Virat Husain talks about working with husband Aamir Raza on larger-than-life stage productions
For the Husains, all work is all play. Thanks to Sheraton Chola, Aamir Raza Husain and Virat Husain, are able to concentrate on the creative aspects of production. The couple is in town for their new play “One into two,” a comedy produced by WelcomTheatre, to be staged at the Chinmaya Heritage Centre today.
Their association with WelcomTheatre dates back a long way. “We had done productions at the cost of Rs. one and a half crore, enough to make a small budget film. We decided to do the Ramayan in English because we felt that youngsters would identify with it better. That show (in 1994) was partially supported by WelcomTheatre,” Virat recalls with excitement. “It was an open air show. We recreated the city of Ayodhya, the jungle (for the vanvaas (exile) scenes) and the battlefield. So, we wanted to take the audience from one experience to another… We built an auditorium that could hold about 700 people. We placed the seats on a platform that was mounted and moved on railway tracks (three parallel tracks, thanks to the Railways). So the seated audience was carried from one location/scene to another.” She continues, “‘Legend of Ram’ was our first mad idea of doing something so ridiculously large not knowing where it’s going to go. We did about 100 shows in Delhi and Mumbai.” The couple executed two other large-scale productions. One was “1947 Live” (in 2005) that played for about six months and the other was “The Fifty Day War,” a project close to Virat’s heart.
“We work on ideas together. He writes, we direct together,” says Virat. “‘The Fifty Day War’ had chopper crashes. We had an MiG taking off from the stage… It was a war story shown like a war story with ammunition, sound and light. Delhi was the place where the coffins used to come before being dispatched to the families of the soldiers. I was emotionally charged and started visiting the hospitals. There were people who had seen death at such close quarters that they would find it difficult to relate or talk to anyone,” says Virat.
Virat then took permission from the Army and set out to make a documentary. The psychological effect of war was the first thing that struck her. “People walking to their deaths… The effect of sound, especially in the mountains, is so overpowering. I got a lot of stories. I saw their faces, their expressions… Something I will never ever forget. It was all very humbling. It was a satisfying production and also our most emotional one.”
She has every reason to be proud of their Stagedoor banner for not many can boast of doing productions spread over 10 acres of land. “There’s a certain amount of detailing that we pride ourselves with. Last November, for a show at the Maurya (Sheraton), they wanted us to come up with the great love stories of India. We put up a huge Taj Mahal, about 40 feet high. All, for 100 people for two days,” she laughs.
Chennai however need to be content with a simpler play. “Comedy is about timing,” she says about “One into Two.” “It’s fun, it is hysterical,” she promises.