Playing to their strengths

Updated: Mar 13, 2019, 08:56 IST | Snigdha Hassan

A new production on the lives of two brothers played by Darsheel Safary and Abhishek Pattnaik tells you how multiple personality disorder needn't be anything like its cinematic portrayal

Playing to their strengths

The mention of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DIO), more popularly known as multiple personality disorder, is likely to evoke memories of chilling sequences featuring James McAvoy in Split (2016). Or closer home, Vidya Balan in her blood-thirsty alter ego of Manjulika in Bhool Bhulaiyaa (2007). Theatre director Suketu Shah's response was no different when writer-actor Abhishek Pattnaik suggested it as the crux of their new play. So, before embarking on their production, Kaise Karenge, the duo decided to further educate themselves about the mental health condition through online research and speaking to psychologists, and came away surprised.

"Dissociative identity disorder [DIO] is often bracketed with violent personalities who do grotesque things, thanks to their on-screen portrayal. But there is really nothing to be scared of. In fact, it could even be a case of multiple specialties — more like a superpower — which comes across in the play," says Shah, who started Out of the Box Production with Pattnaik over seven years ago, making it one of the youngest professional theatre companies in the country.


Keeping up with the young vibe, the cast of the play, which revolves around the story of two brothers, includes Pattnaik and Darsheel Safary in the lead roles. Safary, known for his moving portrayal of a dyslexic child in Taare Zameen Par, plays the younger brother. A smart 21-year-old who already has four patents to his name and is about to leave for the US for his masters at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, his world changes when he realises his elder sibling suffers from DIO. He decides to stay on, and figure out their lives together.

"I am not from a science background, so I had to take a mini crash course in it from friends pursuing their studies in the stream," admits Safary, who completed his graduation in mass media, and is considering a masters in filmmaking. Having made his foray in theatre with the English comedy Can I Help You? this is his third play.

When asked about the experience of acting on the stage vis-à-vis for the camera, he shares, "In theatre, you get to see the audience reaction live, which helps forge a connect with them. It also limits the room for error. So, with all your senses switched on, it sharpens you as an actor. This is a skill I hope to employ before the camera, too."


About playing multiple characters rolled into one, Pattnaik says that it took three months of rehearsal to get a grip over them. "I speak in Hindi; Hindi with a touch of Haryanvi; and like a pakka Mumbaikar in the roles I play. That required me to shed all inhibitions, and practise switching seamlessly from one role to another using body language and intonation," he says.

Having started out as management students who plunged into theatre full time, Pattnaik and Shah also want to use their productions to encourage young people to consider making a living in the medium. "Theatre is a challenging medium to work and survive in. Finding the right people to work with is another challenge. We learnt everything on the job," shares Shah. Pattnaik is quick to add, "But we have made it for seven-plus years. And that's the message we want to send out."

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