‘Guilt’ explores platonic love, says Swetanshu Bora

Playwright-director Swetanshu Bora’s Guilt has just three characters, whom he uses to explore platonic love

July 31, 2019 12:43 pm | Updated 12:43 pm IST

Swetanshu Bora’s Guilt produced by Dramanon, which will be staged as part of The Hindu Theatre Fest 2019 is a story of love and loss. The English play, written by the Bengaluru-based Swetanshu, was shortlisted for The Hindu Playwright Award 2018. Guilt has three characters — Kishore, his elder brother, Nitin, and Pooja who is in a relationship with Nitin. When Nitin is diagnosed with cancer and passes away in a month, the family is devastated and relationships are fraught. Pooja disappears for two years only to re-enter Kishore’s life to tell him she is going to get married. The 36-year-old theatre practitioner talks about the pros and cons of writing and directing a play among other things. Excerpts

How would you describe Guilt?

It is an exploration of platonic love.

While the play is set in Bengaluru, do you think it travels well?

Yes. It is not a city-specific play. Not just geographically, it also travels through time.

There have been eight shows of Guilt so far in Bengaluru… Has anything changed through the stagings?

Yes, one always makes changes. The stage is the real playground. Things change there; so one learns constantly.

What does Guilt say about mental health?

It is important to say that this play is not about mental health. Guilt is a play where the characters suffer from mental health issues. In that light, the play does not make a comment on the state of mental health of people today, but it is certainly a big part of the lives of the characters.

Who is the protagonist of the play?

Kishore, the play tracks his journey from the age of 13 to 23.

What were the challenges for wearing two hats — playwright and director?

One needed new angles to let the characters flourish outside of the playwright’s vision. The director needed to be the boss in most cases — even identifying writing changes and edits. In that sense, one drew from the ideas of the playwright, but also kept enough to explore further.

What are the pros and cons of directing the play you have written?

There are quite a few pros. One is familiar with the text, so one can see into the characters faster. One is also aware of the sections that have lazy writing in them that are trying to hide, and hopefully through the workshop process they can be rectified, or at least, hidden better. The biggest advantage is that you get a first-hand experience of seeing your text broken by actors, sound, costume and set designers. An entire army has a go at breaking it (to understand it better), and that is a huge learning experience. Sometimes someone says something that you can't say to yourself. That always works.

One big con for me is that you can get sick of your play. You have already spent a considerable amount of time writing it, and then you have to spend another few months directing it and breaking your head over it. And while that is another rabbit hole altogether with its own share of adventures, it can get quite annoying.

Does a fresh set of eyes help?

Yes, it is the best. Show someone something and see what they feel.

Could you talk about the casting process?

It was long and arduous. We had an open audition to which one person came. For another part, I went through three actors before finding one. But finally I found a group that had its heart in the right place. So it was worth it.

Guilt will be staged on August 17 at 7.30 pm at Museum Theatre in Chennai. Tickets available on Paytm, www.insider.in and www.hindu.com/theatre-fest

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