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Bollywood actor Sharman Joshi on his new Hindi play

At 9.30 am, two days before the inaugural show of his first directorial venture, actor Sharman Joshi is at rehearsals in boxers and a vest inside the bone-chillingly cold Yashwant Rao Chavan Natya Sankul in Matunga. Joshi, who is also the producer and the lead actor, is in costume for the play Main Aur Tum. A Hindi adaptation of Bernard Slade’s Same Time, Next Year, it also features Marathi actress Tejashri Pradhan. Joshi talks about returning to the stage and his love for theatre.

Q. How do you shift between theatre and films?
A. Theatre is where I come from. My family also has theatre persons largely. I did rigorous theatre for 10 years, while I was doing films. Then, for the next 10 years I concentrated only on films. But once a theatre actor, the thrill and excitement is what you would always want to go back to, and experience more. I’ve been fortunate to be born to modern theatre. By the time I was doing theatre, the usual clichés attached it were not thrust on me. Also, the sound system had improved largely. So, I didn’t have to throw my voice. A year and a half back I did a play after a decade (Raju Raja Ram Aur Main), and I felt that I was depriving myself of the pleasure that an actor gets by being on stage. This is a treat for me. Stage gives me more freedom and thrill. As for balancing films and theatre projects, it is all about time management.

Sharman Joshi
Sharman Joshi

Q. Which is more enjoyable?
A. From an actor’s perspective, yes. If it is just cinematic viewing, a film is a huge canvas and looks larger than life. For a film, you sit back in a hall and wait for the judgement on a Friday. That excitement is different. Also, film actors have massive technical support — from how you look to doing retakes.

Q. How has the experience of directing been so far?
A. It has been enlightening. Now, as an actor, if I go on a set or stage, I will be more sensitive to directors as I understand their plight. I know what my director will want from me as an actor. It will be more pleasant for directors (laughs). Turning a director was an intuitive feeling. I felt like directing this play.

Q. What made you pick this play?
A. About 30 to 35 years back, I had seen my father and my aunt (Arvind Joshi and Sarita Joshi) perform the play in Gujarati, titled Mausam Chalke. I was impressed and it had left an imprint on my mind. In my teens, I reread the play and wanted to do it but my dad felt I was too young for it at that time. So, I always had my eyes on it. Even in India, it has been done in various languages. At that time, my uncle (Pravin Joshi, he acted in the Gujarati version too) had directed it in Hindi for Shafi Inamdar and Reema Lagoo. Vikram Gokhale and Swati Chitnis did it in Marathi while my dad directed the English version with Ronnie Screwvala in it. It is a timeless piece; even today I didn’t need to make any changes to the story.

Q. Does being a Bollywood actor help get in the audience?
A. The Hindi film industry isn’t like south Indian or Marathi industry, where the audience is loyal to an actor they are in love with. Also, in Hindi and Gujarati theatre [where I come from], the audience is fairly ruthless, you better be worth their time and money. Only if that happens, they will continue to watch. So, my face will probably attract the audience for the first two or three shows, but after that it is all about the play.

Q. Have you been able to do justice to your roles as a director and an actor?
A. Time will tell. The process has been satisfying, but the outcome is not in my hands.

Q. What are your earliest theatre memories?
A. The theatre at Jaihind College and Tejpal auditorium had a drinking water fountain so I used to find it very cool as a kid. I started tagging along with my father when I was four or five years old. My kids dropped by this week too, and they did a small performance and charged us Rs 100 each.

Sharman Joshi with his father, Gujarati theatre artiste, Arvind Joshi pics/pradeep Dhivar
Sharman Joshi with his father, Gujarati theatre artiste, Arvind Joshi. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar

It runs in the family
I had writers, directors, poets, actors come to my house to brainstorm; I have been very fortunate, as certain laws of how to play the game have been embedded in me by listening to their conversations. When I came on stage, I felt that I belonged there. My dad was a star on the Gujarati stage. So, I was given star treatment. Initially all the work that I did, the response I would get is, ‘You are good but your dad was the dude’, so it was burdening.

On May 22
At Nehru Centre, Worli.
On May 28
At Tata Theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point.
On May 29
At Prabodhankar Thackeray Auditorium, Borivali (W).

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