Theatre

Sukant Goel’s dramatis personae

In just around nine years, 33-year-old theatre practitioner Sukant Goel has marked himself out as an ubiquitous presence in theatre circles, both on stage and off it, as well as someone flying under the cinematic radar waiting for that elusive breakthrough turn. A former chemical engineer, Goel cut his teeth under the tutelage of none other than Satyadev Dubey, as a budding actor in the doyen’s final project, Save Section 377, which never made the leap from workshop to production. The years since then have seen Goel acquire the credentials of a solid, dependable actor who is quick on the uptake, with a chock-a-block résumé that includes everything from bonafide leads to walk-on parts, from comedy to dastangoi, in plays that cut across group affiliations and genres.

Rapid rise

His memorable outings include the parts of the fresh-faced Tintin-like detective in Faezeh Jalali’s rural whodunit Jaal, and the swashbuckling Dabangg-style police-officer without moral compunction in Rajit Kapur’s hard-hitting political drama Naqqaash (and that’s range, right there), as well as his charged rendition of radical Dalit activist Namdeo Dhasal’s poem ‘Man, You Should Explode’ in Sunil Shanbag’s poetry anthology Blank Page, alongside Hridaynath Jadhav. Last year, Goel was the eponymous character in Nadir Khan’s Anand Express, whose unexpected death sparks off the combined rites of passage for his closest friends, presided over by his watchful spirit.

A distinctive feature of Goel’s theatre journey has been his ability to create lasting collaborations forged on shared wavelength and goodwill. For instance, along with talented cohorts Gagan Dev Riar and Dhruv Lohumi, he founded Play On Productions, which has picked up scripts like Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape and Mahesh Keskar’s Renovation, for fringe offerings that have done the rounds of Mumbai’s alternative venues. With Riar, he co-directed the riotous musical Ishq Aaha, which marked a notional coming of age of a fresh generation of theatre-makers, with the potential to infuse the creative space with a sparkling new sensibility. Then, with entrepreneur Sanchit Gupta, Goel floated Theatre on the Rocks, an outfit that facilitated performances in bars, lounges, and restaurants. These were not middling supper theatre outings, but proper sit-down events (including off-beat performances like Anish Victor’s Koogu and Gurleen Judge’s Dohri Zindagi) in informal spaces.

That Studio Tamaasha should launch its residency program with Goel, is a testament to proprietors Shanbag and Sapan Saran’s abiding faith in one of their regular associates. Goel has worked in several of their productions like Marriage-ology, Waiting for Naseer and Blank Page, so he is almost an in-house resident. At Tamaasha, Goel is working on a dramatic reading of Swiss author Simon Froehling’s German play Going To The Sea Play With Child, a 2005 script that reflects on the inexplicable ennui that sets in on a modern marriage with the coming of a child. The reading is part of Das Schauspiel, an exclusively curated bi-monthly program of dramatic readings of contemporary German plays, organised in association with the Goethe-Institut Mumbai.

Dramatic milestone

Goel’s stint at Studio Tamaasha will include two public sharings — a talk on the making of Ishq Aaha, and a dekko into his work-in-progress work — as well as two performances. The reading of Froehling’s play is slated to be staged in a week, while Krapp’s Last Tape will be performed this week. The latter is a searing one-act play first performed in 1958. It is a solo performance which has been adapted by director Riar as a two-hander featuring Goel and Lohumi. The premise is certainly tantalising — an old man in his 60s ‘listens’ back at his life through a series of old tapes, recorded each year over a lifetime. A powder-haired Goel with a shuffling gait takes on a part that has traditionally been the preserve of older actors. It’s a move by a young actor that could most definitely be worth a watch.

Studio Tamaasha’s residency programme launches with Sukant Goel, including a performance of Krapp’s Last Tape on 19 May, and a dramatised reading of Going to the Sea - Play with Child on 27 May; details on bookmyshow.com

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Printable version | May 7, 2021 7:55:31 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/theatre/sukant-goels-dramatis-personae/article23905187.ece

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