Actor-director Jyoti Dogra’s play The Doorway will be staged today. She explains why she prefers theatre to cinema

Jyoti Dogra’s first love is theatre. Although she has acted in films such as Hyderabad Blues 2, Satya, Gulal, A Night With the King and Such a Long Journey, she makes it clear that she prefers the stage to the screen.

Jyoti says the process of filming is fragmented and so is the journey of the character and the presentation of time and space. “Theatre is more of an active medium than cinema, especially when it comes to the craft of the actor. Cinema, I feel, is more suited to the craft of the director and it is more technical,” says Jyoti.

She has stayed clear of television too for the last nine years. Not quite happy with soaps and endless saas-bahu serials, Jyoti says she would not want to be part of such television programmes. Instead of fighting for space on the big and small screens, Jyoti has found her space on the stage. The ardent theatre-person and enthusiast will present her thought-provoking solo play The Doorway, today at Vyloppilli Samskriti Bhavan. The play has been organised by Abhinaya in connection with the Fifth Ajayan Memorial Theatre Event 2009.

“Each time you pass through a door, you enter or exit certain spaces. So my solo play, which has certain autobiographical elements in it, is about exploring those spaces, inner and outer, imaginary and real,” explains Jyoti.

Jyoti worked on the play, which is also directed and scripted by her, for two years before premiering it in Mumbai in April this year to rave reviews. She says it was a challenge to work on the play as she was both the director and the artiste. While it was easy to delve into the character and keep polishing the play 24x 7 as it was a solo effort, there were difficulties too as she had to look at it from a director’s and actor’s point of view.

Bilingual

Inspired by Grotowski’s physical theatre, The Doorway, a bilingual play in English and Punjabi, has less of text and more of physical movements and sounds. This is line with Jyoti’s desire to evolve a stage language that transcends regional and cultural barriers. “The narrative blends in folk tales, fairy tales, real-life incidents and so on to make it a personal experience for each spectator. The play examines how certain experiences have stayed with you and how you or a certain experience may have evolved over a period time,” she explains.

Although this is her first trip to Kerala, Jyoti is no stranger to Kerala’s performing arts. As a student in Delhi, her “fascination with Kathakali” drew her to the International Centre for Kathakali, where she learned the art form for five years. It was “the interesting juxtaposition of largeness and intimacy” that continues to attract her to Kathakali.

“The actors on stage play mythical heroes and the stories are mostly drawn from the epics. There is a grandeur in the presentation and the setting, yet the actors I have seen in Delhi make it an intimate experience too.” But she hastens to add that The Doorway will have no element of Kathakali or Chau, which is also something she has learnt. She points out that the movements in theatre have a different language that bears no comparison with the movements of dance.

In fact, all through her career, she has always given priority to theatre. So enamoured was she of theatre, that Jyoti, who hails from New Delhi, went on to work with theatre doyens like B.V. Karanth, Khalid Tyabji, Jola Cynkutis, Wolf Gang Kolneder and so on. Later, she moved to Mumbai and her repertoire includes Man to Man,’ The Way We Live Now and That Time, Sun Sets for Sam.

Admitting that women directors are a rarity in Mumbai, Jyoti says that while her gender does play a role in her presentation of the play and its interpretation, she has never thought of herself as a ‘woman actor’ or ‘woman director.’ “I staged the play in Bhopal and Ujjain and I was happy with the way the spectators stayed connected to the play. However, they were always conscious of the fact that it was a woman who was acting on stage; I did not even think about it once,” she says.

As she gears up for her performance in Kerala, she admits: “When I told my friends I was going to perform here, they told me that most people in the State are so theatre savvy it would be difficult to impress them. It is quite intimidating .” But once the curtain goes up, Jyoti is sure to open doors to a new experience for theatre buffs in the city.