INTERVIEW Seema Biswas speaks about her offering to Tagore's legacy and life in the dual worlds of screen and stage she inhabits
She has courted blazing controversies in the past, and even when not taking them on she managed to closely skirt them. Seema Biswas, the versatile actor who masterfully etched the banditry and travails of Phoolan Devi in her debut, recently performed ‘Streer Patra', a solo show as part of the 14th Bharat Rang Mahotsav, with a special focus on celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore, at the National School of Drama (NSD).
So just another improvisation in this special year for Tagore connoisseurs, or how different was this? “Originally, this is a short story by Tagore, which we dramatised… it relates the woes of a woman who has left her marital life and has written a letter to her husband pouring out her life's bitter experiences. Also somewhere I have tried to weave in delicately the pains and emotional upheavals felt by a contemporary woman. You see, not much has changed in the way a woman is treated and regarded even in the last one hundred years since this story was written,” responded Seema.
This veteran theatre artiste who has been associated with the NSD since the age of 19, still pursues her passion for the stage.
“I will perform at least one play in two years come what may; even if I am offered an awesome film.”
What is it that still makes her feel so excited about theatre despite the challenges it poses? “The reaction that a stage performance spurs is immediate and a great delight for any artiste. After all, the audience is ultimate, be it cinema or theatre.”
Emphasising the distinction between the mediums of cinema and stage, she pointed out, “In theatre you can talk less and yet perform more. It's always easy to speak a lot, but it is a much greater feeling if you can communicate the same thing in another more silent and subtle way like we sometimes do in a play!”
However, speaking about the need to encourage theatre among the masses and it's alleviation, especially from the poor status it suffers when pitted against cinema, she said, “In the initial stages of an artiste or theatre company nobody would be helpful and even afterwards it is not so easy in financial terms for most of us who work for the stage, so the Government should provide more active and easy assistance.” “After all if the Government can do it for sports like cricket, then why not for the arts?”
She also highlighted the need for more public initiatives and participation. Also, to popularise theatre among masses, Seema suggested, “It has to be entertaining. If you over-intellectualise at once there would be a disconnect. Feed it to the people in slow and gradual doses and add a dash of glamour tastefully. That would attract them.”
The actor who is keen on acting in a comedy film did not seem so interested in foraying into television. “At least not as long as something really interesting is offered.” Seema, who was inspired by her mother and tutored by some of the greats of theatre such as Satyadev Dubey and Ebrahim Alkazi, persisted in cinema after the “Bandit Queen” primarily “to prove my mettle as an actor, as all the publicity I had garnered were for the wrong reasons.”
On stage she is regularly performing ‘Streer Patra' and ‘Jeevan Mrityu' based on Tagore's short stories and on screen she would be seen shortly in Rahul Dholakia's multi-starrer “Society” and Deepa Mehta's “Midnight's Children ”.