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Friday Review » Theatre

Updated: October 1, 2009 18:34 IST

Talking heads

APS MALHOTRA
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Actor Salim Shah
Actor Salim Shah

Actor Salim Shah on films and theatre.

“Theatre has a very strong, traditional, distinctive and historical base in every state of India, like tamasha in Maharashtra and nautanki in Uttar Pradesh,” said Salim Shah, acclaimed theatre and television personality, who was in the Capital to conduct an acting workshop.

“There is no question of this art form dying, albeit, it has to receive support from sponsors who believe in it, to make it accessible and opportunity-based,” he added.

Rare appearances

On why he is rarely seen on the big screen despite having appeared in films like “English August” and “Sarfarosh,” and having the legendary Naseeruddin Shah as his cousin, Shah reveals candidly, “I do not conform to film industry norms and I am not into socialising, traits that are essential to gain a foothold in films.”

Further, he added, “Fortunately, in our family, we do not promote each other, but let hard work speak for itself. But I have learnt a lot from Naseer by watching his performances closely and have worked in his theatre group, Motley, in plays like ‘Caine Mutiny’ and Chekhov’s ‘The Proposal’.”

“But for a long time I have been offered no work by him,” said Shah tongue-in-cheek.

Shah, who has done television for long has acted in saas-bahu serials criticised for their retrograde themes.

He however defends himself and says , “Television equipped me with a medium to hone my acting skills by giving me prime roles, besides providing bread and butter to keep the hearth burning. Moreover, while people criticise these serials , the fact remains that they enjoy high viewership and run on public demand.” He elaborates, “When serials with different themes like “Saloni ka Safar” and “Ballika Vadhu” are aired, people do opt for them; basically audiences are hungry and if we can’t serve them delicacies, they opt for daal-roti.”

On the stagnation or rather the decline of active theatre in Delhi, Shah rues, “ Unfortunately, there are not many theatre groups doing meaningful work in the apital, barring a few, like Pierrot’s troupe for which I did three shows of Ghazanfar Hussain in June and it evoked good response.”

In a teacher’s role

Shah certainly enjoys his role as a teacher to the hilt, “After my first acting workshop in Jaipur, a theatre movement started there wherein students started doing regular shows.”

Reacting to the old debate on whether acting can be taught, Shah says with the clarity of a master, “There is a difference between art and craft, both are opposite sides of the same coin and are essential for any creative endeavour . And while art is inherent talent, craft has to be learnt.”

He cites examples from Bollywood, of star children who got a break owing to lineage,but who learnt the ropes along the way to become more than average actors later.

“In my workshops, I focus on the basics of acting, mixing theory with practical. To give participants a feel of performing on the stage, the workshop will culminate in a montage of performances under my direction,” said Shah.


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