‘When you laugh, it means you can relate to the subject’

Ambika Shaligram
Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Makarand Deshpande believes that his style of theatre is not ‘destructive’, although he likes to mirror social and political changes through his productions. He will be staging his Hindi play, Joke, in the city on Saturday

Faith and fairytale. That’s not an example of alliterative figure of speech. But the crux of  Makarand Deshpande’s play, Joke, which he is bringing to Pune as a part of Entre Nous’ Curtains Up Festival of Theatre.

The Hindi play was first staged in 2009 reflecting the social and political turmoil of that period. Things have considerably deteriorated since then. So have those changes been incorporated into Joke?

Says Makarand, “We have not made any changes to the script. It is the same.” 

Giving the analogy of a house, the theatre actor-director says, “Once we have built a house, moved into it and lived there for several years, we make slight changes to the décor, keeping in mind which corner gets the maximum sunlight, which area gets more breeze etc. Everyone settles down peacefully and in harmony. Similarly, the play and the characters have shaped well; everyone and everything is in tune.” 

Sensitising the audience
Joke questions faith. But not in a way to sensationalise or create a controversy. Its tool is humour. Explaining the plot, Makarand says, “When we were kids, we were fed tales of gods and goddesses and fairy tales. When we grew up, the world which fairy tales conjured up, was left behind. Only gods and goddesses remained. Joke wants to find out if we have lost our innocence? In our childhood, did it matter if our neighbours were Christians or Muslims? Did we know that they were ‘different’ from ‘us’? These notions grew sharper with adulthood. That too because of our social, political milieu. This subject is quite serious, but how it becomes a ‘joke’, a mockery of our thoughts and beliefs, is what this play is all about.”

We ask if the subject will affect the turnout of the audience? Does it fall under ‘experimental’ genre? “There is nothing abstract in the play. We have kept it simple and it reflects what is happening around us. Whenever I have staged Joke, the audience has turned up in big number. It keeps the audience laughing; when you laugh, it means you can relate to the subject; you agree with it too,” says the Sar Sar Sarla fame director. 

Makarand, who has also acted in films like Fukrey Returns, Issaq and Satya, adds, “I was invited by Murari Bapu to present Joke before his followers. I agreed, but I was skeptical. I explained to him the subject and he said, ‘Go ahead. Not to worry’. Next day we staged the play and no one raised any objection. They laughed just like the audience in other parts of the country do.”

Don’t create monsters
Makarand, who plays the role of writer Sandeep Joshi in the play, says that the play urges people to find out what went wrong; why did we become so fearful of external factors like society? 

“We all are religious; we carry photos of gods, goddesses, spiritual gurus in our wallets. It’s not wrong at all. It’s only when you start propounding ‘My god is stronger than yours’, using swords or bullets, that it goes wrong. Horribly wrong. The role of religion is to encourage us to gain knowledge, to choose right over wrong. We shouldn’t give birth to ‘brahmarakshas’ by going down the wrong path,” he opines.

In the course of the conversation, Makarand, who runs Ansh theatre group in Mumbai, says that plays cannot bring about a revolution. They certainly should be used to ‘realise’ something. 
How would politicians react to a play like Joke, we ask.

“Politicians and political parties love art and theatre apart from sports. Many of the politicians are well-educated, articulate, so they take keen interest in the art world. But yes they can manipulate certain social issues. Having said that, I don’t intend to bring about a ‘revolution’ through my plays. I cannot write or direct plays like Ghashiram Kotwal or Sakharam Binder. I don’t believe in destruction. Destruction, devastation will not yield anything, especially to theatre or society’s value system. My approach would be to put forward my hand. But, yes, I do want to depict social and political changes in my plays,” says the 52-year-old actor. 

Future plans
There were reports that Makarand was working on the sequel for Joke. He confirms them and says, “Yes, that’s true. I have written the script. This time I am trying to discover and explore the idea of faith through the medium of folk tales.  But I am in no hurry to make the sequel.” The actor also wants to adapt the play into Marathi.

He also has plans to start a theatre academy of his own. “I wanted Ansh theatre to have a space of its own. But in Mumbai, there’s scarcity of ‘space’. I don’t know if this dream of mine will come to fruition. But, the one thing that I equally want, is to set up an academy of my own — which will teach acting, of course, writing and production. I have started working on the curriculum — the practises, lessons that I have learnt on my own. I would love to share my teachings,” he says and concludes.  

ST Reader Service 
Makarand Deshpande’s Joke will be staged on February 17 at Entre Nous’ Curtains Up Festival of Theatre (CUFT). It will be held at Liberty Square, Phoenix Marketcity, at 7.30 pm

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