Theatre

Soul play

Theatre actor-director Jaimini Pathak Photo: S. Ramesh Kurup

Theatre actor-director Jaimini Pathak Photo: S. Ramesh Kurup   | Photo Credit: S_RAMESHKURUP

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Theatre person Jaimini Pathak on living with a role for a decade

Mahadevbhai is Jaimini Pathak’s second skin. Over the past 10 years, across 250 stages, from London to Surat, Doon School to Pallikoodam, under a banyan tree to a full-fledged stage, and sleeping in a godown stacked with dal sacks to prepare for the role, Jaimini has become Mahadevbhai, Mahatma Gandhi’s trusted aide. The latest stage for his two-hour monologue was Kozhikode, after performances in Kochi and Thrissur.

Theatre director and actor Jaimini, who runs the Mumbai-based group Working Title along with Nayantara Roy, says the play Mahadevbhai (1892-1942), is now a tale in evolution. “I still remember the first show at Y.B. Chavan centre for Prithvi fest in 2002,” says Jaimini, soaking in the pleasant Kozhikode air at Gandhi Park. The play has grown to be a communication between the actor and his audience. “Now it is more like I am feeding off the audience response. It has become more of a conversation with them and less of a performance,” says Jaimini.

Living with the role for a decade has helped the actor build a bond with it. “I like doing it. About 100 people would have come and gone for Mahadevbhai, I have been the only constant in it,” he says. Scripted by Ramu Ramanathan, the play was born when many anti-Gandhi works were doing the rounds. It banks on the diaries of Mahadevbhai and takes one through the history while being firmly rooted in contemporary times. “It was meant to create a debate,” says Jaimini. “However, each performance changes you as a person.”

Jaimini says he effortlessly becomes a storyteller when the performance is Mahadevbhai. “For me, it is more like telling a story. It is not about getting into a role, but getting into a frame of mind. I start getting into that zone two to three days before a performance. Often, listening to all those bhajans in sequence helps me. Since I perform alone, it is easier for me to get into the mood, but it is also lonely. The music, light and sound all become the other characters in the play,” he says.

Live plays

Working Title continues to travel with its other live plays, most of which Jaimini has directed. Dirty Talk, directed by Nayantara, continues to tour, along with Day I Met the Prince, 60 Seconds Deep, Once Upon a Tiger and Kachra Tales, all directed by Jaimini.

There have been no new plays for adults for the past two years, Jaimini says. “When we have five running productions, the interval for a new play tends to take longer.” A large chunk of Working Title’s performances are for schools and school children. “We recently finished a workshop with 40 teachers and we also do theatre for corporates,” he says.

Jaimini came to Mumbai to attend college and be a cricketer. “I was crazy about cricket, but when I came to Mumbai from Ajmer, I realised I was just not good enough,” he says. That’s when theatre, a passion in school, got him hooked. Initiation into it began with a workshop conducted by veteran Satyadev Dubey. Jaimini simultaneously eased into theatre and also a long association with Dubey. Working with Dubey, he learnt theatre —direction, lights, sound and whatever came in the way—without ever being to a drama school. “He gave us a lot of rigour, but also made us search,” says Jaimini. “He had a very open quality about him, he would find things to praise in the worst of plays.”

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Printable version | Dec 16, 2019 12:13:22 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/theatre/soul-play/article3662027.ece

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