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`Comedies can convey hard realities of life'

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Sylph-like Suchitra Pillai is a juggler who loves doing many things at the same time. She is into radio, television, theatre, films and singing. And yet finds time to make her presence felt at Mumbai's major dos. Thankfully, her engineer husband Lars Kjeldsen from Denmark (they got married last year) encourages her to live life to the full. The stage means the world to Darrshan Jariwalla. With his creative enthusiasm and steadfast commitment, he has been doing plays in Gujarati, Hindi and English for more than 25 years. Son of acclaimed Gujarati theatre artiste Leela Jariwalla, Darshan launched his theatre group Leela Theatre a few months ago. He recently staged the group's first play "Your Place or Mine" in Chennai. Besides acting in it (he plays Suchitra's husband), he has also scripted and directed it. When the engineer-turned-glamour queen and the chartered accountant-turned-actor met at Aqua, The Park, Chennai for a Take Two, there was never a dull moment. Chitra Swaminathan listened in.Suchitra: I believe you made the most of the sweltering May in Chennai. (throws her head back and laughs).Darrshan: Well, I was in the heat of things, shooting for Mani Ratnam sir's forthcoming film "Guru", where I play a confidante to Abhishek Bachchan. Suchitra: When I was in school, holidays meant heading to my grandmother's home in Chennai. My uncle still lives here. Later as a VJ, I used to frequent this city for my Channel V shows. But I can never imagine moving out of Mumbai because its mad pace suits my restless nature perfectly. Darrshan: My first memory of Madras is as a three-year-old, when I accompanied my mother who had come to stage a play here. When I got down at the station, the first thing that caught my attention was the Amrutanjan board all over. I thought the place was called Amrutanjan and the pain balm was named after the city where it is manufactured. Suchitra: Knowing you, I am not at all surprised. Anyway, tell me how `painful' it was to put together "Your Place or Mine"?Darrshan: For the past two years, the idea had been in my head like a deadly virus. The play is a light-hearted take on modern man-woman relationship. Suchitra: Remember how much we debated on how the play should end? With open marriages being the norm, a lot of people can identify with the situations in the play. And when you offered me a role, it was hard to refuse because of the great time I had working with you in "Musk Maiden". How do you react when most people refer to such plays as sex comedies?Darrshan: Please, they're far from it. I feel one can easily convey the hard realities of life through comedies. It's an important genre by itself. I hate the concept of box set (living room sets) on stage, which is typical of Gujarati theatre. And the run-of-the-mill themes (romance and extra marital affairs are taboo here) made me feel boxed in, the reason why I started doing more of English plays. Suchitra: Do English plays that generally focus on such issues evoke a positive response?Darrshan: We are targeting the new emerging viewer - the middle class with a changed profile. These people, who frequent multiplexes and malls, are ready to approach contemporary themes with an open mind. I want to draw them to my plays. There are traditional theatregoers in Mumbai, who watch a play every Sunday. But not all of them are serious viewers, some of them are pseudo intellectuals for whom going to a play is a status symbol, while some just go to flaunt their designer outfits. Tell me how do you manage to pack in so much in a day?Suchitra: Multitasking can be great fun, if you enjoy all that you are doing. Actually, there is so much uncertainty in the acting field that you cannot afford to put all your eggs in one basket. I still do shows for Radio Mirchi. I appear in the Great Indian Laughter Show and am working on two plays with Lilette Dubey and a Hindi play for Mahesh Dattani. My five films are completed and ready for release - "Pyaar ke side effects" with Rahul Bose and Mallika Sherawat, "Postcards", "Shiva" by Ram Gopal Varma, "Karkash" with Kamal Saldanah and a Hollywood production "Marigold" featuring Salman Khan. I also dub for a Balaji Telefilms' serial "Candyfloss" (she's the voice of Candy, a socialite). I have also resumed work on my music album. The one track I recorded is being used in "Marigold". There's also this Voyages TV, a lifestyle channel, which will go on air soon and I am doing a show for it called "Nirvana" on the spas in India and abroad. Things just happen. When I was in England for seven years after my first marriage, I worked as a hostess in the most happening Indian joint, did a French film and a lot of travelling and children's theatre. Basically, I don't like to let go opportunities. Darrshan: What about those page 3 appearances? Suchitra: I thoroughly enjoy the night outs. I am a people's person. Moreover, our job is about being at the right place at the right time. Now, of course, I have become selective about the parties I attend, as I need to give time to my home too. Thankfully, Lars lets me live life as I want to. I will soon figure out how to fit in a baby into my maddening routine.Darrshan: If it happens to be as hyper as you are, then Lars had it. As for me, the best thing to have happened in recent times is theatre-director Feroz Khan's film "Mahatma vs Gandhi". It's a role of a lifetime and I am eagerly awaiting the film's release. Fortunately, there's a newfound sensibility about Hindi films with several directors going in for intense storylines. So good times ahead for not-so-young actors like me.

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