DRAMA IN REAL LIFE

A HEART­FELT TRIB­UTE TO ENGLISH THEATRE FROM A FAN WHO AL­LOWED HIS LOVE FOR ACT­ING TO BE­COME A FULL-TIME PRO­FES­SION

Hindustan Times - Brunch - - Humour - By Boman Irani

Asa 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.

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.

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!

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