The Show Goes On

The Show Goes On

Playwright Rahul Seth on writing about survivors of violence, returning to the stage after 30 years in corporate America, and his new theatre company.

A rehearsal of the play in progress.

After 30 years as a management and technology professional in the US, Rahul Seth, 60, has been finding his feet among the jostling crowds of Nehru Place in Delhi, where material is being printed for his new play, Anterdhwani. His protagonists, too, are mere individuals caught in a large whirlpool of chaotic events. At the centre of the fictional narrative of Anterdhwani is an urban, upper-class family whose 24-year-old son, Kabir, an idealist photojournalist, goes to a region fraught with conflicts. As the parents try to cope, using devices ranging from blame game to drowning in work, the play — translated from Seth’s published script, Running on Empty, and directed by MK Raina — explores the aftermath of violence. Anterdhwani is also the first major production of Long Jump Studio (LJS), a company that Seth has founded to bring contemporary Indian prose and plays to stage. Excerpts from a conversation with Seth:

What was the motivation for writing this play?

There is a lot of violence going on right now. I realised that not enough is said about the people who are left behind as survivors. They just try to cope with the loss. In the attempts to reconstruct their lives, what do people do? I started thinking of this with regards to the violence in the Middle East but I put it in the Indian context, such as to the violence in the Northeast, Kashmir and Chhattisgarh. I spoke to people who are working in these areas, such as doctors. Some of the elements in the play are real because they are based on true incidents in the lives of people. I am not taking sides or ideology, but focussing on the people affected by the violence.

Rahul Seth

Why did you turn to theatre after a corporate life?

I was always interested in theatre, even when I was studying in Delhi in the ’70s and watched the productions at the National School of Drama. Stories of people caught in difficult situations had a great impact on me. Aadhey Adhure and Sandhaya Chhaya are my favourites. I still remember meeting the cast after the play at the small theatre that used to be on the third floor of the Sahitya Akademi building. Meeting Surekha Sikri and Manohar Singh was a special moment. Another play, Six Characters in Search of an Author, performed by the NSD Repertory, changed my life. The question of what is reality and what is a play became blurred.


Once you decided to return to the stage, how did you prepare?

I used to act in plays in Washington DC. All of these were Indian plays but I came back to theatre full time after my wife and I moved back to India in 2012. I am writing and adapting Hindi stories. My mother, Rajee Seth is a well-known writer of short stories in Hindi. I am now looking at directing. Two years ago, I took a course at Shri Ram Centre. Last July, I went to Yale School of Drama and spent two weeks in a very intense course. That established the framework within which I want to direct.

The play will be staged at Shri Ram Centre on January 5 and 6, 6.30 pm