On World Theatre Day, artistes share whether or not the digital house is the way in which ahead

Sixty years on from when it was first commissioned in 1961, the World Theatre Day, celebrated on March 27, the ongoing pandemic has created an indefinite distance between theatre-lovers and artistes. As television and online platforms come to the rescue of theatres, we ask actors and directors if this matches the on-stage experience and whether this is the new way forward…

Interim decision

Renowned Chandigarh-based theatre-person Neelam Mansingh Chowdhry has had her play, Black Box, staged digitally recently. She believes that necessity is the mother of invention! “When a play is documented, it is neither theatre nor a film, and one cannot call it a stepsister to cinema. I just see it as an interim decision and not a permanent space,” she says

Re-birth of theatre

Mahesh Dattani

Director, actor and writer Mahesh Dattani has a long list of plays to his credit, including Dance like a man, The big fat city, Final solutions, 30 days in September and Where did I leave my purdah. He says, “Although it was a dark year for theatre, it wasn’t a year wasted. Many had to come to terms with the fact that the concept of time and space, something that we use as tools in theatre, had to be redefined. This has been thrust upon us, but as theatre artistes we must have an ongoing relationship with the here and now. It is hard to tell what the future holds, but I think this has been a rather forcible entry of theatre into digital space.”

Changing contours

Himani Shivpuri

Himani Shivpuri, who is part of Zee Theatre’s popular play Hamidabai Ki Kothi, says, “Many would go to watch a movie in cinema hall, but taking them to theatre was a task. But once you are introduced, you are immediately hooked on to it. In that sense, televising the plays during the pandemic has done something right for our medium.” She looks forward to this new development, as a play can be brought to the people if the reverse isn’t happening anytime soon!

Temporary arrangement

Lillete Dubey

Actor and theatre director Lillete Dubey, who was last seen in an anthology, Unpaused, talks about the impact of the pandemic on theatre, “I know some of us have tried to do things online and it’s wonderful. I have nothing against it, but, personally, I feel the very essence of theatre is human interaction. And that is what I miss the most.” Lillete has directed Zee Theatre plays, Adhe Adhure and Womanly Voices. She adds, “We have to find a way to survive, make money. If the way forward is online productions, there is no harm. But, yes, these are temporary stop-gap arrangements and this is not how theatre is supposed to exist or thrive, either now or in the future…”

Safe & sound

Sonali Kulkarni

Actress Sonali Kulkarni had to call-off an international tour for her play White Lily and Night Rider due to the pandemic. She says, “The seriousness of the pandemic sank in when airports were shut down. I think digital platforms are the key now. No matter which language you want to watch a play in, there are options available. So even though there are constraints, it has opened the doors through which you can reach the audience in a safer way during the pandemic.”

For the future

Aahana Kumra

Actress Aahana Kumra, who is a part of the play Sir Sir Sarla, believes theatre has never been a lucrative source of income in India. She adds, “Artistes pursue theatre for passion. And to keep that passion alive, we should digitise plays to keep a record of what they represent and archive them for the next generation because we never know what the future holds. Regardless of what happens, theatre will survive because there’s an audience eager to watch a play and we just need to reach them in one way or the other.” — TNS

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