Actor, director, and writer, Makarand Deshpande dons many hats. He also juggles mediums — films and theatre. And when you ask him to pick his favourite, the answer is as spontaneous as his craft. So when the versatile artiste decided to present his latest work in his most preferred medium, it was only expected that it would receive a “standing ovation”. “The audience was left feeling numb,” he shares.
After the successful screening of his latest play ‘Balatkar — Please Stop it!’, we caught up with Makarand Deshpande to know why he decided to write a play on the subject, his love for theatre, performing live, and lot more. Edited excerpts below:
Tell us about your most recent play, and why you chose this subject and the medium?
To write a play on balatkar (rape) was a huge challenge because while it is still possible to recreate reality on camera, it is not the same in theatre. But since it is a medium where the audience and the performer become one, I thought of attempting to address the subject theatrically, using the language of theatre, and in turn, understand and have a certain impact on the viewers. The play is also my endeavour to investigate the many causes behind the act, and also have some questions answered.
Also, theatre is such an ancient medium that it becomes the ideal one if you have a dark subject that you wish to portray. It is also the most alive and impactful medium. And allow me to share that in the four shows I did, I received a standing ovation; the audience was left feeling numb — and that’s the strength of the medium.
Can you share the format of the drama — a play within a play, and why was it chosen for the same?
A play within a play is the format of life, I feel. Like how, sometimes while dealing with a subject, another aspect of our life comes to the fore. And that is exactly what happens in theatre, too. It is the medium where you express what is going on in your mind. So, it begins with you having a subject, the actors, but when you start making the play and delve deeper into the subject, what comes to the actor’s minds, and how their various emotions trigger, their wounds open, becomes another play — which, I think, was essential while dealing with this subject in partucular.
Did you face any criticism for using the term ‘balatkar’ in the play’s title?
I received a call from the Censor Chief, who himself is a playwright, and was told that using the term might provoke certain people. So then I offered to add the words, ‘Stop it’, and it was finalised. In fact, when my actors had also heard the title initially, they wanted me to change it.
You have also acted in films. If you had to pick one of the two mediums, which one would you and why?
It is an easy pick for me — theater; because as a writer, director, actor, and even as a person I exist fully in theatre. So, every time I do a play, I feel, that this is what I am. I would say, theater shows me who I am from within more than the mirror.
After a long hiatus owing to the pandemic, theatre is slowly making a comeback. How does it feel to be preparing/being live on stage?
The best thing about going to theater is that you get to meet people. During the pandemic, we watched a lot of OTT platform content, but television, as a medium, can only show content, it cannot talk back. But in theatre, everyone is able to receive and also give.
However, theatre despite its popularity has always remained a niche medium. Would you agree to the same? If yes, why do you think it is so?
Theatre always reaches to the capacity of the theater where is happens. It’s reach will definitely increase if we decide to put it online. But then, theater is about really being there present — and that’s the beauty of it. Also, a true theatre person will only perform and would want an audience that is present there. And about being niche, if we are referring to the numbers, then yes, but in terms of diversity, I think everybody watches plays.