Atul Kumar and The Company Theatre need no introduction in contemporary Indian theatre. There is no blinking to the fact that Atul has been able to give a new definition to theatre in India with his extremely honest plays. Here Atul talks about his life and his upcoming shows of Noises Off in Delhi, which is scheduled on August 16, 17 and 18 at Kamani Auditorium.
Nihal: Delhi loved your play ‘Piya Behrupiya’. And believe me, we still talk about it with great enthusiasm. Now you are coming with your latest production ‘Noises Off’. What shall the Delhi Junta expect?
Atul: Same madness, energy, happiness, fun and laughter but without live music this time. It is a play within a play and invites the enthusiastic and curious eye to peep into backstage of a disastrous play put up by an even more disastrous ensemble played by our actors. It is a famous and typical English farce so expect loud and exaggerated acting styles and over the top humour.
Nihal: What lead you to select Noises Off, which is undoubtedly a great play and has been performed numerous times throughout the globe? As a director what is that you have played with?
|A scene from Kumar’s Noises Off|
Atul: I love the 2nd act when the set turns around and you see backstage business of a theatre company as they perform over the other side to the cyclorama. I like cheap farcical act constantly broken by the real actor rising forth and then a constant in and out- creating and breaking the illusion. And
my God it does have some of the funniest lines I have read-seen in theatre. Ever. We did this play in Mumbai in 2003. This is a revival after 10 years. With some old and some new cast members. Why a revival. Well, its just outright fun to do this play- each rehearsal day was a party and we would do it again and again- everyone in the team is on a high.
Nihal: You have stayed in Delhi for a long time. Can you share with us a bit about your relation with Delhi?
Atul: I was born here, studied here in school and university, fell in love here, had heart breaks here, got into fights here and walked the long roads in winters here, saw the 60s and then 70s and then 80s and even 90s in Delhi- so you can imagine I am in many ways a Delhite still. This is where it all started –this love story between me and theatre.
Nihal: What is your take on the theatre culture of Delhi?
Atul: It produces less and less theatre than in 70s, 80s and 90s but it still produces some of the best in the country. Delhi has theatre makers like Maya Rao, Anamika Haksar, Anuradha Kapoor, Amal Allana, Zuleikha Allana, Arjun Raina, Neel Chawdhary, Amitesh Grover and many more who are still making work that the entire country admires and looks forward to seeing. Audiences have been coming to see our shows of Hamlet, Lear, Piya, The Blue Mug in great numbers so I am assuming we have managed to create our own audience in Delhi- hope that is true and we can keep coming back. Delhi still has theatre poster culture with theatrewallahs going around all over Delhi and putting up posters in hundreds- such fun! Something that is not a culture in Mumbai Bangalore Chennai- at least not in such great numbers!
Nihal: As a recent trend, we have seen many comedies in our city. The newer production houses prefer performing comedies than any other genre. What is your take on this?
Atul: Everyone must do what they feel strongly about- it’s a free world- more so in the arts. So no complaints. We dabble in tragedies like Hamlet and Lear but also do 12th Night and Noises Off- then again within each of creations you will see a nice balance of not only tragedy and comedy but also of other sub-genres. We try to listen to our instinct and if we do comedies only for the next ten years does not mean we have discriminated another genre. Each to his own.
Nihal: How has been the journey with The Company Theatre?
Atul: This is our 20th anniversary year. The Company Theatre was formed in Delhi in 1993. This year we celebrate 20 solid years of all kinds of performances and shows all over India and abroad. We celebrate it in form of performances all over India including Chennai, Mumbai, Baroda, Delhi, Bangalore and finally at our newly built theatre residency in Kamshet, Maharashtra.
Get more info www.thecompanytheatre.net
This interview first appeared in My Theatre Cafe on August 7, 2013