Adhe Adhure has been hailed as one of the most powerful plays in recent times…
Lillete: When I joined college, one of the first Hindi plays I saw at NSD (National School of Drama) was Adhe Adhure. At that point, I promised myself that if I ever did a Hindi play, it would be Adhe Adhure. It took me around 17-18 years to get to that. It’s about a woman in the ’60s, Savitri, who is unhappy with her life and her relationship with her husband. She feels trapped. There is a Jean-Paul Sartre play called No Exit, it’s like that.... And she says what the hell, I am not going to live like this. I am going to look for a solution outside. It’s quite a modern point of view. A play about a dysfunctional family without a happy ending; luckily there is some humour in it. But even that’s very intense, so it was a treat to do this play both as a director and a performer.
Ira, do you want to play Savitri, which your mom plays now?
Ira: Eventually, yeah. In fact mom and I even joke about it. I would love to do it.
How challenging was staging a play in Hindi?
Lillete: For all of us, in fact, it is a first. Even Mohan Agashe has primarily done Marathi plays. It was also one of the main reasons why I wanted to challenge myself, stretch myself as a director and an actor. Though I have done a lot of work in Hindi films and serials, a play is a different ball game. Here you have to learn the full play, be fully in it. You also enter a different world, no longer an Indian-English world but a lower-middle class Hindi-speaking family set in the 1960s. The ethos is completely different.
Had theatre not happened to you, you would have...
Lillete: I could have done television or films. I left television some 15 years ago. I just don’t find anything fulfilling or interesting as an actor on television. I don’t even watch serials any more.... In case of films, some are very interesting in terms of subject, occasionally for the role, but I don’t look for my creative satisfaction in it. If I had only done films, I would have had lots of time waiting around, getting restless and I like to be fully occupied.
Television is a very exciting medium, and for actors like me, Mohan (Agashe) and lots of other older actors, it’s a medium where you can do fantastic work. However, (in India) it is mostly concentrated on younger actors. Look abroad, the sitcoms are way more interesting and are of very high calibre in terms of acting and everything else.
Now that I have moved into direction, I would like to bring plays that I myself would like to act in. As an actor, I get to do the kind of work that I see as challenging. As a director, I get to do what I find interesting. In theatre the best thing is I can do whatever I want to. It is my job as a producer to make sure people come to see it.
Ira: It’s a very difficult question, but mom insists that I go back to writing. I loved writing short stories and poetry. And I am a voracious reader. Even music, though I haven’t sung in a year almost.... Writing and cinema are the areas that I might have gone into, frankly. But I can’t imagine life without theatre.
So will a book happen soon?
Ira: I will be really disappointed if I don’t end up writing something... be it a play, film or novel. But again, it is something that you can do at any point in your life. It’s a sum total of experience, discipline, focus and a sort of disconnection with the entire world. Writing is a lonely process and I am by nature quite a restless soul and when there are so many things happening, knowing my nature, I would take quite some time to sit down with writing.
Do you think today’s youth have it in them to sustain theatre?
Ira: Frankly, I myself would some day love to own a theatre company like Prithvi Theatre. As someone who loves theatre, I think Short+Sweet (a youth theatre festival that completed its second year this November) was part of my role to make theatre more attractive to the young people and also promote new talent.
Lillete: A word to the young actors — stop thinking about money if you aim to do theatre. But if you want to hone your acting skills, then the true ground is theatre. That means you have to sacrifice making a lot of money. At least temporarily, take it like an apprenticeship.
When do we see the three of you together — Lillete, Neha and Ira?
Ira: Aww! Who knows? Mom would be a better person to answer that. But it would be amazing! I would love to work with her and mom, both on stage and in films.
Lillete: Neha had taken a sabbatical to become a psychotherapist. After seven years, she is making a comeback with my new play in March. Now that she is back, maybe there will be a play we all three can do.