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Exploring theatre

Jaimini Pathak pursues theatre with a passion that is rare to find.

AT THE HELM: Jaimini Pathak.

THE ENERGY in him is palpable. The passion for theatre is visible. For Jaimini Pathak, theatre is space to be explored in many ways. So steeped is he in it that he is looking at different approaches to theatre. And his two plays Curfew and Combat attest his attempts at experimentation - with not just original and refreshing scripts, but in the presentation as well. In Hyderabad to stage both the plays, Jaimini spoke about his career in theatre and his projects.

Curfew and Combat are productions of Jaimini Pathak's `Working Title' - a group established in August 1999 by a group of young actors with a desire of unearthing unperformed and unpublished scripts preferably by Indian writers and staging them. Jaimini, with a strong grounding in theatre having worked under doyens Satyadev Dubey and Naseeruddin Shah, was interested in Curfew scripted by Ramu Ramanathan (writer and editor of Prithvi Theatre newsletter, who also conducts workshops) and took it up to direct. And presented this original script in an innovative way. "It's not just droning discourse. There is a little bit of live music and dance. A novel approach followed is the presence of the script-writer in the rehearsals which facilitates addition and deletion of scenes. So the whole session is like an actor's workshop." There is some excitement in discovering a raw script and building it into a play. For the group the involvement of the people is important. "The script leads to interaction at various levels and people can follow the play at any level. We depend on basic energy of theatre wherein the script and performance play the crucial roles." Sincerity and honesty and the need to communicate with the audience all the time is paramount.

For Jamini born in Guntakal in Andhra Pradesh and brought up in Ajmer, the urge to pursue theatre seriously crystallised in his mind in Mumbai when he participated in a theatre workshop conducted by Satyadev Dubey although he had done more than 20 plays in school and college. "I was interested in liberal education and this was one place where one could explore other options, especially in the arts." Jaimini has worked with a lot of directors like Dubey, Naseeruddin Shah, Sunil Shanbhag, Akash Khurana and Vikram Kapadia in the formative years and he acknowledges that he is what he is because of them. When he wanted to step up his involvement with theatre he took to direction. And he wanted to have different approaches to theatre. Thus began his group and his foray into `experimental' theatre though he is yet to formalise his school of theatre and scared to get into a prescriptive position. The actors are in the age-group 20-35. "Everyone's involvement in a play is total and not just restricted to mouthing the dialogues expected of him and her," he says.

Ramu Ramanathan, who incidentally has scripted all the three plays of Working Title (Curfew, The Travel Show, a piece in mime and pantomime and Combat) and Jaimini have jelled well. "It seems like Ramu is the writer in my backyard. But I have found his scripts interesting and thought-provoking and importantly original." Therefore Curfew and Combat are not entertainment for entertainment's sake."

Jaimini is excited about his latest project - Twist with Destiny, a film directed by Sudhir Mishra (known for Dharavi) where he plays one of the main protagonists. This Indo-French production is a period film dealing with student movement in the north between 1967-75 and is shot entirely in India.

Jaimini is also a familiar face in ads like Brittania Chaska-maska and Vim. At one point of time Jaimini acted in four television serials at a time - the well-known ones being Swabhimaan, Kabhie Kabhie and Star Bestsellers. Besides, Jaimini was also a columnist for the Indian Express (2000-01) where he provided an insider's perspective for his column In the Green Room.

Is theatre declining as a medium of entertainment? "Theatre will never die. The future of theatre is in original work. Things are happening in Mumbai and there are quite a few scripts being written," he says. Ask him what a good play should be and he replies "something which you should take home, which stays with you over the years," winding up the chat.


Photo: K. Ramesh Babu

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