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STAGE

The 12th Vodafone Odeon theatre festival, partnered by t2, kickstarted with Saurabh Shukla’s 135-minute-long comedy Two to Tango, Three to Jive, an Ashvin Gidwani Productions play, at GD Birla Sabhagar on November 24. A chat with the director-cum-lead actor.

Why did you return to theatre with Two to Tango?

I was doing theatre in Delhi when I started my career. In 1993, when I shifted to Mumbai, I also made a shift in terms of career. I had to be focused on films. It took me almost 18 years to take the decision to come back to theatre and I wanted to come back with a play that would connect with the mass.

In Mumbai, there is the commercial theatre and the experimental one. I could have started with a small production but I decided to go the commercial way. I wanted to do a comedy but not a laugh-a-minute comedy. I decided to use what I have gone through or what I have seen my friends go through. This play is about a man desperately trying to have an extramarital affair. But the three women he meets are unique individuals. Parminder Sethi’s (played by Shukla) agenda doesn’t match theirs. And when they start talking, it becomes bizarre!

How much of you is Parminder?

It has a fiction part to it, so don’t think all that you saw was completely me! To be frank, even I went through a mid-life crisis. One day I woke up and started questioning everything. ‘Am I really talented? Whatever I have done, was it worth it? Whatever people praise me for, is it worth it?’

Even women go through a similar phase, but for men it is quite a strange sort of feeling. They want to break away from the mundane. I quit smoking in my 30s and in my 40s, I was hit by this. Everything was so mundane! Should I get into an extramarital affair? Kuch toh ho jaaye life mein.... We want to do something radical. The other choice was to go back to smoking. Now, I am quite happily married and I don’t want to lose my wife, so I decided to go back to smoking! But many of my friends ended up choosing the other option.

The question is why does a man suddenly start to think like that? All this has a much deeper meaning than seeing him as, excuse my language, a horny 40-year-old man. When you realise the reason behind it, you feel baffled.

Which side of the stage do you prefer — on or off?

Being a stage actor and director... both have their own joys but definitely acting in theatre is my first choice.

Movies or theatre, which is more appealing to you creatively?

When it comes to films, the greater joy for me is in direction. I have a simple philosophy in life — I have just one life and I will not settle for just one.

Sub-inspector Dutta in Barfi! — is that the kind of character you love playing?

I believe a human being is made of a number of emotions. I am complicated, I am jealous, I am honest, dishonest... everything together. So in any character I play, that is my requirement. I do not feel satisfied if it is a one-layered character. Why do people remember Dutta? It’s not because he was a fat, funny guy. People were actually trying to understand as to whether they should constantly laugh at him or if he is serious too. Is he just a buffoon or is he a serious inspector? Is he a kind-hearted man or an absolutely stone-cold man who wants to catch Barfi? How did that happen? It happened because of the director’s (Anurag Basu) approach to the character and giving that much of freedom to the actor. This is what I look for in a character.

Pappu Can’t Dance Saala, Raat Gayi Baat Gayi…. Small-budget films with a strong cast have been your forte. Don’t you want to go for a bigger production?

I am a bit lethargic in that sense. But I will eventually do those films as even I want my films to reach stardom... ultimately it’s all about muscle power in the market. But yeah, whatever films I have made, I am proud of them and I will never deny having made those films. Whether those worked at the box-office or not is fine. Even if people have rejected them, I take it as a compliment that they took time out to watch my films and felt some changes were required. I will correct them next time.

Rajat Kapoor and Vinay Pathak are constant in your films...

Well, it’s like a barter. They have cast me in their movies and I have done the same (laughs). Rajat is one of the most fabulous actors, a friend and someone I really cherish. Vinay again is a great friend, great actor and a lot of fun.

Down memory lane...

l Being Gopi in Tehkikaat (Doordarshan TV series, 1994): “I was young and stupid.” l Co-writing the script for Satya and being Kallu Mama (1998): “It was truly amazing... it changed my life. I got married after that. My wife was assisting Ramu, so we met there. It is a milestone movie in my life.” l Sub-inspector Dutta in Barfi! (2012): “It has brought tons of sweetness into my life. My sugar levels must be really high right now! But I am really happy.”