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World Theatre Day: Himani Shivpuri, Akarsh Khurana, Aahana Kumra celebrate their love for the stage

The actors joined playwright Mahesh Dattani, Shikha Talsania, and Joy Sengupta to speak about the draw of the stage. 

Our Correspondent

Whether it was Prithviraj Kapoor, after whom the famed Prithvi Theatre in Mumbai is named, or Naseeruddin Shah, theatre has given Indian cinema some of its most fiery talents. On World Theatre Day [27 March], actors stepped forward to speak about what draws them to the stage. 

With theatres across the globe shut down in view of the global pandemic, it felt odd that World Theatre Day would be celebrated in silence. But actress Himani Shivpuri spoke about how the stage still has an attraction for her. The actress, a National School of Drama graduate, spoke of her first experience on stage, saying, "I played the role of Mitro in Mitro Marjaani, which was directed by BM Shah and it was really amazing because for the first time in Indian theatre, there was a woman portraying someone who is bold about her physical needs and is proud of her body." 

Having been part of some iconic television series (Kyonki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi) and films like Hum Aapke Hain Koun (1994) and Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge (1995), the actress reiterated that, "theatre was, and will always be her first love." The actress will be returning with a teleplay on Zee Theatre called Hamidabai Ki Kothi. 

Actress Shikha Talsania shares her love for theatre with her father, actor Tiku Talsania. Speaking of the stage, the actress said, "I grew up backstage as my parents are theatre artistes. Watching them transform every time they went on stage was magical. I wasn’t sure if I would make a career in theatre, but I knew I would be involved in theatre in some capacity."

 She added, “I feel honored to be a part of the theatre community. Every single person involved in putting up a play/natak are heroes, and so are the audiences that come to watch us."

Aahana Kumra, who grabbed attention with her performance in Lipstick Under My Burkha (2017), said, "When I was 14, I joined a workshop at Prithvi Theatre, which was when I discovered my passion for theatre. The workshop was conducted by Neeraj Kabi and I was completely fascinated by the stage and Prithvi Theatre itself. I started participating in the theatre festivals, working at the box office, sometimes even backstage, so that’s how it really began."

The actress, who is part of Zee Theatre's upcoming teleplay, Sir Sir Sarla, recalled her early years in theatre saying, "I think almost every production of Motley’s is close to my heart. Naseer sir and Ratna ma'am were my mentors and I have learned a lot from them. I hold, By George, my first play, closest to my heart. I did a piece with Faisal Rashid, and I still remember our first show at NCPA, I just went and hugged Naseer sir, and said, thank you so much for giving me this opportunity.”

Paying tribute to Safdar Hashmi, his mentor, as a "martyr of theatre, art and culture," actor Joy Sengupta said, "Theatre is most distinctively, a socio-political voice in art, it is life, it is lively, it is direct, it is interactive and a democratic interaction takes place between the audience and the actor debating the conflicts in human life."

Playwright Mahesh Dattani, director of 30 Days in September, said of the stage, "The space is fixed, the tempo and rhythm are in the hands of the actor. Reactions to actions are organic. Visual, temporal, and emotional continuity is a reward to the actor rather than a task. As a director, my motto is simple: tell the story. I give shape and direction, to which the actors tell their part of the story with sincerity and imagination."

Kaarwaan director Akarsh Khurana, who also made his foray from theatre on to the big screen, is set to direct his play, Dhumrapaan, for Zee Theatre. He said, "My father was actively involved in theatre.  At the age of six, I acted in two plays - Waiting for Godot directed by Benjamin Gilani, and Circus directed by Sunil Shanbag."

The tradition of celebrating World Theatre Day began in 1961, when the International Theatre Institute proposed that there should be a day every year to celebrate the importance of theatre.