Deepika Arwind talks about how her first play, Nobody Sleeps Alone, based on the underworld, took shape
Deepika Arwind’s play Nobody Sleeps Alone a tale of gangsters and other permutations and combinations has been shortlisted for the MetroPlus Playwright Award 2013. The Bangalore-based writer and stage actor speaks about writing her first play.
Can you tell us how Nobody Sleeps Alone happened?
Some ideas for Nobody Sleeps Alone had been around in my head for a while. I was at a friend’s workshop: he was devising some work for his play; I was an actor in the workshop. I don’t know whether it was the space, or the things we were doing (unrelated to Nobody Sleeps Alone), but the characters of the play sort of took shape quite instantly in those couple of days. I went back and drew them, doodled for a while, wrote down a few things about each of them. And because I’ve been brought up on a steady dose of Hindi cinema, growing up, they began to occupy a space we’ve encountered several times in films: that of the underworld. A plot unfurled as a result of this. Many conversations (some with myself) later, I decided to put them onto paper. I think their names had a huge bearing on who they would be.
Gangsters and mujra and flowers in her hair. Tell us more about your characters and the detail you have given them?
The characters in the play are Godfrey Singh Joseph, Sarayu, and Wazir Abdullah. They are three gangsters, hustlers, who run a small company between themselves. Each of them has a specific role in the company and they straddle a fine line between work and their personal lives, until the two get a bit mixed up. Godfrey is the ‘kingpin’ so to speak, Sarayu, the distractor, and Wazir the doer.
Also about the use of percussion in the play.
I’ve always been excited by the prospect of live music in a play: it lends more text than written dialogue. It makes drama, just by virtue of being live, of reacting to the moment in the play, even though it is rehearsed. We’ve found a very interesting live percussionist who will bring not just music, but perhaps a whole new character to the play.
Given your background, have you attempted scripts before?
I have to admit, I’ve tried in the past, to write a bunch of scripts for stage. Some became short stories, others went to the trash can.
Do you find dialogue challenging?
I think dialogue is challenging, yes. In a script, dialogue is always meant to make revelations or to lead to something else, so there is always the danger of letting it do nothing sometimes.
Factoring in the limitations of the stage — did you have to keep in mind and restrain your script?
Yes and no. Yes, because you are writing for the stage, possibly for a stage/performance space in India. And therefore somethings are undoable — you may not be able to write in a concert-size set or design, even though that is what you think the play needs. No, because the stage’s limitations are also its possibilities.
How are the roles of writing for theatre and writing about theatre different?
Writing for theatre, often happens, when you’re on the inside. You begin to create work with the sensibilities you’ve inherited or developed, and the stories you want told for performance. Your role is that of a creator. Writing about theatre (not just reviews), when done well, can be an overarching function — it can trace theatre’s trajectory in a city, its place within the arts and culture scene, its economics etc and can lend tremendous understanding to those who write for theatre. Unfortunately, there is little space to write for theatre, and when it does happen, it fails to be a sustained effort, or it just isn’t insightful. Writing for theatre and about it, are both, in my opinion, equally important, and require us to watch enough of it.
Will you direct/act in the play? Do you have someone in mind?
I've found quite a wonderful team (actors, musician, and production crew) for the play — we’ve begun some work on it. I will direct it, yes, but I don’t think I could imagine acting in it!