Here come the Idiots

Debarati Palit Singh
Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Shrirang Godbole talks about his new Marathi commercial play Idiots, what keeps him going in experimental theatre and how different mediums influence him

A Mumbai-based young couple chooses to be in a live-in relationship because they do not want to get married. They make a contract that if they get into a fight three times, they will end the relationship. So do they stick together or part ways?

Idiots, a new Marathi play written and directed by Shrirang Godbole, tells this story. It  will be staged in the city on Friday. 

Godbole, a noted playwright, director and producer, has written and directed a commercial Marathi drama after a long gap. Idiots, a two-act musical, is produced by Indian Magic Eye and Zee Marathi and stars Sagar Karande and Smita Tambe.

Godbole calls it a slice-of-life story. “The play has comic elements but there’s a serious turn in the end,” he says and adds, “The play is based on what’s happening around us today, on how smaller issues become big in life.”

The inspiration for the story came from what he has seen happening around him in society, says Godbole. “There are various shades of the man-woman relationship. I see a lot of young people in Mumbai and how their relationships are struggling in modern times. Plus, you have your own life and experiences to add to it,” he points out. 

And why is the play titled Idiots? “Because the protagonists of the play think that those who get married are idiots. They want to be free of the hassles involved in a marriage but later realise that those married do have a point too,” he explains.
 
Godbole is happy with the way the Marathi commercial theatre circuit is shaping up. He says, “It’s pulsating. You will find that there are many plays that are experimental in nature but are not shying away from the commerce aspect either. In the last one year, we have seen classics like Hamlet being staged in Marathi and with it, also a few experimental plays which are very contemporary. At any given day, we have 40 to 45 plays being staged. And most importantly, there is quality along with quantity.”    
The writer-producer-director has been associated with experimental theatre for many years. In fact, his association with the Grips Theatre movement in India goes back three decades or more. So what keeps him going, we ask. “I am never satisfied and always want to do something new. The day you think you have done something noteworthy, you feel like retiring. I have to keep doing new things, otherwise I get restless,” he reveals. 

Different mediums
Godbole is a well-known name in the Marathi film and television industries. He has been part of several films like Chintu, Pitruroon, Pune 52 and serials like Guntata Hriday He, Amar Prem, Tee Phularani  as a writer, director or producer. Ask him if different sensibilities are required to write for different mediums and he says, “The sensibilities are the same, whether you write for films or theatre. It’s only the medium in which you convert your ideas, that changes. There is definitely a certain kind of craft involved in theatre, which is different from that required in films, TV and so on. The choice of medium actually decides the output, provided you are clear about what you want to say.”
 
And he points out that these mediums impact each other. As a result, while working in one medium, one does get influenced by other mediums. “I get influenced by TV,  films, theatre and novels. Having said that, when I am doing TV or cinema, the rules of these mediums have to be followed and similarly, when I am doing theatre, I have to be mindful of its rules,” he says, suggesting that each medium has its own independent territory.
   
In his case, theatre has been a special influence. Not many know that he started his career with the stage. “Theatre is the mother of all. TV and cinema were the logical extensions for me,” he says. 

This background in theatre gives him a better understanding of the human psyche, he informs. “While working on the stage, we give attention to minute details like the lowest and highest point in a character’s life. That kind of gives us the power to understand the character much better. Many a times, you will see that people who write only for television, come up with two-dimensional characters which look like cut-outs. As against that, those with a background in theatre will make their characters three-dimensional and give them a lot of depth. As a result, these characters look very real. Of course, it’s also true that there are many talented people in films, television and web who have had no connection with theatre.”

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