As co-founders of RAGE, one of the most popular theatre production companies in Mumbai, they have worked together for over 25 years. So the chemistry they share reflects in their flawless performances too. No wonder, when Rajit Kapur and Shernaz Patel came to the city of Bhubaneswar as ‘The Siddhus of Upper Juhu’, they enthralled the audience with their talent and creativity on stage! The play, which was staged at Rabindra Mandap as part of a fund-raising event by Zain Foundation, received an overwhelming response from Bhubaneswarites.
My City Links had the opportunity to catch up with the two lead actors of the play for an exclusive interview.
Popularly known as ‘Byomkesh Bakshi’ among the masses for playing the lead character in the TV series of the same name, Rajit Kapur is a national award-winning theatre and film actor with an experience of more than 25 years in the industry. Some of his notable works include movies like ‘The Making of the Mahatma’, ‘Agnisakshi’, ‘Zubeidaa’, ‘Guzaarish’, ‘Ki & Ka’, ‘Roy’, ‘Begum Jaan’ and plays such as ‘Love Letters’, ‘Are there Tigers in the Congo?’, ‘A Walk in the Woods’, ‘Flowers’ and ‘The Siddhus of Upper Juhu’.
However, Rajit is best known for his work in the TV series ‘Byomkesh Bakshi’ in which he played the detective character of Byomkesh Bakshi. The show aired on DD in the 90s and was a blockbuster back then. Kapur is also a director and producer. ‘Mahua’ is a Hindi play directed by him. Excerpts from the interview
Tell us about the play ‘The Siddhus of Upper Juhu’
The play tells the story of a middle-aged couple who lives in Mumbai and is stressed about the city life, what it does to them and how it brings about a change in their lives. They are fed up with the day to day problems they face living in the city. I am playing the protagonist character of Mr. Siddhu in the play.
Tell us something about your production company RAGE.
I, Shernaz Patel and Rahul da Cunha, three of us are the founder members of RAGE. Our company has successfully completed 25 years recently and it is a big achievement for us. We have been performing plays not just in India, but also abroad. We started this company years ago with an objective to encourage new writing, new talent towards theatre in India.
Despite theatre being one of the best mediums for entertainment, why aren’t people much interested in it?
Of course, theatre is one of the best modes of entertainment. As an actor, I think there is no greater challenge than performing theatre. But it is still looked on as ‘cheap entertainment’. People don’t want to buy a ticket to come to see a live performance. They will pay for a music concert or a movie, but they are hesitant to pay for theatre shows. We have to take a step to change this habit of the masses. So free tickets shouldn’t be given to anybody. No one should be invited and called to watch a play for free. If they really want to watch and enjoy a play, they need to pay and come to witness the live performances.
Youth are much more into cinema than theatre. How do you think can this be changed?
Oh yeah! Today’s youth are mostly into social media. But gradually their interest in theatres and plays is on a rise. In the last five years, we have seen more and more younger people coming to watch plays. The perspective is slowly changing and I hope it continues to change. Youth are getting attracted towards theatre. It’s a good sign.
Born to Gujarati-Parsi theatre actors Ruby and Burjor Patel, Shernaz Patel has the acting genes in her blood. Having completed her ‘Masters in Acting’ from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, Glasgow, Scotland, Shernaz has done a lot of movies as well as plays. Some of her notable works in cinema include ‘Black’, ‘Humko Deewana Kar Gaye’, ‘Family – Ties of Blood’, ‘Little Zizou’, ‘Guzaarish’, ‘Rockstar’, ‘Talaash’, ‘Aatma’, ‘Roy’ and ‘Azhar’.
Shernaz does both English and Hindi films and theatre, ‘Love Letters’ being her debut English play opposite Rajit Kapur and directed by Rahul da Cunha, both of whom are her college mates. Excerpts from the interview
Brief us about your character in the play.
I play the character of Behroze Siddhu, who is a Parsi woman married to a Punjabi man. Such marriages are common in Mumbai. We are sort of a typical middle class family living in Mumbai who has to deal with certain civic and civil problems. As the play is comic, my character has a certain humour element to it. Behroze has to deal with a crazy husband which is played by Rajit. And the journey follows.
Which is more difficult for you, theatre or cinema?
People think theatre is much difficult than cinema because it is live, but for me, it’s not. I find cinema much harder than theatre because you have to be so truthful. The camera is so close to your face. Your eyes read. Even a slight lift of your eyebrow says something. The internal work that you have to do to find the character you are playing in the film is very tough. You have to do takes after takes, and every time you have to do it right. That needs a huge skill and I think a lot of Bollywood actors do it damn well.
I feel the biggest advantage of theatre is that there is no scope for takes and retakes. We do rigorous rehearsals for theatre for weeks and that is why I am prepared and ready to perform at the stage. Here, you get used to the fact that anything can happen or go wrong. That is why the mind is quite aware and understands the kind of focus required.
Having acted in numerous plays, which one of it would you call your personal favourite?
‘Love Letters’ is my favourite play among all those I have acted in and it also has Rajit as the protagonist. We started doing the play in 1992 and even today we are performing it! Literally speaking, we have done it for half of our lives now. The play is about a wonderful love story which is still contemporary. Every time we have done it, a whole new generation of audience has come forward to watch it.
Can you share any memorable moment from your Bollywood career?
Memorable moments are many. But I have enjoyed the most during the shooting of ‘Black’. All of us were like a family. There wasn’t any feeling of big or small actor, everybody was equal. And nobody expected the movie to be so big and impactful. I had a great time with the co-actors shooting at Shimla.
Tell us about your favourite actors from theatre as well as cinema.
In theatre, I really admire Naseeruddin Shah. When you watch him on stage, there is so much detailing in his work. And not to mention, Rajit is fantastic. We have been doing theatre for all these years and he has always been very supportive and motivating. In case of cinema, a lot of these young actors are really good. I like the work of Ranbir Kapoor and Ranveer Singh. That apart, Hrithik Roshan and Aamir Khan are excellent.
What do you have to say about Bhubaneswar?
My impression about Bhubaneswar is quite good. As a city, the kind of roads that you have makes us feel envious. Because we don’t have such kind of roads in Mumbai to travel on. And it just seems so much quieter than Mumbai, so I am liking it here. This is my second visit to the city. My first encounter with Bhubaneswar was a few years ago when I came for the play called ‘The Bureaucrat’ for the Times of India festival. It’s a lovely and beautiful place.