When the stage beckons
It was his own mid-life crisis that led Saurabh Shukla to pen a play that's about a man undergoing a similar situation.
But more than the great response it has received, it’s the fact that he could get back to his first passion — theatre — after a gap of 18 years, that makes Saurabh even happier. The man who wears many hats (he’s acted, directed and written the play), spoke to CS about his return to theatre:
Revisiting his youth
I have directed plays when I was in Delhi but that was way back in the early 80s or 90s. Post that, I haven’t done directed any play. I don’t know whether it was difficult but it was definitely exciting. Theatre had become a romantic dream for me. It’s like you had a crush and then you moved on. For 18 years I kept remembering that old crush, so this was almost like revisiting my youth.
I was around 33 years old when I gave up smoking. For eight years, I didn’t smoke. When I reached my 40s, I don’t know what happened. I was happy but I was bored. Mid life crisis has a peculiar way. You wake up and start questioning your existence, your talent, your position in society and even yourself. And when that started happening to me, there was an acute desire to do something radical. I had two popular options — either have an extra marital affair or go back to smoking. I chose the latter as I’m quite happy with my personal life. Also, I realised smoking comes with lesser baggage than women. (laughs)
Creating a balance
What I was happy about was that on the surface level, there were a lot of comic situations but there are deeper questions as well. As Chaplin said, life is a comedy in a wide frame but a tragedy in a close up. What he means is that comedy is never complete without pathos in it. I have seen a couple of plays that were quite deep but difficult to accept, some that are funny but you don’t take back anything home. I wanted something that people will enjoy but also have something to think about.
Input before output
I would love to do more plays. Though it’s not economically viable, as playwriting won’t give me as much money as a film can give. So that’s the practical side. But what I have realised is that if I need to write good films, then I need to do this exercise which is not money-oriented. Tomorrow, I might write something which is not liked by people but that’s okay. What happens in films is that it pushes your career back but in theatre, people are more understanding. Even if I try something that they don’t like, they have the patience to say fine, it didn’t work but it is something which was new that you tried.