What was the inspiration behind hosting a tribute show of Broken Images?
Both Girish Karnad and my dad, Alyque Padamsee were the stalwarts and torch-bearers of theatre. This, I felt, was the least I could do to acknowledge and commemorate their contribution to contemporary Indian theatre. Besides which, what better play than Broken Images, which they both were such a part of for 10 years along with another legend and one of their favourites, Shabana Azmi.
What are some of your earliest memories associated with Broken Images, which was directed by your father, Alyque Padamsee?
We had gone to watch Bikhre Bimb, the Hindi version of this play that Girish had done and was brought to Bombay for the Vinod Doshi Theatre Festival by his lovely wife, Saryu Doshi. Shabana and I had been speaking for a long time about doing a play in English and scripts were flying back and forth but we didn’t connect on anything, till Dad and I saw this play and it struck me that this would be the perfect script. It was contemporary, it was edgy, it was a technological challenge, it was an actor’s dream to play two characters in the same theatre frame, as opposed to a cinema frame and it was a psychological drama, which Dad was ready to sink his teeth into. And so 2009 is when we opened and 10 years on, here we are.. We did two tribute shows in both Bangalore and Delhi and this weekend, Mumbai here we come...
What is your lasting impression of the late and great playwright, Girish Karnad?
Broken Images has been translated by Girish himself and this is the very same play and not an adaptation. Girish Karnad and my dad Alyque were two great minds. Girish was a visionary playwright. With his exemplary writing he gave the world plays like Tughlaq and Vultures, which Dad also directed and Hayavadana. His work was truly exceptional, he does live on through his brilliant writing and will impact generations to come.
Did you’ll expect the play to achieve this iconic status?
This play has huge heft, written by Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan Girish Karnad. Directed by Padma Shri Alyque Padamsee and starring Padma Bhushan Shabana Azmi. It doesn’t get bigger than this, in one production. We have done over a hundred shows pan India and globally. The biggest factor in this show is the role of technology, no one would have ever thought we could do an entire show with such sync between one character, live, on stage and one pre-recorded character on screen. You have to come see it to know what I’m talking about.
Were there any challenges initially in pulling off this format?
The timing between Shabana on stage and the video of Shabana on screen had to always be in absolute sync. Imagine when Girish told us he wanted us to re-shoot the character that Shabana plays on screen, we didn’t know how to react, but Shabana being such a pro did the entire re-shoot in a single day! She left us surprised as she had earlier mentioned that this was her ‘most technically challenging play ever’. Kudos to her, I don’t know how she does it!
There have been so many agonising times when plugs have come out, electricity has fluctuated and so much more, so just to be on the safe side, we run each show with two video machines playing simultaneously, so that in case one fails, we seamlessly can switch to the next and it has happened many a time, without the audience noticing.
Has the play been tweaked in any way over the years?
Technology plays the biggest role in this play. So once again, this year, as it was in its tenth year, Girish was very adamant that we re-shoot the part of Shabana that plays on the screen. That was a huge task, considering Shabana’s busy schedule and our upcoming productions, but we managed to do it. Putting all that aside, the play is perfect. It needs no tweaking at all and now here we are, all set for our shows this weekend! Of course we have changed the set, the costumes, the lighting, but in essence, the play remains the same.
Watching the legendary Azmi perform, what are the emotions that she elicits in you?
Dad always had Shabana in mind from the time the question arose of who was to be cast in the play. In fact, there is a video on YouTube of him speaking about why Shabana was his first and only choice when it came to playing this complex role. For me, Shabana is one of the finest actresses in the country. Be it theatre, films or television, she is one of the greatest and most versatile thespians of Indian cinema and has made a name for herself in the global arena of cinema.
As she plays two characters, the complexities, the fragility and the duplicity of her characters comes through with such nuance and poignancy that every time I watch it, especially the end, my hair stands on end.
So this one’s for Dad and Girish, as they plan their next production in the blue yonder.
Venue: St. Andrews, Bandra
When: Saturday, August 3, 7:30 pm & Sunday, 4, 7:30 pm