ARTI DAS | NT BUZZ
Rajit Kapur is a name which is synonymous with the famous fictitious character Byomkesh Bakshi, the character he portrayed on television more than 20 years ago. He may not be a movie star but his role of M K Gandhi in Shyam Benegal’s movie ‘The Making of Mahatma’ defined him as a character actor.
However, even though he proved his mettle in both these mediums, it is theatre that keeps him busy.
He is now in Goa with his English play, ‘Sidhus of Upper Juhu’ which is directed by Rahul da Cunha and is co-acted by Shernaz Patel. Incidentally it is these three creative souls who are part of Rage Productions and are responsible for bringing some interesting contemporary plays to audiences across the country.
Speaking about the said play Rajit says, “Sidhus of Upper Juhu’ is about an urban couple who are dealing with the stress and chaos of a city life.” He further states that it was quite easier to enact the role of a middle age urban professional as he could relate to the character on many levels. “As a city person you go through all these issues of city life; be it the traffic jams, barking dogs, road digging. Basically all the tensions of a city life,” says Rajit who mentions that this drama has a humorous tone also.
This is just one of the many plays which Rage Productions has produced since its inception. This 25 year-old theatre company was established to bring in freshness in theatre. “We started this because we wanted to do things ourselves and wanted to do plays which excites us and is of a standard and high value,” says Rajit.
They are also part of an interesting writing exercise called Writer’s Bloc which is directed towards honing the talent of creative writers. Speaking about the initiative Rajit says, “We conduct it every two and half or three and half years, depending on the funds we are able to get as it requires development and involves festival costs. It is a full year long progamme where the applications are selected by Royal Court, London and then they send their own instructor to conduct workshops which are held in three phases and when the plays are ready we find producers and directors for the performance of these plays. We host the first three performances of every play.”
Elaborating about the young breed of playwrights, Rajit says this scenario is quite exciting compared to 25 years ago. “Twenty five years ago not many wanted to do theatre. But, now there are these young writers who want to express themselves. I have seen this especially in these last three years. Also now there are so many theatre groups and not only in a place like Bombay, but also in Chennai, Bangalore, Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad,” says Rajit who further states that even regional theatre is growing like Marathi theatre and that it is constantly evolving and could be considered far more progressive.
For Rajit the reason for his love for theatre is purely because of its form and that he was also influenced by exposure to the world theatre. “Theatre is a live form of art, which cannot be replaced. The energy level is decided there and then itself. Also maybe now because of social media people are more aware about the theatre happening around the world.”
Rajit who became a household name after his television series, ‘Byomkesh Bakshi’ was well appreciated, now believes that television actually ruins the actor and the current trend in television serial writing is very poor. “Television is unplanned in our country. It actually ruins the actor, partly, it becomes more mechanical. Even though we have good production houses, the kind of work that needs to be done on scripts is not happening. Actors are given lines of the scene on the sets,” says Rajit who also opines that Anil Kapoor’s television serial, ‘24’, was a benchmark in the Indian television production and had set a rather high standard.
Rajit does acknowledge the fact that it was the role of Byomkesh Bakshi that proved to be a turning point in his career. “My role in that serial became quite popular. Please understand that for that serial the director (Basu Chatterjee) took one year to write all the stories and script. We shot the entire series in six months. There was a lot of planning and hard work behind that serial. We don’t do that anymore; maybe we do it for the first three episodes but not for the rest of the 300 episodes.”
Rajit who is mainly involved in theatre also acts in movies, but his roles have reduced to special appearances. Recently he was seen playing Arjun Kapoor’s father in R Balki’s ‘Ki and Ka.’ He has also done a cameo in the upcoming movie ‘Azhar.’ He maintains that till now not many exciting roles have come his way. His other upcoming movies include ‘Baar Baar Dekho,’ ‘Phir Se’ by Kunal Kohli and ‘Threshold’ the movie which was premiered at MAMI, last year.
On a concluding note when asked about the Goan audience and performing in Goa, he says, “I don’t think Goan audience are accustomed to theatre coming regularly when you compare it with places like Kolkata, Chandigarh as they have large theatre communities. I am not sure whether theatre attracts Goans as they would rather go for a dance or a music show. Also there is a difference based on a place. When you perform in Panaji the audience is centralized and not too many people want to go all the way to Margao to watch a play. When an outstation theatre group comes all the way to your place to perform, I think one expects more people come to watch your play,” says Rajit.
Rajit also acknowledges that Goa does have a history of Marathi musicals and the ever-popular tiatrs. When asked whether there is disconnect when it comes to contemporary plays, he says, “Yes, could be. But this history is also now waning away. Now, not many people are supportive of the tiatrs also. In fact now in Bombay we have a new play called ‘Loretta House’ which is based on tiatr. But also lots of people in Goa feel that theatre in the state is slowly dying out.”
(English play, ‘Sidhus of Upper Juhu’ will be staged today on April 24 at 7 p.m. at Ravindra Bhavan, Margao as part of the ongoing Kalarang Festival. The play is open to all).