For Mohit Takalkar a play is made in the rehearsal process

Mohit Takalkar

Mohit Takalkar   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Mohit Takalkar on why he finds theatre-making exciting

Mohit Takalkar was just out of the shoot of his second feature film, Medium Spicy, when he was invited by the Mumbai theatre group Rage, to direct Mosambi Narangi, co-incidentally set in a film shoot in north India.

“It is the first play of mine where I have not chosen the script. I walked in when the script and team were in place,” he says. There was a certain comfort level.

Takalkar’s group Aasakta Kalamanch, established in Pune, in 2003, quickly established a reputation for its unique and experimental plays. He went on to win many awards and fellowships even while continuing his work as a film editor, actor, writer and restaurateur. A graduate of Mumbai’s catering college and a good cook it reflects in the success of Barometer, his restaurant in pune that he runs along with fellow group member Ashish Mehta. “It still does not earn enough profits to fund our plays,” he laughs.

Apart from ‘Gajab Kahani’, which he revisited for Aadyam in order to “experiment with scale,” Takalkar’s recent plays, like ‘Main Huun Yusuf Aur Yeh Hai Mera Bhai’ and Chaheta (both by Palestinian playwright Aamir Nizar Zoabi) and ‘Mathemagician’ (a solo performed by Ipshita Chakraborty Singh) have been simple productions with complex ideas to convey.

“Plays with just one or two actors are hard to find and hard to do too,” he says. “When you have an ensemble, it’s a different challenge. An ensemble is like an orchestra, you have so many voices to play with.”

Takalkar turns a critical eye on the work of Aasakta, and is bothered about low numbers for plays like ‘Chaheta’ and ‘Mathemagician’. “We are, right now fighing for funds and audiences. To make a play, mount it and carry on a production has become a big task for us. Mosambi Narangi, a comedy and well adapted by Ashok Mishra, has come as a breath of fresh air since we are known for doing serious plays. Also, we haven’t done a Marathi play for a long time, I need to reconnect with that audience and go back where we started.”

Several of Aasakta members like Sagar Deshmukh, Varun Narvekar, Omkar Govardhan and Sarang Sathye have made a place for themselves in the film and web space; Radhika Apte is in another league altogether. “Everyone has graduated except for me,” says Takalkar laughing. “When we start reading a new play, whoever is in Pune turns up. In every Aasakta play, we work with at least one actor we have not worked with before. When someone comes to us and says they want to work with Aasakta, I first ask them if they have seen any of our plays. We have the reputation of being inaccessible but once they come, they realise it’s good. In spite of the fact that we don’t pay and rehearse in Pune they want to stay. Like Ajeet and Ipshita have done. Why? Because of our approach to theatre, the way we access the play.

“A lot has to be done by the actors to find themselves within the play and own it. Even a backstage person has the freedom to have an opinion. Rehearsals spread over two months bind people together. For me, a play is done in the rehearsal process, after the first show I detach myself. That is why none of our shows go beyond 25 — never mind if there is a demand for more shows, we close every production after 25 shows. Except for ‘Gajab Kahani’, I have never been tempted to revisit any of my plays. For me, the success of a work is that feeling the morning after a tiring, emotionally draining show, when you are still raring to go for the next show. I enjoy the theatre-making process. That’s why no matter what else I do, it never even crosses my mind to give up theatre,” says Takalkar.

The writer is a critic and columnist

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Printable version | Jun 3, 2020 9:14:36 PM |

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