Out of the book, onto stage

It’s not so much his words that speak.

Published: 16th September 2018 08:53 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th September 2018 08:53 AM   |  A+A-

(Top and above) Stills from The Mystery of Three Quarters; Sunit Tandon (below)

It’s not so much his words that speak. It’s those pauses he takes between carefully strung, circumspect sentences that becomes a narrative of intrigue. Sunit Tandon is an actor. He knows how to display his emotions, but at the same time, he also knows how to thoroughly conceal them. We met him at his sixth-floor office in the nucleus of city’s thriving cultural flurry, India Habitat Centre, where he sits in a big room overlooking the sprawling skyline of South Delhi.

Limitless, just like the broad blue sky, are Tandon’s artistic aspirations. Despite holding the mantle of Directorship of the Centre, he makes time for his acting odyssey, that he’s been in the pursuit of since his college days at St. Stephen’s.

With his upcoming dramatised reading of The Mystery of Three Quarters, a whodunit by the late English writer Agatha Christie, he seems a tad perturbed. As he speaks to us, he doesn’t reveal too much. But again, every now and then, his silences slips verities.

The new Poirot Mystery of Agatha Christie, written by Sophie Hannah, has been adapted and directed by senior actor and director Jalabala Vaidya. Tandon plays Hercule Poirot.

In the book, Poirot must solve the puzzle of why four letters containing his forged signature have been sent to four different persons accusing them of the murder of Barnabas Pandy. Then there is the mystery of the plagiarism of the Church Window Cake.

The show is presented in association with HarperCollins India. Following the presentation will be the launch of the eponymous book.

Tandon’s seniority, both at work and theatre, makes a strong case for his strait-laced stance, as he speaks to us about the upcoming reading. What’s interesting is that he sheds every bit of this primness when acting on stage, getting savagely into the skin of any character he plays.  

It’s a hobby that he’s unfailingly kept up. Acting keeps him centred as it takes him away from his preoccupations. “You forget about the job you’re doing and the seat you are sitting on. You become somebody else, forgetting  yourself. This act of withdrawing gives one perspective,” says Tandon.

His upcoming characterisation of Hercule Poirot is a daunting proposition, says the thespian. Christie’s detective Poirot, as against Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s extremely popular detective Sherlock Holmes, seems to be a new challenge for him. “I actually never thought I would be playing him ever. I am nothing like Poirot in terms of physical resemblance or in the way people popularly imagine him to be,” he says. However, by developing empathy for a character, one can perform a part with ease, he believes.
It all boils down to associating oneself with work that gives one satisfaction. Theatre gives him that in abundance.

However, acting is not for everybody, he says. It’s for those who have an innate capability to form a relationship with a story and are able to identify with a character’s emotions. Otherwise, he says, it’s highly unlikely that you can become an actor.

For a good part of our tête-a-tête, Tandon’s pensive eyes barely make eye contact with our inquisitive ones. So, as our curiosity peaks, we follow his gaze to the point where they freeze intermittently. Ironically, it’s the same place our eyes had first gotten fixated when we entered his room—in the direction  of the deep blue skys that hold limitless possibilities. Perhaps, they are telling of the way Tandon’s eyes are firmly set on the goal. September 16: Akshara Theatre, 11-B Baba Kharak Singh Marg, 6 pm onwards.

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