World Theatre Day: Zee Theatre talents recount the challenges of the new normal
The ongoing pandemic has impacted all aspects of life in multiple ways and the performing arts are no exception. The ebb and flow of uncertainty and hope continue in 2021 and on World Theatre Day, some of Zee Theatre’s talents hold forth on how the onset of COVID-19 last year affected them personally and just what they foresee as the future of theatre in the time to come.
Mahesh Dattani, Sonali Kulkarni, Lilette Dubey, and Aahana Kumra also discuss ways to sustain theatre today.
Aahana Kumra who stars in Zee Theatre’s teleplay, ‘Sir Sir Sarla’, adds, “Nothing can replace the feeling that you get while performing live before an audience. Thankfully, after a long lull, a lot of theatres are opening. I and some fellow artists have been cheering each other all this while by rehearsing safely and doing a couple of Zoom readings.”
About digitised plays, she says, “We have to move with the times because digital spaces are where millennials are. Digitised plays can broaden the appeal of theatre and extend its reach.”
Sonali Kulkarni who stars in Zee Theatre's teleplays, ‘White Lily & Night Rider,’ and ‘Rahenge Gardish Mein Taare,’ says she had to call off her tour to the US for her play, 'White Lily and Night Rider' in March 2020. She says, “The pandemic has obviously been hard not only for the actors, directors, and writers but also for technicians, light men, sound designers, set designers, play coordinators, booking assistants. The entire theatre fraternity across regions, states, big and small towns have been in a crisis and we need to somehow find alternative sources of income for people whose livelihoods have been taken away.”
She misses the adrenaline rush of performing live but is happy that during this time, digitised plays have made the works of fabulous playwrights and the magic of theatre accessible to people right at home.
Mahesh Dattani is the first playwright in English to be awarded the Sahitya Akademi award and has directed plays like ‘Dance Like A Man,’ ‘The Big Fat City,’ ‘Final Solutions,’ ’30 Days In September’ and ‘Where Did I Leave My Purdah?’. He offers a more hopeful perspective of the times and says, "Although 2020 was a dark year, it wasn't a year wasted. Many practitioners learnt new skills and connected with artists across the world through online readings, workshops, performances, and more. I have never directed two plays simultaneously in my life but I did it during the pandemic.”
According to Dattani, in the absence of live theatre, hope will stay alive because “Theatre is the parent of every other form of storytelling and will remain irreplaceable. The pandemic is like a hiccup compared to what theatre people have to go through in the best of times! As for digitisation, it foreshadowed the pandemic in a way, and am grateful for the service it has rendered to the theatre.”
Lillette Dubey who has directed Zee Theatre’s teleplay ‘Womanly Voices,’ says, “I know some of us have tried to do things online in the past year and it's wonderful. Personally, though, I feel the very essence of theatre is human interaction and that is what I miss the most.”