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'I like to entertain myself and keep things complicated', Manav Kaul

Updated on: 27 May,2023 08:12 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Suprita Mitter |

Ahead of the premiere of his new Hindi play, the versatile Manav Kaul dissects his life choices that continue to add value to his purpose and repertoire

'I like to entertain myself and keep things complicated', Manav Kaul

A moment from the rehearsal

Writing, acting, or direction — what came first?
I was born in Kashmir but was brought up in Hoshangabad. My schooling was in a small town. I wanted to leave that behind and see the world. I felt that acting would enable me to realise these plans and so I took up theatre in Bhopal. I acted in my first play between 1993 and ’94, and have been writing poetry and plays since 2000.

When I arrived in Mumbai, I wanted to act in television shows, ads and films. But I realised that I still loved theatre the most. So I stopped everything to focus on theatre, and took up writing plays. I like to entertain myself and keep things complicated. I started my theatre company in 2004. I stopped acting for 12 years in between. I tend to do a lot so that I don’t get bored of the things I love. When I write, I can’t keep writing for long periods of time. I need to take a break to miss the art form. That’s when I act. And when I act for too long, I take a break; then, I miss acting so I can give it my 100 per cent. I wanted a life that included acting, writing, directing, travelling and writing books. Right now, I am living the life I dreamt of.

Tell us about your latest play, Tumhaare Baare Mein.
Art is nothing but exploring one’s own world. For example, my first play was a solo play called Shakkar Ke Paanch Daane. Had I done two more similar plays, I would be dead. I didn’t imagine that I would write a complex play like Tumhaare Baare Mein. At this point in life, I want to direct and do new and exciting things. In the case of Tumhaare…, I wanted to write a play with poetic images.

Manav Kaul
Manav Kaul

When I started rehearsing with six fine actors from Mumbai, I used to throw ideas at them and they would react. I would come home and write the ideas down. The next day, I would give them the scene and we would take it forward. In a month and a half, a story began to take shape. It’s like an abstract painting — where when you throw a lot of colours, you begin to see a rough, blurry image.

Your views on access to venues in Mumbai for small or new theatre companies.
While more venues are always welcome, it’s a great time for theatre. Aram Nagar in Andheri West is a hub for new theatre groups. People are performing a lot in smaller venues. Even five years ago, there was just Prithvi Theatre and NCPA. Now, there are many small venues that provide great opportunities. There is an audience for these venues and plays, too. It’s not like an emerging theatre group presents a play after rehearsing for a month and no one shows up. Mumbai has a culture where  people buy tickets for such performances, which I think is great.

Post-pandemic, have theatre audiences returned in full strength?
People seem to be done with TV screens, laptop screens and mobile phone screens. Theatre provides the audience with an opportunity to see live performances, which they weren’t able to do for nearly two years. In fact, I think theatre audiences have increased after the lull during the pandemic.

Your take on the OTT boom...
It’s great as long as it generates work and opportunities for talented people. So many writers have great stories. Young directors come up with good ideas, and skillful actors are plentiful. They are thriving, which is a good thing.

You are an avid traveller. Does it inspire your work?
Travelling is my main profession; everything else is secondary. Being an actor helps a lot because it provides the money and the opportunity to travel. I write a lot when I travel. I enjoy solo travel. I like places with fewer humans. Recently, I was in Scandinavia for two months and almost all the places were absolutely empty. In fact, I have just signed a new project that allows me to act and travel. As long as I find something that excites me for today, it is enough.

On: May 27, 28; 5pm, 7pm 
At: Experimental Theatre, NCPA, NCPA Marg, Nariman Point. 
Call: 66223724 
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Cost: Rs 500 onwards

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