If you are a theatre lover, then you know that Dhappa is one of the most talked about plays in the Hindi theatre circles today. Jointly produced by Karwan theatre Group Mumbai and Aum Theatre Mumbai, Dhappa clocks a production cost of over 32 lakhs and promises to be a visual treat for fans of live art.
On the occasion of World Theatre Day, legendary actor, Puneet Issar opens his heart about his love for theatre in an exclusive interview with DiaryOfAnInsaneWriter. Read on to know more.
This got us curious and DiaryOfAnInsaneWriter met the legendary actor to find out more about this magnum opus theatre production.
I met the iconic performer at his Juhu home on a sunny Saturday afternoon. I must confess that his personality, knowledge and enthusiasm totally mesmerised me. Here are a few excerpts from the interview:
Good afternoon, Puneet ji. Thank you for meeting me and agreeing to do this interview.
Puneetji (smiles): The pleasure is all mine. Ask away, I am happy to answer.
Why theatre? You have a successful film and television career, why did you think of turning to theatre?
Puneetji (his expressive eyes start twinkling as his orotund voice fills the room): Well, the experience of a performing live is magical. I am able to make an instant connect with my audience and their feedback gives me an adrenaline rush. Gratification like this is delayed with films and TV serials; when I look into the camera, I cannot look into the eyes of my audience and gauge their reaction. Whereas on stage, if the audience loves the performance they reward it with a thundering applause and if they don’t like it, there is an icy silence in the auditorium. That kind of ambience and experience cannot be described. I simply love performing on the stage.
In terms of money, theatre offers a lower compensation compared to other platforms. How do you deal with the monetary loss?
Puneetji (purses his lips and leans forward): I will not mince my words when I say this. There are three reasons why I have picked up work in my life. Monetary gains are most critical and yes, I took up many projects for money. At such times, I told myself that I am like a cab driver and the director is the passenger, he can choose to take me wherever he wants to. The other reason I picked up a role was due to relationships, either the person was very close to me or the role helped me climb the ladder of success. The third reason is for my satisfaction. I do theatre for the third reason. Theatre gives me happiness.
What do you think is lacking in the Hindi theatre industry?
Puneetji (turns pensive, pauses and then speaks): We live in times where everything is available at the click of the button and thus offering something new to the theatre audience is most critical. It pains me to realise that people are rehashing the same topics again and again. It’s time for fresh ideas to be pumped into the Hindi theatre industry. I always wait for people to approach me with the attitude, ‘let’s make something good for the audience’. This is precisely why I sat up and took notice when the Dhappa team approached me.
This brings me to my next question, you most popular for the negative roles that you have portrayed. With Dhappa you have broken the mold. Tell us more about this.
Puneetji (smiles and his tone changes to a soft one): Among my upcoming films, The Kashmir Files and Jayeshbhai Jordaar I play interesting characters that differ from what I have done so far. However, with Dhappa, it’s something else, because it’s a character that I had always thought of playing during my college days.
When the Dhappa team came to me, my first thought was, why did they think of me? How did they know that I had cherished playing such a role for time immemorial?
Apart from being an actor, I am a writer and director and when I saw Dhappa’s script; I fell in love with it instantly. I play the role of Shyam, a film director who stood his guns despite pressure My father, Sudesh Issar was a director and I can see my father in this script. He was similar in many ways to Shyam.
We are told that you generously gave a monologue, Pathhar Ke Pankh written by your father and worked with the director on weaving it in Dhappa’s script. Tell us more about it.
Puneetji (beams and says affirmatively): There’s nothing generous about it! Dhappa is my play and these are my people. I love and respect their work and attitude. That’s why I decided to part with Patthar Ke Pankh and pitched it to Akshay.
Akshay Mishra, the writer and director of Dhappa is a young and promising man. He may be younger than me, but he is the captain of our ship and his comfort and approval remains important to me and the team. After we started working on Dhappa, I mailed him Patthar Ke Pankh and casually asked him to take a look at it. I was completely open to rejection. However, it was nice that Akshay and the team liked the monologue and agreed to tweak the script to incorporate it. Any creative person would know that this is a magnanimous gesture on the part of the writer-director to make key modifications to a locked script. They did it only after they were completely convinced.
Most legends come with their own baggage, how do you stay contemporary given that the world has changed over the years?
Puneetji (his voice turns low for emphasis): Main behta hua paani hu, ruk gaya toh jheel ban jaaunga – As an actor, writer and director, as long as I keep reinventing and challenging myself, I will remain contemporary. The day I stop, I will stagnate and wither. I keep adapting to the surrounding changes while I keep my roots intact. I am a constant learner and enthusiastic about anything new that I come across.
Given that there are so many alternative avenues available for entertainment, what do you feel is the future of live art?
Puneetji (takes a sip of water and firmly says): The future of entertainment is theatre and live art. The human interface that live performances provide is irreplaceable by gadgets. The lockdown taught us that people will turn to OTT for movies and television shows however, to witness and experience a live performance, one will have to stroll down to the nearest theatre. Don’t be surprised if movie theatres soon turn into live performance venues. That day isn’t too far.
What are your plans with Dhappa?
Puneetji (smiles and continues fondly): Dhappa is very close to my heart and I believe it will be a hit among audiences across India and the globe. I am hoping we complete atleast a 100 shows of this magnum opus production. Fingers crossed!
What after Dhappa?
Puneetji (flashes his million-dollar smile): My first-ever play, Raavan ki Ramayan was a super-hit. The epic is narrated from Raavan’s point of view. After that, I wrote Mahabharata-An epic tale – a unique concept where Dharti Mata narrates the epic with a special emphasis on Karan and Duryodhana’s friendship. These plays garner a large audience and we are just waiting for the COVID pandemic to tide over. Once it is, we will bring these plays back to the audience.
Meanwhile, my son, Siddhant Issar and I are writing Kaam Chakra where love, lust and friendship will be displayed in the most aesthetic manner, live on stage.
At present, we focus all my energies on Dhappa and we all have our fingers crossed for the premiere.
I conclude the interview with a grateful smile. Meeting a humble, down-to-earth powerhouse of talent has always overwhelmed me. That day, I left Puneet ji’s home with a song in my heart.
Dhappa will premiere at Prithvi Theatre, Juhu on April 13, 2021 at 9 pm. Tickets are available on BookMyShow.
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Disclaimer: This is NOT a sponsored post. Mayura Amarkant has written this post only after being completely convinced about the story, cast and crew of Dhappa. However, DiaryOfAnInsaneWriter takes no responsibility for the content quality, endorsements or information put out by Karwan Theatre Mumbai or Aum Theatre Mumbai or their associates. DiaryOfAnInsaneWriter urges readers to take their buying/viewing decisions independently after doing their own due diligence.