INTERVIEWShortlisted playwright Aditya Sudarshan on his second play “The Green Room” and on how art is all about finding an independent voice
Criminal lawyer-turned writer, Aditya Sudarshan's second play, “The Green Room”, has made it to the shortlist of the MetroPlus Playwright Award. The play is a meditation on theatre, love, growing up and privilege. The author of elegantly-constructed novels such asA Nice Quiet HolidayandShow Me A Heroshares insights into all that went into the writing of the play.
How did “The Green Room” come about?
This is my second play. I had written “Sensible People” a year-and-a-half ago. I had little experience of the theatre world. I wanted to explore the attitudes of people towards the English-speaking urban youth. People like the theatre critic, Shukla, in the play are emblematic of this mind set. There are different ways to erode self-confidence and especially if someone with Shukla's critical heft were to say that some subjects matter and some do not, it becomes all the more destructive.
The play has a dissertation on imitation…
Yes, it is a continuation of the whole English-speaking issue. When your influences are Western and your life is Indian, how do you resolve the conflict? Art is all about finding an independent voice. You need to separate yourself from your influences. Art is about the unique things you have to say. There is nothing wrong in imitation per se, it is not a liability and won't hurt if you choose your heroes carefully. If you choose to imitate someone shallow and superficial, then you would naturally come to grief while if you choose to imitate someone truly talented, it will push you to originality. That is what Firoz says in the play vis-à-vis Frank Sinatra and Akon.
Show Me a Heroalso talks of the perils of picking heroes.
Yes, but in a wholly different way.Show Me A Herolooks at hero worship and the fact that heroes are also human with their feet of clay.
Do you prefer writing plays or prose?
It depends on the story. If I am telling a dialogue-oriented story, I would stick to drama while if the story requires juggling between time frames, if it is subtle and requires a lot of explanations, I would go for prose. In a play I find it easier to have a female protagonist while in a novel where I need to get into the head of my protagonist I find it easier to work with a male character.
“The Green Room” has detailed descriptions of the sets, the lighting, the elements, and even the character's position and expressions. Do you believe that this makes the play read better than it is performed?
I don't think it is a trade off. You need to put yourself into the description. And a well-written script will help the performer. If I were to just write ‘it is raining,' that does not tell anything to the performer. I am asking your imagination to create a scene. So descriptions and dialogue should go together.
Anamika, the protagonist of “The Green Room” talks of facing the real world once out of the safety net of college. A concern you voiced inShow Me A Heroas well…
College is a sheltered space where people have all sorts of ambitions and once they come to the real world, they are herded into a totally different place. It is a widespread phenomenon and concerns me.
Delhi does not win any brownie points…
I have lived in Delhi all my life except to study Law in Bangalore and I recently moved to Mumbai. While the city is pretty and all that, it is socially oppressive.
Would you be directing your plays?
I don't think so. I came to theatre from writing. I don't think I am suited to direction as I am not a good organiser of people and stuff.