The next Bharat Dabholkar play is a warm modern-day tale of a father-daughter relationship. SOUNAK MUKHOPADHYAY talks with the cast members
That’s My Girl is the story of a 19-year-old aspiring Bollywood actress who meets her father after 16 years. The father, a failed screenwriter, lives with his girlfriend. And, what comes next is an emotional tale with a dash of smart humour that Dabholkar is typically known for.
FPJ: We know it’s a father-daughter story. Tell us more about it.
AM: The daughter lands up in Mumbai. And, Neil Desai is surprised to see his daughter, as he has been divorced for such a long time. What happens next is a lot of fireworks because there is so much between these two. There are accusations and revelations. It’ll be interesting to see how the entire relationship comes to its finale. This is a story for every young girl who is looking forward to having a healthy relationship with her parents.
FPJ: There are only three characters in the play. How difficult or easy does it make?
AM: The fewer number of characters a play has, the more difficult it gets because it then becomes completely performance oriented. While the audience does not get see a lot of variations in terms of characters, it becomes more challenging for the actors to keep the audience engaged for two hours. It also depends on the play itself. The high point, the drama and the key moments keep it going.
FPJ: It must be quite challenging.
SR: If you’re doing something that does not challenge your potential, what’s the point anyway? Each of us is playing individual characters that have different perspectives and different takes about the story. And, that’s what makes it even more interesting.
FPJ: Ananya, tell us something about your love for theatre and the character you are playing.
AD: I’ve been doing theatre for the last 10 years. Even though we are primarily based in Mumbai, we travel around the country and abroad for our performances. I play Anuradha who is a stylist at Yash Raj Films. She has got a sensible character and always tries to ease out the tension between the father and the daughter. She is the balancing factor in the whole play.
FPJ: Ananya, why did you choose to play this character?
AD: First, I can identify with the play. Also, I’ve only played glamorous characters so far. This, for a change, is a more mature character. I thought it’d be interesting to play an older character that is sensible and rational. It’s quite different from whatever I’ve done so far. The relationship between Anuradha and Aishwarya (the daughter) is not maternal. It’s rather warm and friendly.
FPJ: That brings us to you, Shweta. Why did you choose this play as your debut?
SR: Aishwarya is an aspiring actress. The story is also about her journey. If I’m starting my career in theatre, there is no better way to start it with such an experienced writer-director like Bharat sir. I did not want to miss the opportunity to work with experienced actors like Ananth sir and Ananya. Bharat sir is known for the incredible humour in all his plays. Even though it’s an emotional story, it is told with a lot of fun and humour.
FPJ: Is there any similarity between you, Shweta, and the character you play?
SR: Whenever you choose to play a character, there must be something that you relate to. When the makers chose me to do this part, they must have seen something in my personality. Now, my job is to justify their trust in me.
FPJ: Ananth-ji, we have seen you as SRK’s father in Baazigar. You have been directing movies like Aksar and The Xpose. Then, you directed a critically acclaimed movie like Gour Hari Dastaan: The Freedom File. How does theatre fit in?
AM: I’ve been doing theatres since 1980 and I’ll continue to do so. So far, I’ve done around 40 productions, with 3000 performances all over the world. I can never leave theatres because it’s a great leveller. It’s a great high for an actor. Theatre is what keeps you sane in an otherwise insane business. In terms of movies, I believe I’ve given up on making another mainstream Bollywood movie. When I did those, I did so because I had to pay my bills. But, instead of doing senseless movies, I tried to make those seem as sensible as possible. However, from now on, I’ll continue to focus more on making international cinema like Gaur Hari.
FPJ: Why should people come and watch That’s My Girl?
AM: Theatre is a wholesome experience. This play is going to be an eye-opener for everyone from the younger generation to their parents. The presentation is quite funny, witty and warm. Writing-wise, performance-wise and production-wise, this is going to be a complete experience for the audience.
AD: Why should people watch theatre at all? First, it’s the sheer thrill of watching live performances. It’s like attending a concert instead of listening to music in your iPod. For this play, the main difference lies in its treatment. Generally, all experimental plays tend to be quite serious in nature. This story, for a change, is told in a humorous way. It’s a feel-good play that has atypical characters and relationships.
SR: This is one play that every father and every daughter must watch. Moreover, the audience will enjoy watching it because it’s warm, funny and entertaining.
Play: That’s My Girl
Cast: Ananth Mahadevan, Ananya Dutta and Shweta Rohira
Writer-Director: Bharat Dabholkar
Premiere Shows: March 17, Gandharva Ranga Mandir, Bandra
March 18, Tata NCPA, Nariman Point