Saurabh Shukla: Theatre during lockdown has got a new lease of life

Actor Saurabh Shukla indicates at a positive approach to seeing the world of Indian theatre

Actor Saurabh Shukla (Photo courtesy: Wikipedia)
Actor Saurabh Shukla (Photo courtesy: Wikipedia)

Rana Siddiqui Zaman

Veteran stage and screen actor Saurabh Shukla delved in detail into the stae of theatre during lockdown and after that. It was comforting to hear his positive approach towards the entire scenario which often has been termed as ‘grim’ and feels like it too. But Saurabh pointed at an interesting observation. The ‘new normal’ motivated people to even buy tickets for on line performances. Theatre was reinvented.

“In last one year, during lockdown, a very interesting thing has come before us. There was a confusion among us/ people in theatre about why we were doing theatre at all? People were not able to differentiate whether they were doing theatre due to passion, need, to get a new platform, those who got the platform were they doing for the love of it now, or was it a desire to go into a new territory? The covid-induced lockdown period cleared that haze,” Saurabh said.

“During lockdown, we were all shocked assuming theatre has finished, because we knew that traditionally playing theatre online while recording was barely successful because it is not a medium for a recorded plays, because the experience is not similar (as in live),” the actor added.

Elaborating upon how in phases, a new form of theatre evolved, Saurabh said, “So, we were all thinking what to do in such a situation where, the viewing experience is different from the cinema and tele-serial, if not a complete theatre, at least “towards the theatre”. So, several playwrights devised a medium in which they did online plays in their own ways, and it brought in quite a delightful experience. It wasn’t only recorded theatre, but also things like creating a curiosity, and commitment of time for a particular time to watch a play “live”. Obviously to watch it live, people had to be on screen at that particular time. And this brought lots and lots of theatre lovers to those spaces. Initially, this was done on different windows, like zoom and Facebook” later it expanded to YouTube etc.

“I also did a piece from my play for, a year ago. I and Jayati Bhatia performed live at two different locations in our respective homes. It was basically ‘reading’ of the play but we staged it creatively in such a way that it didn’t look like a play reading. I didn’t have much of the idea of the techniques. But we discovered that if we look at a particular angle instead of watching the screen camera, it would look like we are looking at each other. And this was exactly what it looked on screen that we were interacting with each other. And this was a wonderful experience. Lots of people joined in to watch the live play.”

Such lockdown period and absence of live theatre, brought forth the desire of the people to watch live theatre online, adds the ace actor. “In many cases people bought the tickets and watched these live plays. So, I would say that this was very very vibrant times for the theatre. This innovation is very important. Therefore, on the occasion of World Theatre Day, we should celebrate this,” Saurabh said.

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