Kulbhushan Kharbanda and Chetna Jalan in Atmakatha. (Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya)
Many know him as Shaan badman Shakaal, some know him as Shabana Azmi’s cheating husband Inder in Arth and countless others through memorable characters down four decades of Hindi cinema. But few know Kulbhushan Kharbanda as a man with a Calcutta connect so strong that it has forced him to return to the world of theatre after almost two decades.
Kharbanda made Calcutta his home when he shifted to the city in the ’70s on the advice of Padatik founder and theatre veteran (late) Shyamanand Jalan. Kharbanda took part in various Padatik productions like Gidhade and Sakharam Binder, which also happened to be his last stint on stage before he left for the greener pastures of Bollywood.
On Sunday evening at Gyan Manch, Kharbanda will take the stage for Atmakatha, presented by Padatik & Rikh Creation in association with t2.
A Hindi adaptation of Mahesh Elkunchwar’s Marathi play, Atmakatha revolves around a famous writer who wants to pen his biography. But he realises that every person in his life has his or her own version of the truth, making it difficult to stick to any one version. This is seen through his interactions with his wife, sister-in-law and the woman helping him write down his account.
It is this “human angle”, the dynamics and “complications of human relationships”, that has hooked Kharbanda enough to come back to the stage and to Calcutta.
At the same time, he confesses that the comeback was born out of “a complete spur-of-the-moment decision”, the credit for which goes to Atmakatha’s director Vinay Sharma. “Vinay told me about the play and I thought let’s do it. Theatre holds a special place for me. That is a totally different kind of passion,” he says.
Besides, the pull of Padatik was strong too. “It was like coming home. It is such an old and strong link,” he says, recalling the good ol’ days at Padatik.
Ask him why it actually took him this long and the answer is: “No one called me. No one thought I was worth it. No one in Bombay has ever asked me to join them till date, I swear! And I don’t have the discipline or the capability to organise something on my own.”
So this endeavour is even more special because “the Calcutta audience is intelligent. The city has always been a hub of theatre, so it feels great to open this play here.”
Joining him in Atmakatha is his former colleague at Padatik — Chetna Jalan, wife of Shyamanand, along with Sanchayita Bhattacharya aka chef Sunshine and Anubha Fatehpuria.
“Chetna and I go back a long way. We did so many plays back in the ’70s. So we have a great rapport. I have interacted with the other actresses too whenever I came to the city. I guess you can say Padatik is the thread that binds all of us,” says Kharbanda.
As for his other love, cinema, which he does because “you have to run the kitchen”, things are going well. Kharbanda is part of Deepa Mehta’s Midnight’s Children, the Om Puri-starrer Rambhajan Zindabad and a few other untitled projects.
As for now, it’s theatre that he is living and breathing. Atmakatha will be staged at Gyan Manch, 7pm, from September 23-26, and at the Nandikar theatre festival later this year. A tour around the country is also on the cards, depending on how the response is.
Tickets for the play — priced at Rs 50, Rs 100, Rs 150 and Rs 250 — are available at Padatik and Gyan Manch from Friday.
| The Second Innings to be staged at Kala Kunj
What: Theatrecian presents The Second Innings, in association with t2.
Where: September 23, 7pm at Kala Kunj.
The plot: A contemporary, Indianised version of Neil Simon’s well-known comedy Chapter Two. The 120-minute play is about Karan Bakshi, a writer who is mourning the death of his wife; his brother Aryan who tries to get him to snap out of it and move on; Anjali, an actress who has walked out of a bad marriage and her friend Koel. Neither Karan nor Anjali think they are ready to start a relationship but they fall in love and decide to get married. The journey to love and wedded bliss is anything but smooth as they must overcome their problems first.
The players: Shubhayan Sengupta, Aditya Sengupta, Prerona Sanyal and Neha Poddar.
Director speak: “We decided to stage this play because the plot is something everyone can relate to — it’s about the dynamics of relationships, and the characters are relatable and realistic. Add to that the classic Neil Simon comedic touch and his light-hearted humour, and there is bound to be an instant connect,” says Neha Poddar.
Tickets for the play are priced at Rs 300 and will be available at Mocha (209 Karnani Estate, AJC Bose Road) and at the venue.