“Every night I think of a new story,” muses Saif Hyder Hasan, the prolific writer-director who has given a new lease of life to Hindustani commercial theatre with popular plays such as
Ek Mulaqat, Gardish Main Hain Taare and Mr and Mrs Mungerilal. “

I forget it by morning, but if it stays with me for two-three months, then I start writing. There are so many things happening around us, what sticks, makes it to the stage.”

This weekend he is trying something new with an English solo,
Mirror Mirror
that marks the entry of actor Minissha Lamba on stage. The original story about sibling rivalry has been with him for quite sometime now. “In 2011, I mounted it in Hindi with Shweta Tiwari in the lead. I want to give my audience good value for money. There should be a gripping storyline backed by good lighting, sets and music. And a popular actor who can pull audience to the theatre. The package should be very interesting.” Perhaps, this is the new definition of commercial theatre. “I don’t know what commercial theatre is? If I am paying Rs. 75000 as the rent for an auditorium, who is going to recover this money? Gone are the days when we staged plays at Shri Ram Centre’s basement by booking it for Rs. 1200 rupees. It used to take Rs. 25000 to mount a production. Now it requires a sum in multiplication of six figures. The way things are, everything has become commercial.” And that demands an actor, who can attract people to ticket window? “Yes, an actor who has some following. What’s wrong in it? You are getting a bigger crowd and in the process you are converting more people to theatre.” Many feel it is a compromise, for there was a time when theatre used to guide the market. Now it is the other way round. “When you are very honest to your art form, you are not compromising.
Ek Mulaqat

not a compromise
And I feel
Mirror Mirror
will also live up to the expectations.”

Ek Mulaqat
has Shekhar Suman, who is a product of theatre. “You forget, it also has Deepti Naval. She made her debut with the play,” he counters. “Similarly, I introduced Arif Zakaria with
Gardish Main Hain Taare
. These are actors who are coming from different idioms. It is a time when Saif Ali Khan has just attempted a web series. This is the time for creative cross pollination,” avers Saif, wondering whether he has come up with a punchline.

Creative process

In Minissha, he has found a good student. “See, learning and unlearning is a creative process. At the end of the day, theatre is a like one long shot. Cinema is about close-ups, here you have to project your voice.” Can it be learnt? “Of course. If you are a good actor, you can adapt easily. It is like if you know how to ride a cycle, you can easily drive a scooter.” But it seems, nowadays those who have driven cars are being expected to ride a cycle? Saif says driving a four-wheeler can’t be compared to riding a two-wheeler. “The point is a good actor is a good actor, whatever be the medium.” He reminds how theatre has a huge influence on cinema. “A lot of time is given to each shot and there are rehearsals. A lot of nurturing happens during workshops. These are the creative ethics of theatre.” A story of identical twins, Saif says it is different from his previous work. “They were poetic, set in a different era. This is very urbane, contemporary and in English. So please don’t come with the expectation that
isme sher-o-shayari hogi.”
Ek Mulaqat
has completed 80 shows, and it’s time Saif share his takeaway.

“The play is largely in Urdu and Punjabi, two languages young urban people are not too familiar with. It proves the play speaks the universal language of love.”

(Produced by AGP World, “Mirror Mirror” will be staged this Saturday at Kamani Auditorium, 8 p.m.)

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