Not an open book
Actor Saurabh Shukla opens up about his latest play, a relationship drama called Jab Khuli Kitaab, which he’s written, directed and stars in
IN Jab Khuli Kitaab, Saurabh Shukla the director cast Saurabh Shukla the actor reluctantly. “I’m in one of the main roles, which is an accident,” he says over the phone from Lucknow. “I never wanted to be in that role. I tried many actors, but it’s not easy to find seasoned, working actors for theatre, because everybody has some work or the other. I kept trying, I kept trying, I kept trying, and I realised that if I kept waiting, I’ll lose this production. So, I decided to step in.” When Shukla repeated the same sentiment to another seasoned, working actor, Danish Husain, outside Prithvi Theatre one day, Husain did the only sensible thing: he volunteered. Hence, Jab Khuli Kitaab is packed with wellloved actors such as Shukla, Husain and Irawati Harshe, and 22 other old and new faces. “You have to understand that this has been a real nightmare,” says Shukla, of the casting. “There are approximately 25 people onstage. This is a humongous, huge cast by any standard. A small stage will not be able to [host] so many people.” Since Aadyam, the Aditya Birla Group’s annual theatre initiative, doesn’t do small, the two found a perfect match in each other.
Which is more than what can be said about the play’s lead characters: Gopal (played by Shukla) and Anusuya (Harshe), who are seeking a divorce after half-a-century of togetherness. Shukla, who also wrote the play, says, “I was interested in discovering that in the middle of a situation, where there is an old relationship and the family is on the verge of breaking down, from there emerges a new relation that is not based on anything hidden. It is not based on any lie, because the truth is out in its full nudity. And you have accepted that truth. So, when you discover something about your partner and still something binds you with him, it will be much more pure, much more honest. I took the cue from one of Rumi’s lines which says that the light always enters where the crack is. That has been the driving force of this.”
But what can possibly be Shukla’s driving force is tough to gauge. While his hands are full with acting assignments (most recently, as the cutie-pie judge in the two Jolly LLBs), he’s also writing full-time. This is his third play, after 2 To Tango and Barff. He tells me he suffers from a condition that’s only as common as writer’s block: he can’t stop. “If you’re a smoker, you find the time to smoke. In the same way, I keep writing. I have always said in my earlier interviews that I hate writing; it’s a tedious process. But it has become an integral part of my life. When I’m not writing, I’m searching for stories. When you’re acting, you’re not busy the whole day; you’re sitting in your van. So, instead of faffing or b **** ing about other people,
I write.” R300 R1,250
A scene from Jab Khuli Kitaab Saurabh Shukla plays three roles in Jab Khuli Kitaab: of playwright, director and lead actor