Each show is a new show for us: Umesh Kamat
The Marathi play, Don’t Worry Be Happy (DBWH), has made news for several reasons. To start with, it recently completed 275 performances and, of late, it has been featuring a new face: Swanandi Tikekar has joined actors Umesh Kamat and Ashutosh Gokhale on the stage. Directed by Adwait Dadarkar and written by Mihir Rajada, the play has won many awards. We speak with Umesh and Swanandi about the play, working together, and more.
275 shows is a huge number to complete in theatre. How does it feel?
Umesh: Honestly, every show is different. In these five years, we have never felt like we are done with this play. Even after our 250th show, we got inputs on what could be added to the script. That is the beauty of the team. I don’t remember a single show where we haven’t discussed what more could be done. In fact, people from the audience sometimes come up and make suggestions. I remember, one lady was crying bitterly, because she thought she would face the same fate as the lead character, Pranoti (she suffers from PCOD, which leads to cancer). So, we included a line stating that only one in every 50 people face such an extreme problem. We see to it that every show is better than the previous one.
Now, you have a new co-actor too?
Umesh: Yes, I was coordinating with Swanandi before she came on board. The entire team was unanimous about her. Advait has worked with her before, and he believes that from the current generation of actors, she fits the bill perfectly. In today’s time, an actor would have thought a lot about taking up a seasoned play and being a replacement. But we as a team were sure that we did not want a replacement. We were ready to add layers to the character and let her explore it in her way. I am glad she was on the same page as us.
Swanandi: For me, it is not about awards or show numbers. I honestly don’t care about all of that. It is about the experience and the character I get to play. It is also about the risks I can take at this point in my career. DWBH is a play about two people, and 50% of the burden is on my shoulders. So, I am looking forward to doing justice to that as of now.
What have you learnt about each other so far?
Umesh: Swanandi is a spontaneous, sincere and hard-working actor. Her personality definitely complements the character in the play, and she has caught on really quickly. Despite having extremely popular parents, Swanandi is an independent actor. She carries no baggage of where she comes from, which made it easier for me.
Swanandi: I really appreciate his capacity to unlearn. It must have been difficult to completely shake off your equation with an actor of five years and your chemistry of 275 shows, and then suddenly have another person altogether. His openness and ability to accept everything that is new is commendable.
Umesh is known for his pranks on sets, did you fall prey to some of them?
Swanandi:Not many know this, but we worked together on a show 15 years ago. But, that was definitely not enough for me to prepare to be around him (laughs). For example, I am technologically challenged, to the extent that I can't even type properly. The other day I typed ‘By’ instead of ‘Mi’ (I) in a group message when I wanted to say ‘I am on my way’. And, the entire day, everyone on the sets addressed me as ‘By’. So, yes, I do get laughed at and made fun of.