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Ambika Shaligram
Friday, 1 March 2019

In a chat with Anahita Uberoi and Ishitta Arun, we find out about their play, Gaa Re Maa, that will be staged in the city today

For every succeeding generation, certain aspects of their lives will be sacrosanct, which the youngsters might find ‘unfathomable’. Take music for instance. Jaya Kelkar is a trained a Hindustani classical music vocalist. Due to some circumstances, her career in the music has gone astray. Her son, Prashant, ‘is yet to know his kind of sound’. He is a DJ, playing Sukhbir’s songs at the weddings. This obviously doesn’t go down well with his mum. A typical generation gap story, right? Can this story unfold differently?

Anahita Uberoi, who has directed Kelkar’s story and also that of their neighbour’s, and Ishitta Arun, who thought of this generation gap story, tell us more about the play, Gaa Re Maa. The play will be staged at Nehru Memorial Hall, this evening.
A contemporary subject
Everyone knows Ishitta Arun — she was the face of Aika Dajiba and Bijuriyaan music videos. She has also acted in theatre, has a keen sense of music, and she is also a model. Daughter of Ila Arun and Arun Bajpai, Ishitta says that she had very forward-looking parents. “Yet at some stage of growing up, there is always a gap between the two. When you grow up, you realise how you bridged that gap, and made things work. I also wanted to do something that would resonate with me. My knowledge of music and relationships were the inception for this story, which eventually became Gaa Re Maa,” says Ishitta.

The actor-singer asked her mother, ‘Why don’t you tackle contemporary subject in your theatre company?’ Ila replied, ‘Why don’t you start your company? If you want, we can talk to Bharti (Achrekar) aunty for this story. She sings so well’. “This conversation was in jest. Later I gave a serious thought to it. I had a plot in my head. But I was aware that I needed people who are masters in what they do. Three years ago, I met Adhir Bhat. I mentioned it to him and he happily said, ‘yes’ when there was nothing in sight. Two years later, when I was back at the drawing board, our paths crossed again. By then Siddharth Kumar was also on board. So they ended up co-writing the script.”

Talking about the music of the play and how it evolved, she says, “I have been privy to the making of music, which is why I wanted the making of music to be highlighted in the play. We listen to a track, but not all of us know the journey of what led up to that track. In terms of plot points of the play, I tried to figure out what I wanted to listen to and that was Hindustani classical with little bit of rap, and little bit of gospel. So that’s how the music started taking shape in my head as well. The other main theme in the story is about Mumbai, where I lived all my life. I also wanted to capture the Maharashtrian milieu.” 

Her husband, Dhruv Ghanekar has composed the music for the play. For the play, they wanted to take the story forward through a drummer, but the team quickly realised that drummers were the busiest musicians. To get a drummer as an actor would have been very difficult, so the actor became a DJ. “With him being a DJ, there was a lot more that we could do with the sound. It’s only taken a shape for the better. Writers brought in structure, humour and tied up the loose ends. When Anahita came on board, she infused a new life into it. But music is the soul of the play. The star of the play,” Ishitta emphasises.
In tune 
The reason Anahita Uberoi got drawn to Gaa Re Maa was that it was a very, young, fresh story and the format used was very interesting. “Adhir and Siddharth wrote the  script, but there were chunks of the play that could be improvised and worked on as well,” says Uberoi, who has directed plays like Rupert’s Birthday, Going Solo and The Glass Menagerie. 

Talking about the process of improvising with writers on the script, Uberoi says, “What happened was that with a new play, the spurts in which it is produced, there is a lot of scope for trial and error. That works well if the playwrights and director can trust each other. I have worked with Siddharth before and Adhir is wonderful to work with. They are very quick. If there are changes to be made and stuff like that, they are very sharp.  

I would say that in the altogether eight months of back and forth, what we started with and what we eventually landed up, it was quite a journey. An interesting journey.” 

For any theatre production to succeed, there has to be a teamwork, but eventually it is the actor who has to pull it off before the audience. With Gaa Re Maa, we see on stage, Achrekar and Suneeta Rao (who is a familiar face for the ’90s kids), both known for their music. Uberoi, incidentally always thought of Achrekar as a singing-actor. “I have known Bharti since I was a child. I saw her sing in Hamidabai chi kothi (directed by Uberoi’s mother, Vijayabai Mehta) and that image was very deep and long-standing. She was on board for the project, even before I was. When I knew Bharti was going to do it, I was very excited. Also it’s good to have Suneeta back after so long, doing a play. She is a very happy female,” chirps Uberoi. 

Uberoi, who has worked in Broadway theatre too, says that the fun is in spending time with your actors, getting them to know in tiny, smaller details of your character. 

“Both the characters are strong women. Bharti and Suneeta are nothing like the characters they play, but they draw something specific from their experiences for the play,” she adds.
Moving on to music, she says, “Playing around with music was a good amount of fun. It’s a play that uses music to talk about differences and you know, these days, it’s important to be inclusive. We should be talking about how to minimise differences and celebrate them instead. That is the way I look at the world right now. It’s the need of the hour.” 

In this case, does humour find a large portion in the film? “There is a good amount of humour in Gaa Re Maa. But it also got its moments of everything,” she says with a laugh.

ST Reader Service
Watch Gaa Re Maa at Nehru Memorial Hall, Camp on Saturday evening, 7 pm onwards. Tickets available on

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