SACHI NAIK | NT BUZZ
- You have been a child artiste in films like Love in Simla (1958), Dhool Ka Phool (1959) and Phool aur Kaliyan (1960). How did you get take the path to directing films?
In the early days, our industry followed a few norms to consider a person capable of being a hero. The ‘hero’ needed to be tall with good looks and healthy physique. Though I was a child actor, in my early years, I thought I would not qualify to be a hero because I am short, but I wanted to be in this industry. So I decided that if acting is not the option, then I can get into direction. That is how I began assisting film director Yash Raj Chopra, and also spread my wings into theatre.
- how was the learning experience under a stalwart like Yash Chopra?
In this industry, I did learn many new lessons as I assisted film directors and directed theatre plays. I learnt how to interact with actors; when to be truthful and when to lie; and when you lie it should be beneficial for the film and not to harm anyone. I learned that how according to the film and character I have to select a suitable actor. When I worked with Yash Chopra, I saw how he would take care of the comforts of all his actors and crew members, maintaining the time schedule for shooting. We would work like a family where everyone in the team would be involved in the celebrations. This is not the case in Hollywood; there it only has to do with work. Here everything works on the relationships you maintain with each other.
- How different it is to direct a film and play?
There is a major difference in the technicalities of these mediums. Cinemas were earlier shot on celluloid and now updated to digital. In theatre you do not require such technicalities, but you need to understand that it is live and continuous. In cinema, the scenes you create are visible directly, and in theatre you create a scene through content where audience starts thinking, imagining and further developing the story in their minds. In theatre spectators have to be emotionally moved.
- Do you follow a certain criteria to select a particular actor for the character in the theatre?
I do two types of plays – one that I like and I feel is great to do with my group of actor friends; and others that I can do with film stars. In the first type, I only select my friends as the cast in the play that I direct. ‘Kashmakash’ is the play that Avtar Gill had heard of or read somewhere. He told me about it and got me the book. I read it and I liked it. So we went on to do it. Here the intention is doing quality work, and nothing commercial.
Secondly, I have directed plays with film stars like Jaya Bachchan, Zeenat Aman, Shatrugan Sinha and Shabana Azmi. When I direct such plays, I know that the spectators come to watch the film stars and not just the play. So I make sure that the spectators are satisfied with the role that their favourite stars play. These are big budget plays.
- Acting is the strength of theatre actors regardless of their looks, physique, etc. How is it to work with those film stars who have never performed theatre?
In films, actors learn their script, perform it and forget it after a perfect shot. In theatre actor has to rehearse continuously. For at least six weeks, a theatre performer has to say the same thing, walk and behave in a particular style and maintain mannerism of the character which becomes habitual to them. Eventually the time comes that actor naturally moves and delivers their dialogues as if they are the characters themselves. Some film stars usually find difficult to act in theatre because they have to perform continuously for two hours without any takes. Moreover, here their expressions, body language are noticed simultaneously. But once you latch on to the craze for theatre acting, you cannot get away from it. It is a lifelong addiction.
- Theatre is a culture in Maharashtra. What is your opinion about that?
Yes, it is a culture in Maharashtra. If you visit the auditorium of Shivaji Mandir in Maharashtra, you will see some or the other Marathi play running there. Marathi theatre culture began centuries ago and continued to update with changing times. They have compelled other languages to perform theatre. We go to watch Marathi plays and sometimes we feel that we must translate and perform it in Hindi. In the initial years, five shows of a Hindi play would be celebrated as a silver jubilee. It takes time to start theatre, but once it starts it lasts forever.