In a class of its own
The Guide caught up with the director and lead actor of The Class Act, an acclaimed comic production that is being staged in Pune
The Class Act is a comic theatrical act that revolves around the crazy activities happening in a classroom. The play, which was first staged four years ago, depicts four students from different religious backgrounds coming together to learn acting. The play focusses on the funny incidents that occur in the course of the classes. In a tete-a-tete with The Guide, writer-director-actor Meherzad Patel and actor Danesh Irani, talk about their play. Excerpts from the interview:
Tell us about your play
The Class Act.
Meherzad: The play is based on an acting class where the students belong to different religious backgrounds and are pitted against each other in various acting exercises. We have shown characters from diverse religions and what happens when they crack jokes on each other and their habits. But we have not hurt any religious sentiments, even though so many characters are involved.
Danesh: I am playing a 50-year old Parsi man in the play. He is fun-loving and full of life. Even though he likes to hit on women younger to him, he is very conventional when it comes to marriage and cannot think of marrying anyone but a Parsi. Hence, I tried to capture the essence of my character by observing the Parsi populace from Parsi colony and all around Mumbai.
What is more difficult to stage: a humorous act or a tragic play?
Meherzad: Undoubtedly, doing comedy is difficult. Tragedy is easier to portray but difficult to connect whereas comedy might look easy to depict but is very difficult to connect with your audience.
Danesh: Relating to your audience is very important if you are putting up a humorous play. You need to modify the script according to your audience. Also, in the comic genre, you cannot just go and mouth the whole script. You need the audience to get involved in the act. So, whenever I receive a response from the audience for any of my plays, I make it a point to welcome it and use it for the benefit of the play.
Is the Indian theatrical scene evolving lately?
Meherzad: Yes, theatre is getting the acclaim it deserves. There are numerous one-act plays and other performances that are growing, lately. These acts are receiving appreciation. People have started paying hundreds of rupees to watch a play which they were not doing earlier. This is a positive outcome considering the movie-culture in India. We, the artistes, also have to keep up with this trend and need to do more shows. Then I feel the theatre culture could see its golden days in India too!
People are enjoying serious acts by Naseeruddin Shah and Lillete Dubey as well as comic plays. So, every genre has got its own audience nowadays?
Danesh: We have been performing The Class Act for the past four years. Over these years, we have changed our script so many times that it has become a 65-page draft compared to the earlier 240-page script. This has been the result of touring extensively. Right from Kochin and Mumbai to Pune, we change the draft according to the need of the audience and still get a great feedback from everywhere. This shows the growth of theatre. For the Pune audience, we have included some Marathi lines in our draft.
On: December 1, 7.30 pm
At Nehru Memorial Hall, Dr Ambedkar Road.
A walk through Mohammed Ali Road's Khau Galli