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

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