It’s Time to Play Again
Covid might have left theatre crippled, but Lillete Dubey is now helping lead a revival of sorts. From July 19-24, she will be staging five of her plays in Mumbai in a bid to bring back audiences to Prithvi Theatre.
Q. How does it feel now that theatre is up and running after the long pandemic hiatus?
It feels wonderful. It was like one was living a partial life with something vital missing. For me at least, something that completed my life was gone. I think the major challenge now is to get audiences back into the theatre. There is still a sense of wariness about the virus, about being in an enclosed space with a lot of people, and the uncomfortable aspect of wearing a mask. But we are going to test the waters very soon! showing at Prithvi this month. In some ways, they trace your trajectory—from Dance Like a Man, which has been running for more than 25 years, to the latest, Lockdown Liaisons. What has the journey been like?
Tough, exhilarating, demanding and deeply fulfilling! We chose a difficult path.
To do largely new original Indian plays in English (not big western hits), written by both contemporary writers like Mahesh Dattani, and by theatre legends like Girish Karnad, together with old classics of Vijay Tendulkar and others. New plays
a lot of rewriting
and reshaping and haven’t established themselves with long successful runs, like big international hits. But that’s what made the journey risky and exciting.
Q. What is it like directing and acting in a play like Lockdown Liaisons, which is so rooted in the pandemic, whose horrific memories are still very fresh and alive?
The best thing about Lockdown Liaisons is that though it’s set in the lockdown, the play is essentially a collection of short stories about human relationships of different kinds. The lockdown is just the trigger that brings things to the surface. Reliving some of what happened was (like the play) partly emotional, partly very moving and partly funny, too. Because it’s not just about the lockdown, the play will have a long run, and be relatable for a long time.
Q. You have worked across film, television and theatre. Do you have a favourite medium?
The stage gives an actor the kind of range and freedom to express her talent in a way no other medium can. The stage belongs to an actor, while the screen belongs to a director and his vision. Being producer and director of my own plays, I decide the content of my plays and can talk about any subject that I want to. Plays go where other mediums rarely do.
Q. Many art forms were forced to go digital during the pandemic. Has theatre also had to evolve in an e-avatar?
For me, theatre belongs on stage, in front of a live audience. It’s the interplay of energies between the actor and the audience that makes it such an extraordinary shared experience. ■
“The interplay of energies between the actor and the audience makes theatre such a shared experience”