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The art of being alive
Rajit Kapur at the unveiling of Airtel Lifestage, in association with t2, at Fortune Select Loudon on Tuesday. Picture by Rashbehari Das

Your website reads, ‘15 years and we are still a rage….’ How have you stayed as a team for such a long time?

Actually, we have been together for 18 years. Someone else also asked us, ‘Arre yaar, haven’t you been together for like longer?’ I was like yes… but we did not get the time to update our webpage. How... I don’t know really… But if I have to think about it, it’s between the three of us — Rahul (da Cunha), Shernaz (Patel) and myself. We have always tried to think afresh. We also don’t get complacent about what we have done, about XYZ. We are always looking to explore further, maybe that is it.

What is Chaos Theory all about?

Chaos Theory is a play written by Anuvab Pal, originally from Calcutta. He wrote this in New York while studying there at the age of 22 or 23. It began as an exercise in play-writing, where they were working with various writers. I know two groups in New York have performed this play. We from Rage have taken Chaos Theory to a few cities and have already performed over 50 shows. It is the first time we are bringing it to Calcutta. The play has a very experienced cast, just four actors; very compact, very strong.

Chaos Theory is really about relationships, about two college professors — one from Delhi and one from Calcutta. They meet and head to America and back. It is about their journey, their life, their friendship and their love.

Why did you choose Chaos Theory for Airtel Lifestage?

Well, amongst all our other running productions, Chaos Theory fitted in perfectly with the theme of the festival — live, love, laugh.

Rage productions usually bend genres. Is it a conscious strategy?

We consciously never categorise. We don’t choose a play for its genre. If we like a particular story, a script, we try and put it together. There is never any force that we have to do a thriller or a romantic comedy or a social drama. That has never been our criteria. Our latest production One on One is a collage of contemporary India, which puts together 12 to 14 playlets, tiny portions that we weave in. We will be doing 70 or 80 shows of that now. So, genre is never the key.

Tell us why Calcutta is a favourite with you...

I do have a long and strange connection with the city. In fact, one of the first places I performed in the final year of my college in 1986 was here. We performed at Kala Mandir and Gyan Manch and Rabindra Sadan. I remember during one of my first shoots in Calcutta, I had come down with fever. I said I didn’t want to come back here again, but something keeps pulling me back and here I am again!

In Calcutta we still remember you as Bomkesh Bakshi. You are still the reference point for new actors playing Bomkesh. How does that feel?

My so-called Bong connection is primarily because of Bomkesh, so I guess it cannot be helped! In 20 years there will hopefully be another Bomkesh, so it will go on. In fact, I was invited to see the new Bomkesh Bakshi film when it released. I enjoyed it very much! Yes, Abir Chatterjee was great.

You have also done a Bengali film, Charachar, directed by Buddhadeb Dasgupta. Any plans to do more films in Bengali?

I did another film, too, after Charachar. It was a Gul Bahar Singh film called Abaidha, with Debasree Roy. But as for future films in Bengali, no. At least none that I know of. I have not received any concrete offers.

What do you feel is lacking in theatre today?

Theatre needs more time for rehearsals, actors don’t have that time. They want to be through in 10-12 days and it does not work like that. Because even today, you do a good show people will come. You do something worthwhile and they will appreciate. Theatre still has its followers.

What do you think of the increasingly popular genre called supper theatre?

Well, it is a form of theatre. There is no harm in it, but the play being staged has to suit that sort of atmosphere. You can’t have a very serious play being staged there. But there is a lot of good theatre material that can be a part of it, including Chaos Theory. But again, you can’t have people walking in with food and drinks, munching along. We don’t allow that. You come, you have a drink and then you concentrate and watch the play. There has to be a system.

You have pretty much tried your hand at everything — films to theatre, acting to direction.… What do you want to be known as primarily?

I don’t care what I am addressed as. But what is more difficult, what is still my passion, is the stage. If theatre would be more remunerative, I would win.

But you have gradually withdrawn from the movie medium. Why is that?

Well, no particular reason. What I accept depends firstly on the offer and secondly on my time. If people just pick up the phone and say, ‘Oh we are shooting and we are shooting next week’, then I can’t do it. I have my theatre schedule planned six months in advance. I can’t and don’t want to do last-minute work. The way movie scheduling is done and the way theatre scheduling is done clash frequently. I tell producers if you want to have me in a film, plan in advance and I will give you dates. Also, the script has to excite me and the director has to inspire me with what he has brought. The team, too, has to be comfortable, has to gel. I have to feel good about the whole affair, only then will I take it up.

So, are you busy with any interesting film projects right now?

I am. I will start shooting for one next week and another next month. Though they will be very brief stints, as I am very busy with Rage’s Writers’ Bloc, promoting budding writers and helping them with their productions. Actually, my focus comes in phases — first completely theatre, then two months of films and then back to theatre.

What is the most annoying thing you have faced as an actor?

Mobile phones! Not just phones going off but people talking on them during a performance. And that happened to me in Calcutta when I staged Love Letters at Kala Mandir last year. I was very upset, because I thought at least Calcutta understands the sanctity of theatre space. I was shocked. I hope we don’t face the same thing this time around.

And the best thing?

Being alive, being alive on stage. That’s it.

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