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Theatre Tales: Anecdotes from the Master

Published: 25th September 2015 05:16 AM  |   Last Updated: 25th September 2015 05:16 AM   |  A+A-

Four decades in theatre and veteran artiste Aamir Raza Husain keeps his thirst for knowledge going. He seeks the rush that comes with every theatre production.

The Padmashri Award winner, is in the city for his upcoming play Lion in Winter. Calm and forthright, with a whiff of arrogance and magnanimous charm, Raza’s intimidating presence supercedes his wealth of knowledge and experience. But such is his presence that you are compelled to listen and arrest your attention towards him, the minute he begins to speak.

“Lion in Winter is a play about politics, family, relationships and intrigue. The play depicts the personal and political conflicts of King Henry II of England,” shares Raza, the creative director of Stagedoor Theatre Company, that has staged over 150 productions and more than 5000 performances.

Theatre.jpgDescribing the evolution of theatre, Raza reveals that theatre in each language has different demands, expectations and an audience. “The bottom line is, where theatre has actors, it survives,” he says, candidly.

With increasing prominence of the internet, where young artists can upload their work on YouTube, their chance of being identified by directors is higher. Raza, however, feels it may not be the ideal platform to spot young talent.

“I don’t think it would help (promoting themselves on the internet), because to be a good actor, you have to go through training. You may become a star, but you can never become a good actor without training and discipline,” the veteran performer points out.

Having staged over a hundred productions through his illustrious career, one wonders what goes on behind the scenes before the play commences. “Madness,” he quips.

“Choosing a script is always a huge task. There’s a lot of tension and tussle among us. We have several arguments and disagreements about what the script should be, who should write it, etc. Then it comes down to choosing the cast. Getting the right cast is always a challenge, as it is difficult to find talented actors. We also need to keep the language pristine, that’s very important for me,” explains the 58-year-old.

Many youngsters view theatre as a stepping stone to entering the glamourous film industry, something Raza accepts and agrees with.

“This has been the case for years now and it’s the same thing across the world. But there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s a good thing if more youngsters train themselves in theatre before going straight into films. Great actors like Amitabh Bachchan, Dilip Kumar, Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri – have all had experience in theatre,” he explains.

At a time when large, lavish sets are being erected, scenes are being shot in exotic locales and millions are being spent on film production, Raza laments that filmmakers often tend to overlook the most important part that ties a film together – the script.

“Whether it is theatre, television or films – for any production to succeed, it needs to be a story well told. This small little fact our filmmakers don’t understand. They think that if they shoot in exotic locations with stunning cinematography and rope in a few chase and fight sequences, the movie will become a hit,” Raza exclaims, passionately.

“Over 500 films are made today with the same formula, out of which only five will work. And the fact that these five had done well is probably because it has a good story underneath,” he adds.

When asked how difficult it is to find good writers today, he bluntly quips, “Next to impossible.”

Raza, has done several plays based on Indian mythology, including The Legend of Ram, which is based on the epic Ramayana. Though Indian filmmakers are slowly opening up to mythological concepts – in films like SS Rajamouli’s recent blockbuster Baahubali – the veteran theatre performer is hardly impressed.

“There is a trend developing, and I’m not talking about Baahubali, where we market Indian mythology in a very mediocre way. We do a few films on mythological gods and we do it so badly, but people come to watch because they have an emotional attachment.

But we’re not giving them any quality,” he says, regretfully.

Hyderabad is the second city after Chennai where Aamir Raza Husain and his team will be performing Lion in Winter, and they will be performing through the year, across various cities. 

“These days, thankfully, we run two to three productions consecutively. So while a new production runs its length after an year, we’ll also start running with different people.

This circle took off the year before last and successfully worked last year and we’re hoping it continues this year,” he says, signing off.

Powered by Aircel, Lion in Winter will play in Hyderabad on September 27 at Hotel ITC Grand Kakatiya. Entry by special invitation only.

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