Thursday, March 01, 2007

BLOG INTERVIEW - Mahesh Dattani

Meet Mahesh Dattani. India's first playwright in English to be awarded the Sahitya Akademi award, this Bangalore-lover made his mark in filmdom with Mango Souffle and the Oscar-nominated Morning Raga.

Toe Knee Unplugged caught up with the 48-year-old dancer, actor, writer and filmmaker just as he was leaving for Dubai to present his latest play Double Deal.

The play - billed as an innocent encounter between strangers that turns out to be a roller-coaster ride of deceit and betrayal - struck a positive chord with audiences with the actors getting a standing ovation at its Mumbai premiere. Audience response has been quite good, eh?

"Private shows have also done very well. The Dubai shows are sold out in advance, so I guess we are doing okay".
Double Deal, an adaptation of Richard Stockwell's thriller Killing Time, stars the unusual combination of Sandhya Mridul and Mahesh Manjrekar. But why Sandhya and Manjrekar?

"When I read Stockwell's original, I was struck by the fact that it was written for star actors. Now where do I get charismatic star actors like Lana Turner and John Garfield? Enter Mahesh Manjrekar and Sandhya Mridul. Their onstage chemistry is what makes it work to a large extent."
Point taken. But why do you change genres so quickly - after all, your last play Mad About Money was a comedy.

"Well, I like trying out different things and I enjoyed working on both. At the heart of it, I like a good piece of drama."
Yes and we love your plays too, Mahesh. But why are you turning your back on films? You haven't done anything since Morning Raga.

"I am working on a film project once my theatre commitments are done with. I took a break from films after Morning Raga as I was desperate to get back to theatre."
For the record, I caught the film (A story of three lives. Struck by tragedy. United by destiny. Redefined by music) at Delhi's IHC and watched from the sidelines as enthralled spectators showered praise on Dattani at an interactive session following the screening. But one still feels the Shabana Azmi-starrer didn't quite get the attention it deserved. Wotsay?

"The film was received very well and Shabana's performance has been universally acclaimed. One wishes it had better distribution, but then maybe the film was limited in its appeal. It was never made as a commercial venture to begin with so I am happy at the response it has received."

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