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Going bananas over Mango Souffle

Mahesh Dattani is creating ripples. And not just in the world of theatre. Have a look at "Mango Souffle", a celluloid `metrosexual love story'. DIWAN SINGH BAJELI speaks to the versatile artiste now wowing cinemagoers with a very urban offering... .

PLAYWRIGHT-TURNED-film director Mahesh Dattani has fascination for theatre since childhood and he became a film director because producer Sanjeev Shah was impressed with his play `Mango Souffle' and wanted to make a film version of one of Mahesh's plays. "So I selected `Mange Souffle' for this purpose,'' says Mahesh, in New Delhi to promote his film.

Why did he select `Mango Souffle' for film version?

"I selected `Mango Souffle' because it offers scope for dramatic action. It facilitates the greater variety of visuals. Yes, the `Final Solutions' is a powerful play but it is wordy.''

He is essentially a theatre person whose awareness about society has become sharpened because of his association with theatre. What kind of experience he had as a debut film director? How is it different from his experience as a theatre artist?

"What I experienced is that both the mediums are different. Cinema is a visual medium. You have to narrate your story through pictures. Rhythm and flow are created on the stage by actors. In cinema it is done through cuts. We have close-ups and through editing rhythm is created.''

As a playwright and film director he finds more opportunity to explore new dimensions of creativity in both the mediums. "On stage, a playwright has to create the external and internal spaces through dialogue. In cinema we could go closer to the inner world of characters and can capture their private and intimate moments. Both the media have immense possibility in different ways. In the theatre the playwright is the creator of that possibility and in cinema the director explores it because the medium of cinema belongs to him."

Since the making of a film is highly technical, how was his relationship with the film editor and cameraman?

"I had all the cuts the way I had visualised. He offered me some suggestions. I asked him to show the results. In the final analysis he accepted my views. I have a very good relationship with the cameraman. It is essential that the director and the cameraman should have creative collaboration for filmmaking an artistic venture.''

The young Bangalorean playwright in the English language has shown great promise from his first work. His plays are remarkable for reflecting Indian sensibility. His play `Tara' (1991) was directed by Padamsee, an eminent theatre personality. Mahesh won the Sahitya Akademi Award for his play `Final Solutions' in 1998. His plays have great power to explore the inner world of his characters living in the chaos of metropolis.

In fact, as a playwright he should have been given award by the Sangeet Natak Akademi. "I have not received any acknowledgement from the SNA. As far as they are concerned, I don't exist for them,'' he says without bitterness in his voice.

Though his plays raise pertinent issues, these are seen by a city-bread upper class. "The language in which I write has its limitations. It's the language of the elite. But I am grateful to people like Arvind Gaur, the founder-director of Asmita, for making my works accessible to audience in the Hindi region who has done an excellent translation of `Final Solutions' and its production,'' he says.

Mahesh's film "Mango Souffle" has been described as "metrosexual love story" by media. What about his social concern? "Actually, it is about people in the metro who are exploring relationships. Sex is implicit. The motivations of the characters in the film are to live their lives honestly. They are the third generations urbanites. They create their own environment. They are alienated from society, seeking emotional fulfilment,'' he says, adding, "At the same time they are not tragic characters. They are survivors who celebrate the life. Of course, there is tragic undercurrent.'' What he calls his film? ''I think my film belongs to parallel cinema which seems to offer enjoyment to the viewer.''

Inspired by Vijay Tendulkar, Mahesh became playwright by chance.

"I come from business class. In my late 20s and 30s I was helping my father while doing theatre in the evening. My interest in the theatre started growing and I decided to do theatre full-time. In terms of money it was a great risk. But when you are passionately involved in a creative art you don't care about risk. I don't want to become a wealthy man.''

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