Lillete Dubey will be staging two English plays on October 3 and 4 at Kala Academy. NT BUZZ caught up with the busy personality to know more
Janice Savina Rodrigues | NT BUZZ
Lillete Dubey is a name to reckon with in the theatre circles across the country. With several other plays bearing her directorial stamp, Lillete has to her credit one of India’s longest running plays in English, Mahesh Dattani’s ‘Dance Like a Man’. For those who are not into theatre, Lillete’s name may strike a bell if you liked her role of Pimmi Verma in ‘Monsoon Wedding’ or that of the sprightly neighbour Jazz Kapoor in ‘Kal Ho Na Ho’. Although her film and television stints may have brought her to a wider audience, it is her first and only love, theatre, that she keeps her going.
And now, she wants the Goan audience to fall in love with the same theatre she so adores. In her maiden attempt to break into the Goan theatre market and bring to Goa some of the best her theatre company – Primetime Theatre – has to offer, Lillete will stage two plays, ‘Gauhar’ and ‘Salaam Noni Appa’ at the Kala Academy. The two plays are diverse in their genre and stand in contrast in every aspect.
“One is a period piece with a lot of music, set in 1902, while the other is a completely contemporary autumn romance,” says Lillete with the enthusiasm of a mother talking about her children.
The two hour play Gauhar has wonderful singing, beautiful costumes by Shyam Benegal’s daughter – Pia Benegal, and simple but attractive sets, “It is a drama with a lot of music and a little of humour”, while on the other hand ‘Salaam Noni Appa’ is a delightful one with tongue-in-cheek humour, a play about breaking stereotypes, about taking chances, about rediscovering what makes life truly meaningful and worth living; it is based on Twinkle Khanna’s short story from her book ‘The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad’. “I like the way she has a sense of humour for the everyday things in life; it is very relatable and has been adapted into a script, very well, by Adhir Bhatt,” says Dubey.
Like most of Lillete’s plays, these two are born out of her passion for Indian writing in English. “I set up my company 28 years back with two aims: to do theatre in English, but Indian English, based on material written in India, stories that were about us in an Indian voice. And second to take Indian theatre to the world. Hence I choose stories that were written in our voice reflecting our ethos and culture but still universal thus enabling us to do them anywhere in the world,” she says.
Gauhar based on a well researched book titled My name is Gauhar Jaan by Vikram Sampath, has done a number of shows since 2015 and recently done a tour in America and London. “Gahuar was the first woman to record her voice on a gramophone and she was very feisty, independent, a composer, lyricist, and her music is still sung. The research for the play only involved getting the music right, because everything else was in the book. We didn’t want to play the scratched recordings so we had our actors undergo training and sing the songs. We have tried to follow her personal life in the play scripted by Mahesh Dattani. People have loved the play so much that Ashutosh Gowariker is now keen to make a biopic on Gauhar Jaan,” says Dubey.
And how did plays from India perform across the globe? “The audience would be zapped. We were the most travelled company and we had taken home grown products to the world. We have been lucky to perform off the Broadway circuits, not only for the NRIs but also the local audiences and we have been appreciated,” says Lillete.
After getting rave reviews from across the globe, Lillete was struck by the thought that being so close to Mumbai, Goa has not yet opened up to the English theatre. “We travelled across India to even cities like Jaipur, Lucknow, Amhedabad, Baroda. But never come to Goa. While Goa has such a strong tradition of theatre in the form of tiatr, it is not yet open to plays from Mumbai or Delhi,” she says dejectedly. She hopes with the coming of her plays the trend sees a change.
(‘Gauhar’ will be staged at Kala Academy on Wednesday, October 3, 2018 at 7p.m. and ‘Salaam Noni Appa’ will be staged at Kala Academy on Thursday, Oct 4, 2018 at 7p.m. Tickets are available at bookmyshow.com and at the venue)