Lillete Dubey reveals the greedy actor and the versatile director in her to NANDINI NAIR
In “Wedding Album”, Lillete Dubey sticks to her norm while Girish Karnad veers from his. This play clicks life in swift and insightful shots. Director Dubey continues the tradition of The Prime Time Theatre Company of staging Indian plays. Playwright Karnad, however, moves away for his intense historical and mythological scripts towards a lighter yet astute family drama. Dubey reveals what attracted her to Karnad’s most recent work. “The personal reason is that I wanted to do something smart and funny. And then I admire that Girish Karnad has chosen not to rest on his laurels and has gone out on a limb for this production.” Staged recently at the India Habitat Centre, “Wedding Album” was presented by Matrix weekend theatre.
Dubey also appreciates the montage structure of the play and its subtle and not overbearing commentary. Having just travelled to Muscat and Pune with the production she adds, “I didn’t realise how entertaining it was. My cast is used to rehearsing without an audience. They were taken aback by the laughter!”
“Wedding Album” is special for Dubey also because it sees her younger daughter Ira Dubey in the lead. After a successful performance in Delhi, a visibly beaming mother gathers her daughter’s accolades. “My children learned to crawl in the aisles of Kamani. At 11, they were selling theatre brochures. They knew theatre lingo as soon as they knew how to talk.” She adds, gushing, “When people ask, ‘Oh, Ira is also in theatre?’ I tell them, ‘Does she have a choice? It’s in her blood.”
Dubey will be traversing the country with this production. Chandigarh, Bangalore and Chennai are already on her map. She warns her actors that she will not do five or 10 shows. Instead, 50 is her minimum. Many of her older plays are still “alive and kicking”. These include Mahesh Dattani’s “Dance like a Man” and “Thirty Days in September” and Vijay Tendulkar’s “Kanyaadaan”. Partap Sharma’s “Sammy”, based on the Mahatma, recently had its 150th show. Since the curtains haven’t come down on her older plays, Dubey doesn’t conjure new ones often. She quips with a laugh, “I can only have one baby every year.”
But repetition is not her forte. On the film front, she emphasises, “Hindi cinema is quick to put you in a drawer and label you ‘aunty’, ‘chaachi’. With a 27-year-old daughter, it’s not like I can play a nubile young thing. But I don’t want to be one mom who can morph into any other mom.” Of late, she has been many celluloid mothers. But she points out that a Monsoon Wedding mom is very different from a Gadar mom, who is very different from a Morning Raga mom.
Dubey is currently hoping to direct a movie. But the “greedy actor” in her has denied her the time required for a movie. What type of movie will she make? “It will have to be commercially viable, but it’ll have to have my sensibility,” comes the immediate answer. She respects movies like Taare Zameen Par and Chak De India! And squirms at movies like No Entry. While admitting that cinema is a business where one might have to compromise, Dubey says she’s looking for variety.
Her actor’s platter is brimming with Sudipto Chattopadhyaya’s Pankh, which also stars Bipasha Basu and Mahesh Manjrekar. “A dark and edgy movie, it goes for the jugular,” she claims. In Banda yeh Bindaas hai, with Govinda and Tabu she has a “cute role” as Tabu’s mother. Her other movies include Seven, Coffee Shop, I’m 24, Har Pal and Saas Bahu aur Sensex. As for theatre, she hopes to satisfy her urge for diversity with an original Indian musical.