Most of us remember him as the dhoti-clad Bengali babuByomkesh Bakshi. In case you are unfamiliar with him, Byomkesh Bakshi is the famous 1993 detective-television series on Doordarshan that saw Rajit Kapur solving crimes. The actor became a household name post that. He appeared in many movies such as Zubeidaa, Mammo, Train to Pakistan… and many more. The talented actor has also won awards for the film, The Making of the Mahatma. Besides television and cinema, Rajit Kapur is also a popular theatre artist and director and one the founding members of Rage Productions along with Rahul Da Cunha and Shernaz Patel.
Be it delivering brilliant performances onscreen or mesmerizing the audience with his stage performances, Rajit Kapur has been delighting his fans with complete mastery.
We caught up with the acclaimed theatre person for a tête-à-tête ahead of his play The Glass Menagerie in Chennai on May 1. Here’s the excerpt:
Q: How did Rage theatre start off? And what inspired you to create the group along with Shernaz Patel and Rahul Da Cunha?
Rajit Kapur (RK): We started 20 years ago. We were seven of us in the beginning. When we saw plays in town, we always wanted to do our own thing using our creative thoughts and ideas. Like things of a better value, in terms of sets and productions and something that would stimulate us or motivate us. During that time, there were very few youngsters doing theatre. Of course, there were stalwarts, but I think we were looking for something that we could connect to. Something more contemporary. And, we all came together and that’s how seven of us formed Rage. Twenty years later, now there are three of us as partners. We encourage and continue to do original writings, in whatever form or language. And that’s why we have been instrumental in starting the Writers Bloc program, which was initiated along with The Royal Court of London and The British Council.
Q: How’s the scenario of Indian theatre at the International level?
RK: From what I am aware about the international level, most of Indian theatre is probably music-based, dance-based, and include classical dances or classical musicians who have made a name for themselves outside India. But yes, folk theatre, Habib Tanvir’s theatre used to travel a lot and participate in International festivals. A very little representation of Indian theatre happens abroad. From our group, we have taken one of our plays – Pune Highway, as a part of a festival in Korea. But on the domestic front, there are far more younger groups now. They participate in theatre, create their own groups and perform in all kind of places. I think, since the last five years, it has been very stimulating in terms of involving the next generation.
Q: What is that one special thing that inspires your work and why?
RK: The stage. Because getting on the stage and connecting with the live audience, is a different high altogether. It is a different form of communication. The state of awareness when you are on the stage as an actor, heightens to many more degrees, because you are conscious of many things at various levels. It is a higher state of consciousness.
Q: Tell us about Pune Highway.
RK: Pune Highway is a brilliantly-written play. It is written by Rahul Da Cunha. He is the writer and director. Fortunately, it is one of our plays which traveled so extensively that we could never imagine. More than 100 performances. It’s been to UK, Malaysia, Washington, Amsterdam, Bonn in Germany. It had a very successful run, something which we had never imagined.
Q: You have performed almost everywhere in India, so where does Rage Productions go from here?
RK: Well not everywhere, but we go wherever a play or inquiry takes us. Regarding, where we go from here, is a tough question. Of course, we want to do more theatre and encourage more original writing. I honestly don’t know the answer to that question. But we do things that stimulates the three of us. If one of us feels very strongly about something, the other two are always there to back it up and say, "Go ahead, let’s do it". So we wait for any kind of stimuli to respond to. Just like our last production, an interpretation of The Glass Menagerie which I have directed.
Q: Do you believe that theatre has a larger appeal than cinema? Which role of yours is closest to your heart?
RK: Cinema has far wider reach, just like television has a greater reach than cinema. Because we have less theatre in the country, and by theatre I mean, theatres for stage, how can a theatrical stage have a larger reach? It can’t. We have more cinemas in our country. Our country has grown up on cinemas, not so much on theatre. Of course, if you look at villages, theatre began under the village tree… that’s where theatre has its roots, right down to the village level. But the appeal of cinema is far greater. The screen is larger than life. It sucks you into it.
Q: If given a chance, would you like to do another Byomkesh Bakshi series?
RK: (Laughs) I don’t know, whether it is another Byomkesh Bakshi series. But, yes if anything exciting like that, why not?
Q: Why did you name the production house Rage Productions?
RK: This name was actually given by both Rahul Da Cunha and Rahul Bose, who was also a part of our company that time. It is something that just struck a chord. Maybe, we were raring to go, raging to go… and it had a nice ring to it. It was short and we liked it. So that’s it.
Q: Tell us about The Glass Menagerie.
RK: The Glass Menagerie is a classic by Tennessee Williams, written in the early ’30s. It has been translated into many languages, all across the world. It is a timeless classic. It has a very strong emotional chord and is a family drama. It is something with which I was involved with 25 years ago, as an actor. Prithvi Festival wanted to revisit classics, so we thought "Alright, let’s give this a shot". The Glass Menagerie is my interpretation as a director. I have taken a few liberties. It’s using the text, but still it is a different interpretation.
Q: Was it a challenge reviving and presenting a classic for an Indian audience in today’s age?
RK: The Glass Menagerie is my interpretation of the play. I feel that if you find the correct milieu or juxtaposition of where to set it, the challenge is overcome instantly.
The theatre-lovers of Chennai will get a grand opportunity to witness Rajit Kapur’s The Glass Menagerie, starring Shernaz Patel, Ira Dubey, Arunoday Singh, Jim Sarbh, Kabbeer H Maira, and Anaar Desai. Reserve your seats here.