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  • Quasar Thakore Padamsee

Theatre movies in movie theatres

First appeared on Aug 15, 2018 in The Asian Age

Currently there is a small film running in cinemas across the country called Karwaan. While the film industry specialists and the producers of the film monitor its progress as it looks toward a third week, there is another group that is also got a keen eye on the box office figures: the theatre community.

This is because the film is very much a theatre community project. While the protagonists do have some theatre experience, it's the rest of the team that is full of people who have cut their teeth in theatre; from the ADs, to the dialogue writers, to the supporting actors, to the little cameos, and of course the director, Akarsh Khurana, who runs the ridiculously prolific AKvarious theatre company. This might probably the first film that is so reliant on theatre people. Therefore if it does well, it's a win for the theatre community.

Of course there are plenty of films where theatre people have played a major part. Released on the same day as Karwaan, was Mulk, which is also doing very well. The film has received praise for the performances of 'theatre actors' Manoj Pahwa, Seema Pahwa, Kumud Mishra and others. But it's a serious film. Ever since Satya, which literally lifted members from a table around the Prithvi Café and put them on screen, theatre actors, writers, and creators have been the "go to" gang for real, hard hitting cinema. This trend has seen the likes of Makarand Deshpande, Anurag Kashyap, and an army of people flourish and become part of the mainstream. For all their artistic merit and use of theatre folk, Shyam Benegal and Govind Nihalani films were still considered 'parallel cinema'.

Even the cult classic Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron, which used theatre people and even a 'play within the film', was still alternate, not mainstream. Many theatrefolk have also ventured to make a film, sometimes based on their own plays, sometimes not. Makarand Deshpande has made quite a few, but again they were 'alternate' plots and ideas. Jagdish Rajpurohit attempted to make a comedy Bamboo, but it didn't do well. Anand Tiwari did find some success with Love Per Squarefoot but it became only a Netflix film. Theatre has always had its group of stars who have crossed over to very successful film careers. Naseeruddin Shah is probably the patron saint of this tribe. But there are more in the current generation too. The nature of cinema being made offers a wide range of parts and even though genetics may not be on your side, if you have talent, you will get recognised and regular film work.

Nimrat Kaur, Ali Fazal, Neil Bhoopalam, Kalki Koechlin, Kumudh Mishra, Vinay Pathak, Richa Chaddha, Vicky Kaushal and many others have all benefited from this changing trend.

However, they each keep returning to theatre and plays, and stay active in both mediums. But the use of actors from theatre in film is not new. In fact Sir Richard Attenborough always preferred using actors with some level of stage experience. He felt they came better prepared, and weren't as worried about what they like, but more about what they made the audience feel.

What sets Karwaan apart, however, is that it's a small, sweet, 'commercial' film that is heavily invested in honest story-telling, with strong performances. It's not trying to make a social comment, or break any boundaries. It's a simple, sweet film. And not only are the people in front of the camera theatre-wallahs, so are the guys behind the scenes. And that's why everyone from the theatre community is so hell-bent on its success. Quasar Thakore Padamsee is a Bombay-based theatre-holic. He works primarily as a theatre-director for arts management company QTP, who also manage the youth theatre movement Thespo.

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