25 January, 2021

‘Stage Is Struggling But We Will Find Ways To Tell Stories’

Actor Vinay Pathak tells Lachmi Deb Roy how theatre artistes are struggling to keep the art alive during the Covid pandemic.

‘Stage Is Struggling But We Will Find Ways To Tell Stories’

The stay-six-feet-away, contact-killing coronavirus has consigned entertainment to the digital space—movies to concerts. Stage plays are playing along too. One such play is I Don’t Like It As You Like It, with actor Vinay Pathak in a pivotal role. He tells Lachmi Deb Roy how theatre artistes are struggling to keep the art alive.

Tell us about the play.

It is loosely based on Shakespeare’s As you Like It. The plot is a comedy of errors; mistaken identity. It is about lovers and the philosophy of love. Some of Shakespeare’s greatest lines have come from this play. It is about two very different couples. What we brought into the adaptation are the clowns. Popo, Soso, Fefe, Mimi, Coco, Fido.  It explores their relationships.

Do digital plays digital lose their essence?

Digital theatre is a new concept. We will find out. It will certainly not be the euphoric experience of watching a live stage performance. It definitely cannot replicate that. If we look at history, some plays telecast live from Broadway are not the same. It’s like listening to a live classical music concert on radio. Digital platforms cannot be like live concerts. Cannot replace or be a substitute for an in-person theatre play. But these are trying times. Online is the best possible way out.

OTT is the future…

When television came, people said it is going to wipe out cinema. That didn’t happen. The two mediums co-exist. Look at TV and look at how many channels we have today. But that didn’t leave cinema halls empty. They are different experiences. Digital entertainment is a new medium. It’s too early to pass judgement.

Stage shows are riding a rough patch…

Nothing is easy these days in the wake of what we are going through. Why just entertainment, even basic things like going to a dentist and taking your child to a paediatrician, going to the hospital, going to see my mother in another city…nothing is normal. So, how will stage performance not get affected? The fact that we are doing plays is commendable. The government allowing theatres to reopen makes me hopeful. That’s what the human race is all about. We are always hopeful. We know how to come out of a tight spot, deal with it.

Stage plays are going through a bad phase, but theatre was never flourishing anyway. Stage artistes have always been struggling. It is their passion driving them on. Raang manch ki bhabishya ka joh baat kaarta hai, hum toh hamesha sehi ghisatthe rahe hai. Lekin hum usi mein aapni kaala banata hai (Those talking about the future of theatre, we have always been grinding it out. But we create our craft in that hardship). That’s the charm of this medium, it’s like you put your hand into it and get it dirty. It’s an art form and it has so many variables like the other genres. I am sure and hopeful that we will find newer ways to exist and flourish. We will create ways to tell our stories. That’s my faith in the medium.

Future projects…

There are a couple of feature films. Theatre is happening since the government announced fifty per cent occupancy. I am doing a run of Nothing Like Lear at Prithvi Theatre. I am writing and creating new work too. As I said we have to dirty our hands and legs.

How are shoots happening?

It’s unbelievable how things are happening and I have been doing it for two months now. I haven’t touched any of my co-actors and we are almost finishing shooting a film. It is absolutely amazing. For intimate scenes, thank god I don’t get those films. I see innovation flourishing into this art.

Message to newcomers…

Be honest and joyous. The newcomers are more intelligent than what we have been and I feel the brand-new generation is from a smarter gene pool. They are more equipped to deal with adversity than we ever were capable of. That’s why I am hopeful for theatre and cinema.

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