Stay tuned for our exclusive excerpt series from the Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards (META) coffee table book, which celebrates 10 years of the illustrious awards
Verve & META exclusive preview:
Theatre critic and professor
But times have changed. In India, our so-called globalised or liberalised marketplace has pressured newspapers into discarding theatre reviews altogether – for how many readers see plays anyway? Film and book reviews still appear, and at a pinch music and art reviews. But theatre or dance? Forget it. What has happened is that our otherwise alert press has unilaterally muzzled the voices of artistic plurality.
Other factors also work against the theatre critic nowadays. The columns he featured in previously have been handed over to previews, many of which can be bought. The preview is by nature uncritical: it just gives positive mileage to the upcoming production. This kind of ‘culture’ means that theatre artists themselves have grown accustomed to reading good news about them in advance.
Actor and Director
“No, no, no, for God’s sake we have got it all wrong.
Maybe the mistake is a very basic one. When a French person goes to watch a film – they say ‘I am going to the cinema’. When they want to watch a theatrical production; they say ‘We are going to the theatre’.
When an Indian wants to watch a film, we say, ‘We are going to the theatre…to watch a film’. No wonder we end up watching what we watch! That is where the fundamental problem is.
Can we please call cinema ‘cinema’ and theatre ‘theatre’, to start with?”
Film, television and theatre actor
“Once, I was arrested just before a showing of ‘Tumhari Amrita’ on charges of rioting. The police were lathi charging the slum dwellers. We at Niwara Hakk (a housing rights group I work with) were trying to bring the situation under control, but were arrested instead. On principle, I absolutely refused to take bail — I had done nothing wrong. We had a performance at 6 pm at the NCPA. Farooque Shaikh, Javed Akhtar, Feroze Khan, Kaifi Saheb and my mother turned up. “Beta,” she reasoned with me, “We come from a theatre family and believe the show must go on.” She pleaded with the police to let me go for just 2 hours to do the play and then she would personally bring me back so that they could lock me up for the night. Earlier, at the auditorium, she had told the audience what had happened – no one left their seats. And when, after negotiations with the authorities, I reached NCPA a little after 8 pm, I saw that no one had left. We got a standing ovation.”