“Movies will make you famous; Television will make you rich; But theatre will make you good.” ― Terrence Mann

I pinch myself. And pinch again. Is this really me, at my home, sitting next to the Tripurari, Professor of Acting, and a onetime acting Director, of National School of Drama (NSD). The NSD which counts among its alumni Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Anupam Kher, Irrfan Khan, Raj Babbar and many other famous persons;  and counts among its Directors the one and only Ebrahim Alkazi, the doyen of Indian theatre, the one who revolutionised Hindi theatre.

Is this quite, soft-spoken, understated, humility personified person the Tripurari who was associated with the writing and making of films like like Mirch Masala and Hazaar Chaurasi ki Maa; a playwright of repute whose plays have been translated into French and into many Indian languages; who wrote and directed ‘Kath ki Gaadi’ the famous play on leprosy; winner of Sanskriti Puraskar, 1986, of Delhi Natya Sangh award, 1990, Safdar Hashmi Award of UP Sangeet Natak Akademi;  conferee of the Sangeet Natak Akademi Puraskar – the highest Indian recognition given to practicing artists – 2013;  one of the ninety nine women from India nominated for the ‘Thousand Women for Nobel Peace Prize’ by an international initiative.

Impossible to believe though it is, this unassuming lady I am sitting next to, is that very same Tripurari.

Ask her about acting and theatre and she comes alive. The voice is strong, assured, enthusiastic.

“Acting as an art is a way to break free of the codes handed to us, to live many lives, to experiment with the given moment, to generate a spark. To act is to remove whatever is holding you back, to find a design in any given moment.

Acting always has ‘now’ in it. Acting is about the range of possible experiences that lie within each one of us.”

In theatre “there is instability, but also constant momentum. Theatre is created, then it dissolves and evaporates. It is like dew, like the shadow in water, rather like water, which is more inconsistent than the shadow. You don’t know what remains and what flows. So even while one part of you is crystallizing, another part is already imagining further.

Something that can be said in a few words cannot be the subject of a play. And always there has to be something that provokes you into giving it shape. A creative spirit is restless and cannot be held back. It struggles in unconventional ways to make its impact.

On Street theatre “it is about every citizen’s right to express and be seen and heard in the public domain.  Street theatre performers are often activists for a cause, but street theatre is  not about message, it is about protest, contact and collective reflection. The message is a discovery.

But the process is not about message, it is also not about art. It is about giving form to thought, to sensation, to a happening around. It has to have vitality and vigour and not feel empty to the one who is trying to connect with it. Theatre needs the audience. It is true that theatre is a metaphor of life and it can create ideas and concepts as images, but sometimes one can miss the ordinariness of life in performing spaces, the warmth of people and interesting characters.”

I listen with rapt attention. And even though I am not literate in art and theatre, she is so lucid that I  understand all that she conveys about them. Her enthusiasm is infectious. And so I extract a promise from her that I will get invitations to NSD’s plays and other productions.

An evening worth its weight in gold.


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