Mahesh Dattani on big fat Indian middle-class
HYDERABAD His laughter rings across the open air in a quiet setting at the Taj Banjara as Mahesh Dattani recounts his journey from his days as a copy writer at an ad agency to being the playwright that he is today. As one who has worn multiple hats as an actor, playwright, theatre and film director, Dattani is credited with bringing alive contemporary English theatre in India which explores the big fat Indian middle-class. “In order to write about it, something has to ‘move’ me.
However, my play Final Solutions was written when political parties started debating the status of Babri Masjid. It was Alyque Padamsee who saw the trouble brewing and got me to write about it.
Even as we were rehearsing the play, Babri Masjid fell and we received threats from various quarters. Even the administration in Bangalore asked us, what is the need for staging this at times like these? My answer to them was, it is relevant now and there is a need to bring it out. Only when an issue is covered up, do negative feelings begin to fester,” points out the playwright.
He was in the city as a speaker at the Celebrating Theatre series of lectures and workshops organized by the Qadir Ali Baig Theatre Foundation. Writing plays, as he does, which capture the essence of the humdrum of Indian lives, his choice of English as a language surprises many. “I was born a Gujarati, brought up in Bangalore and studied in an English medium school.
Since I think in English, it is easier to write in it,” replies the man who has directed Morning Raaga and Dance Like A Man, among others. The multiple perspectives which go into writing, directing and enacting a play, give it the final shape, explains Dattani. “One cannot control all the reins of a play.
Writing a play is tricky as you are not writing for the page but for the stage.
The form in which it is received by the audience also depends on the director and the actors.” Is there a threat to the theatre from the cinema? “it is not real,” believes the 53-year-old.
“Theatre usually puts the spotlight on the unknown and unspoken, whereas cinema does the reverse. Comparing both is unfair,” points out the playwright.
Rehearsals for his next play ‘Big Fat Squeeze’ are set to begin next month.
A satire on the aspirational lifestyles led by many people, ‘Big Fat Squeeze’ explores the lies that seep into life when one starts to live beyond one’s means.