‘I like speaking for the underdog,’ says theatre director and actor Danish Husain

When it comes to the theatre watching experience, there is nothing that can trump the feeling of watching a live performance. Lovers of the art form believe there is no better way to experience the magic of the stage than by watching it live and Danish Husain, too, cannot wait to get back to it. However, the actor, storyteller, poet and theatre director, who runs the theatre company The Hoshruba Repertory, also understands that there may be many people who cannot visit theatres for various reasons. He also believes that art must be disseminated and reach as many people as possible.

A day after World Theatre Day (March 27), Zee Theatre premiered the musical melodrama Aaj Rang Hai written and directed by Purva Naresh on Tata Sky Theatre. Danish, who is a part of the play, says that if somebody is making an effort to shoot a play well, edit it and present it in a manner that makes the watching experience a pleasant one, then it should be done. Excerpts from a conversation:

Can you tell us about the relevance of Aaj Rang Hai that draws inspiration from Amir Khusrau’s life and works?

The fact that a play is happening right now and there is an audience for it, means it is relevant. Whatever we do, whether it is mythology, historical or science-fiction, it is all about that time, audience and milieu. Whatever Amir Khusrau stood for is very much relevant today. It amazes me that in the 21st century, one has to impress upon the fact that no matter whose life it is, it is important. Khusrau is a milestone in the evolution of language as we understand it today. He should be celebrated anyway.

A still from the teleplay Aaj Rang Hai
A still from the teleplay Aaj Rang Hai

You have such a vast body of work. When you take up a theatre project now, what are the kind of stories that you are looking to explore?

I like speaking for the underdog, for the oppressed and for the marginalised. I like amplifying the voice of someone who’s not being heard. I don’t think I actively seek out to look for such stories. If a story touches me or catches my imagination, I would love to present it on stage or perform it. Also, I like speaking truth to power, and so I like satire as well.

You used to perform Dastangoi and then you moved on to Qissebaazi in the last few years. Do you want to expand it and explore it in more ways?

I love storytelling. It is a very participative kind of performance. Listening to a story, you’re a collaborative participant in terms of creating the imagination that story demands. I want to have storytelling in as many languages as we have in our country and bring those stories out on stage and perform them for the audiences.

There has been a lot of online engagement during the lockdown. Even you did workshops online. How comfortable were you with the online space and did it take some time getting used to?

It was strange performing to a mobile phone or a laptop. It was not a wholesome experience, like how it is when you perform on stage, so it was a very poor substitute for me. After a while, I stopped performing online. I was open to interviews and conversations, but not so much for performances online. It didn’t click for me personally.

Do you see a new kind of theatre emerging post pandemic?

We did not need a pandemic for a new kind of theatre to emerge. As new technologies emerge, next generation comes, languages and cultures evolve, theatre would also change and adapt accordingly. Yes, we have never seen something of this nature in human history, where the whole world has been affected. The ramifications of it will be seen for a long time. We’re still waiting and watching. However, I think theatre was evolving and will continue evolving and it will be interesting to see the impact the pandemic has on the evolution of theatre.

World over, theatre is seeing some tumultuous times due to the pandemic. What is your hope from 2021 for the theatre community and theatre lovers?

The hope is that the vaccination programme kicks in and becomes effective and eventually we see the end of the pandemic this year. I hope things get back to a state of normalcy and we can get back theatre audiences without a perpetual sword hanging over our heads.

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