interview with Ramu Ramanathan
you prefer? Directing your own scripts or other writers’?
I direct my plays because no
one directs them. But I've done interesting work when directing the great
masters. Basheer's ME GRANDAD AD AN ELEPHANT, Margaret Duras' L'AMANTE
ANGLAISE, Samuel Beckett's KRAPP'S LAST TAPE.
have you handled in your scripts over the years?
Anything, everything that helps
me ask questions and take "punga". For e.g. I'm writing a new play 3, SAKINA
MANZIL. This is about the 1944 Dock Explosion in Mumbai. And the gold flying
through the sky...along with human limbs! About World War II, the threat
of Japanese aggression and the golden era of Hindi cinema! Amrit Gangar
(like Virgil) has been my guide in the gallis and khopchas of Pydhonie,
Dock Yard, Asiatic Library. We've met survivors, documented amazing stories,
sipped our chai and gaped at the relics and monuments. Every visit has
been a discovery. Sometimes it has been the big themes. At others, the
Do you think
the presence of the scriptwriter at rehearsals is necessary, perhaps to
facilitate on the spot improvisations?
It is said, Arthur Miller used
to ghost-direct the first production of his plays. Like most playwrights,
he didn't trust the director and actors. But as a rule, the playwright
should steer clear from the rehearsal space. It’s a waste of time and energy-sapping.
Playwrights should learn to disown their writing.
you used the diaries of Mahatma Gandhi's secretary as the source for your
play and it received rave reviews. What inspired you to write it?
For me, MAHADEVBHAI is a response
to the politics of our times. To start with, anti-Gandhism is rampant and
then there is the systematic discrediting of democratic institutions. As
I see it, there are a couple of reasons for this. For one, our politics
has been communalised. This automatically makes Gandhiji an easy target.
Since these days, anyone who has been perceived as pro-Muslim will be attacked.
Then there are the caste politicians, who are constantly playing the anti-Gandhi
card. In this sense Ambedkar and Gandhi become foes without their politics
being understood. The point is, the modus operandi of the criticism against
Gandhi is cloaked in subterfuge.
As you're perhaps aware, there
have been 3-4 anti-Gandhi plays and even mainstream films in the past decade.
And all of them very popular. MAHADEVBHAI was my attempt to set the record
straight, in a small way.
In this sense, I was clear about
devising a play that will reach-out to the uninitiated, and those members
of the audience who are hostile to Gandhiji and his tenets. For me, Mahadevbhai
became a tantra to reach that tatva.
Do you think
plays in Indian languages are effective when translated into English &
vice versa? ‘The Sanjivani Super Show!’ is one such. What is most
important to retain the flavor of the original work?
I don't know if the Sanjivani
Super Show is effective. It’s been criticised by 50% of the Kannadiga audience
who have seen it. They found the play and the antics on stage, blasphemous.
In Sanjivani Super Show I've tried to retain the masti, the irreverence
and the musicality of Kannadiga.
In the present
day scenario, how feasible is it for one to take up theatre as a full time
Theatre has never been a career
for me. I've never done a play for the money. I do plays in order to share
an idea, a thought. I believe in good taste, decent humour, intelligence
and above all progressive values. And in today's times wherein everything
has a price tag, it becomes difficult to sustain such hopeless ideals.