Naseeruddin Shah in Sona Spa
Theatre veteran Makrand Deshpande’s popular play Sona Spa makes its way to the big screen today, starring Naseeruddin Shah. t2 caught up with the actor-director about the futuristic film in which sleep can be bought and sold!
How did the idea of the film come about?
I have been thinking about the crisis of sleep for a long time now. As children, we used to sleep all the time and what we had to learn was to keep awake. As adults, we now keep ourselves awake so much that we have forgotten how to sleep! Sleep is so important… I find myself to be a different person if I have a good night’s sleep. Sleep makes the world a better place to live in.
That’s when I started thinking of a scenario in the future where everything can be bought… including sleep. What if there is a scenario in a futuristic world where people are too busy to sleep? What if they want to make someone sleep for them while they go on with their work? I have explored the spa culture in this film, but rather than the massage of the body, this is about the massage of the mind. And when I thought of this concept of someone sleeping for you, I found it thrilling to realise that if someone sleeps for someone else, they would have access to their dreams as well. And that’s really scary because all dreams are not happy. That’s where I saw the drama and felt that I could make a mind-thriller around this.
Stage to screen, what were the biggest challenges in making Sona Spa?
In a play, there is a lot of suspension of disbelief. Everything is suggestive and you take the imagination of the audience for granted. The real is not always real in theatre. In films, however, you have to really get into details of the characters, the locations, the background… you can’t take things for granted in a film. For example, on stage you can depict a spa just by lighting a candle or throwing in a cushion, but in the film, I had to do a lot more. But whether in film or on stage, the challenge was to show a sleeping person as something exciting (laughs out loud). Naseer says that there are very few instances of a play being as successful in film and he feels that with Sona Spa we have truly managed that.
What was the experience of working with Naseeruddin Shah like?
Naseer has really followed my career. If I have written 40-odd plays, he must have watched at least 20. He’s always been a great support and one of my biggest critics. He was very excited about the concept of Sona Spa… he told me that there are some films that an actor wants to be a part of and Sona Spa was that kind of a film for him. He plays the Baba who runs the spa and I loved how he added a distinct flavour… a chatpatapan of his own… to the character. And then Naseer as an actor is unparalleled… the way he uses that voice… the lovely pauses he takes while talking….
After Sona Spa, has the film bug bitten you?
Theatre will always be my first love. Nowadays, it’s not only about making a film; you have to know how to market it too. That’s a different ballgame. In theatre, I don’t have to go through all that. I can do what I want to do and yet there is an audience for my work. In theatre, my contact with my audience is direct while in films, I have to depend on so many other people to reach out to my viewer. Though I have acted and directed, I haven’t really been a Bollywood person. I do bit roles in films, make money and go back to theatre. If Sona Spa works, maybe that will change and I can make a film on my own terms. Something like a Tree of Life which manages to rope in a Brad Pitt because he wants to do that kind of a film. I hope we are able to do something like that one day.
Finally, if you could access someone’s dreams who would it be?
(Laughs) Super question! It would probably be Sachin Tendulkar, yaar. He’s been our hero for 25 years and now people are saying he’s finished. I wonder what kind of dreams he gets when he hits his pillow every night.
STAGE to screen
Oh My God!: The popular Gujarati play Kanji Viruddh Kanji became last year’s sleeper hit that had Paresh Rawal filing a court case against God, played by Akshay Kumar.
Aanken: Vipul Shah’s Amitabh Bachchan-Akshay-Arjun Rampal thriller about a man training two blind men to rob a bank was adapted from the Gujarati play Andhla Pato.
The last lear: Utpal Dutt’s semi-autobiographical play Aajker Shahjahan found expression in the Rituparno Ghosh film starring Bachchan, Rampal and Preity Zinta.
Shakespeare: William Shakespeare’s plays have found their way to Bollywood — from Vishal Bhardwaj’s Maqbool (Macbeth) and Omkara (Othello) to the Sanjeev Kumar-Deven Verma laugh riot Angoor (The Comedy of Errors).