has culminated in their 25 year celebration today.

I would be remiss if a force called Feroz Khan is not mentioned here. Quite honestly, his contribution demands an entire piece altogether. Playing Gandhi in his Mahatma vs Gandhi was part of my schooling.I am also grateful that Naseeruddin Shah finds solace in experimental theatre, much to our benefit.The boys at silly point adhere to the “don’t adapt, write” philosophy.

Young actors approach me for guidance from time to time. All set with portfolios, well-shaped, half way through a coaching class, armed with... well? Arms.

If you have not had the privilege of sitting in a dark theatre as a boy or girl, saying that silent prayer for those backstage, start now. Feel the kinship. Make it backstage. Then walk the boards. Pay your dues. Get schooled.It may not make you a star. But it may almost make you an actor.

As a youngster, nothing made my heart beat faster than when I was in a theatre audience and the lights dimmed before a play. I would say a little prayer for those backstage; the people who were about to come up and enthral us. I didn’t know what the kinship was about then, but it made sense 25 years later when the lights dimmed and I was pacing the backstage boards myself. It was a privilege to know that there was some youngster out there in the dark, saying a little prayer for me.

Author Bio: Boman Irani started his career in the room service department at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. By the age of 25, he was married and working at his family-owned wafer shop. His love for films got a new lease of life when he bought a camera and started taking pictures of neighbourhood kids playing sports. Two years later, a suggestion from Shiamak Davar led him into auditioning for Alyque Padamsee’s play, Roshni. It was with Rage’s I’m Not Bajirao, in which the 33-year-old got into the skin of a septuagenarian, and wowed audiences. It was only at age 44 that Boman made his Bollywood debut, and his role in Munnabhai MBBS (2003) established him as a star. Today, he is one of the film industry’s finest, and non-arguably, its most loved!

From HT Brunch, October 15, 2017

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First Published: Oct 14, 2017 23:19 IST