Down to the basics

ROOTs IN THEATRE Shernaz Patel

ROOTs IN THEATRE Shernaz Patel  

Shernaz Patel says English is just a tool for communication

We have a strange habit of attributing our success as well as our problems to English. While one group hails the language as a job tool, the other denigrates it for diluting our traditional values. Recently at the India Fashion Week, some designers held English responsible for the demise of the Indian silhouette!

Now, English has become the centre of another battle, the battle for TRPs. NDTV Imagine has come up with a new show Angrezi Main Kehte Hain. Considering each member of the family has something to do with the language, it is an interesting way of attracting eyeballs. “And we teach for free, unlike the institutes, which charge a hefty fee,” says Shernaz Patel, who plays the teacher in the show.

The renowned theatre personality describes the show as edutainment. Shernaz says the focus is on solving basic problems. “Like the difference between teaspoon and tablespoon and credit card and debit card. Similarly, these days, people face embarrassment while interacting with English-speaking salespersons in malls.”

The series has set characters such as a grandfather who wants to interact with his English-speaking grandson, a mother who faces problems expressing her views during parent–teacher meetings and a girl who is getting married to an NRI. “To keep things light we have gags in between, explaining the pronunciation in the process.”


A Parsi, Shernaz says she thinks in English. “This is a ridiculous generalisation that the language affects your dressing sense or culture. I love wearing traditional Indian outfits. Going by the designers’ logic, how will you describe the language of a person who loves to wear kurti with jeans? It is just a tool for communication; it has nothing to do with your identity.”

Talking about the Parsis, Shernaz says it’s a depleting community. “Thank God, the stereotypical portrayal has changed in films. Boman Irani gets to play different roles, so do I. For the first time in my career, I play a Parsi on screen in Little Zizou.”

Somebody who didn’t dump theatre for films, Shernaz is for keeping the sanctity of theatre techniques intact. “Over the years, theatre has become a stop-over point for films. This has a lot to do with the commercial viability of the medium. Marathi and Gujarati plays are doing well, but Hindi and English theatre is in distress.

What television actors are doing on stage in the name of comedy can’t really be called theatre.”

Through her theatre company, Rage Productions, which she runs with Rajat Kapoor and Rahul da Cunha, Shernaz gives an opportunity to playwrights who are doing original work through the Writers’ Bloc Festival. “This year we start from June. The talent is there. The problem is in holding them to the medium considering the lack of space and money,” she says.

A. K.

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