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When Pakistan and India went to walk

“Turning director has made me look at acting and the business of theatre in a new light,” says Ratna Pathak-Shah about her directorial debut, A Walk In The Woods, which premiers tomorrow at the NCPA.


Naseeruddin Shah and Rajit Kapoor in A Walk In The Woods

The well-known actor admits that her experience as a film and, more importantly, as a theatre artiste have helped immensely in her new role. “Interesting” is the word that Pathak-Shah would use to describe the experience. “The challenging part was to be able to trust one’s instincts; to know that what one feels is right,” she says, adding that it took a while before she was able to achieve that sense.

Not according to plan
Initial plans were for actor Naseeruddin Shah, who stars with Rajit Kapoor in the adaptation of Lee Blessing’s 1988 play of the same name, to direct. Sensing that the actor was keen for a third person to lend perspective to the production, Pathak-Shah volunteered to step in. “That is how it happened,” she says. “I have known them both for several years,” says the 49-year-old director. She admits to there being differences of opinion, but that it is part of the process. “Now that the premiere is approaching, there may be a dhamaka of sorts. I’m ready for it,” she laughs.

Teamwork counts
Understanding that it is not a one-man or a one-woman show is what matters most as a director, says Pathak-Shah. “I took suggestions from both Naseer and Rajit, they are seasoned actors, who have also directed in the past. The nature of theatre is such that we do things together. I would never be able to be a writer, as it is a solo job,” she adds.¬†Apart from the fact that the play marks Pathak-Shah’s directorial debut, there is another cause for celebration: Hubby Naseeruddin Shah’s birthday the following day.

Walk the talk
A Walk in the Woods features a conversation between an Indian and a Pakistani diplomat, who decide to take a private walk in the woods with the aim to achieve a breakthrough in peace talks. While Blessing’s play was about an American and a Russian diplomat in talks, theatre group, Motley’s play will feature a Pakistani and an Indian. “It is an interesting play for conflicting nations, and shows how they try to resolve their issues,” says the director, adding, “We plan to take the play to Pakistan as well.”

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