Talking Theatre Theatre

The stage, her world

Actor, writer and director Trishla Patel on how drama is the essence of her life

Trishla Patel arrives from the rehearsal of the Naseeruddin Shah-directed ‘Aurat Aurat Aurat,’ in which she is one of the bunch of actresses who plays writer Ismat Chughtai and also characters from her stories.

“A big challenge doing this play was speaking Urdu correctly. Ismat broke all shackles... I really admire that woman and am so proud to be a part of this production. Naseer Sir told us not to try to act like Ismat, but just get the thought of Ismat in our minds. But he pushed me to my limit.” Shah has been a constant influence on Patel’s career—the first professional play she did, ‘Mahatma vs Gandhi’, directed by Feroz Abbas Khan — starred Shah as Gandhi. Till then, the young woman from a family of industrialists did not know that theatre would be her future.

“For the longest time, my parents thought it was a hobby. They could not understand doing something for love, to them you either do something for the money, or don’t do it. For theatre you have to put in money out of your own pocket! All through school, I looked forward to annual day, so that I could be on stage. If there was anything to do with acting, I was there first. I wasn’t sure I’d be an actor, but it was something I gravitated towards all the time. In college, it stopped, because I didn’t know Hindi; also I studied science so there was no time for theatre. Then I joined law college and was so bored, that I started doing theatre, and won awards. Then I met Feroz Khan and Naseer Sir, then Kay Kay (Menon) and Dubeyji. I knew then, that I was not made for anything else. I dropped out of law college, and went on tour with ‘Mahatma vs Gandhi’.”

But she did not think of training in theatre. “At that time there wasn’t much exposure, I did not know of the existence of the National School of Drama. But I trained with Dubeyji, Naseer Sir, Sunil Sir, Mak Sir — the best teachers anybody could get. They were my gurus and I look up to them,” she says, listing some of the best in Indian theatre — Satyadev Dubey, Naseeruddin Shah, Sunil Shanbag, Makrand Deshpande, all of who helped shape her to be the actress she is and also eventually a writer, director and producer.

After doing a mind-boggling number of plays, ten years ago, she set up her own production company Tpot under which she has directed a variety of plays, some of which she also wrote. “I wanted to see the kind of play that I had not been seen on stage,” she explains. “so I had to make them. The only way to do it was to write, direct and produce them, I guess.” Her husband, Vishal Capoor, a pilot, encouraged and supported her. “I trust his critical appreciation,” she says, “He is bang on most of the time, because he is like a normal audience, and can say things like “isme maza nahin aaya.”

When she wanted to diversify from acting to directing and producing, she asked Dubey for his opinion. “He told me I will be unsuccessful in the beginning, but I will eventually understand how it works. I learnt a lot from him, including what not to do. He said watch a lot of plays, bad plays for sure, so you know what not to do, and good plays tolearn what to do. He did not make acting sound complicated, he did not say observe this, get into the character, live it…he would simply say, speak clearly and the audience will understand everything. Even today, Naseer Sir quotes Dubeyji during rehearsals. By the time I met him, he had mellowed a lot, but I got my share of shouting from Dubeyji.”

With Tpot, Trishla has produced plays for children and adults, like ‘Kumbh Katha’, ‘Aaj Rang Hai’ (co-produced with Purva Naresh), ‘Zinga Zinga Roses’, ‘Char Small’, ‘Wolf’, ‘Growing Up’, ‘Six Characters In Search Of An Author’, ‘Mayday’, and more recently, two plays with significant subjects — ‘Jannat Central’ about mental illness, and ‘Exchange Student’ for kids, about racism and child labour.

Trishla is currently working on adapting Joseph Heller’s cult book Catch 22 for the stage, and also on a short film. After gaining invaluable experience assisting her brother-in-law, filmmaker Gyan Correa, the thought of directing films is also on her mind. When she was directed by the best in theatre, how does she like to be directed. “Every actor thinks he/she should be left alone to do their own thing, but that’s not correct. For me, the best way is to surrender completely. “Of course,” she adds laughing, “when I direct, I expect complete surrender from my actors too. If I don’t get it, I start shouting, because I learnt from Dubeyji.”

The writer is a Mumbai-based author, critic and columnist

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Printable version | Mar 28, 2020 2:48:20 PM |

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