It’s a busy time for Saksham Shukla. He is the wily Polonius of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet and, two days later, the evil Mrs Boynton from Agatha Christie’s Appointment with Death. He is a king arranging a yajna to appease the rain god in Agni aur Barkha and a the wise Cleante in Moliere’s Tartuffe. A versatile and powerful performer, Shukla is a part of the Shri Ram Centre Repertory Company in Delhi. Excerpts from an interview:
I started in school: As a small kid, I acted and danced a lot. Every child should participate in co-curricular activities in school, from debates to acting. It gives your self-confidence a boost.
Theatre teaches you to handle life better: When your co-actors fumble or forget their lines, you have to keep calm and improvise. The show must go on. This is true for real life as well. Once, I was performing at IIT Bombay and the lights were supposed to go off at a certain point. The lightman forgot. For five minutes, I stood there and invented stuff. Sometimes, you surprise yourself.
Script is king: I always dreamed of being somebody I was not. When the director,
(K Madhavane) gave me the role of Polonius, the father of Ophelia, in Hamlet, I realised that this was somebody I had never met before. I plunged into the script. Madhavane sir brings a touch of French farce into his theatre and there is a bit of that in Polonius though he is not a comic character.
I observed 50-60 women to play Mrs Boynton: She is a woman who makes her children’s life miserable. I followed the ‘Magic If’, a process by Konstantin Stanislavski, which made me ask, ‘what would Saksham do if I were in the place of Mrs Boynton?’ I observed how women walk and talk. Once you understand the psyche of a character, things become, not easy, but possible.
I don’t judge characters: I play Najeeb in the play Tughlaq, the Wazir-e-azam. He is not true to the ruler but to the throne. To play a historical character, you have to let your imagination come to work.
How I relax: I watch movies and read a lot. When an author explains even a window or a pillow, the smell and the aura transport you into that universe. You start feeling and, later, when you are playing a role, these things come back. I also think it is important for an actor to travel because you get to know the culture, the people, how the environment responds to them and how they respond to the universe.
Agni aur Barkha and Tughlaq will be performed at Shri Ram Centre on June 28 and 30, respectively. Time: 7 pm