our author: mahesh dattani

Interviewing Mahesh Dattani is not an easy task, says Sneha Subramanian Kanta, for one, he is a man of a few words, and lets his myriad shades of work do the talking for him. Second, there is a lot to be explored beyond the figments of literary imagination. Here are excerpts from a conversation with the playwright himself.


Q) From a copywriter in an advertising firm to a dramatist to working with your father in the family business...How has the journey so far been?

A) Very interesting! My short time at advertising (only six months) and my experience in working with my father for ten years enriched my world and many of the people I met have found their way into my play through various characters both minor and major.
Q) You've often been known to bring issues which have remained on the backburner and bring them center stage. I personally feel this is your uniqueness as a dramatist. What exactly goes on before you actually ideate on a play?

A) A subject has to be inspiring enough for me to want to write a play about. I do believe the purpose of the theatre is to bring to the forefront issues that society would rather keep in the background.
Q) One of your play has the following statement: "When I was twenty one, the greatest tragedy of my life took place, I got married..." You make the audience a part of the angst of the everyday living of a family. Let me ask you two things, one; do you believe in the tragedy of life or is it a comedy? Also, is the negative connotation about marriage deliberate attributing a culture?

A) Life is a comedy. It becomes tragic when it ceases to be a comedy. In that sense tragedy is a negation of life. The line that you mention from my play is I got married to my wife Sonal. Although Hasmukh is an unpleasant character to many, I don't see him as anti-marriage.
Q) What tempted you to set Morning Raaga in a remote Andhra village? You grew up in Bengaluru?

A) Andhra is the birthplace of many Carnatic music composers. Many classical compositions are sung to Telugu lyrics.  It has a rich tradition of arts.  The song I used Taaye Yashoda for the finale is in Tamil.
Q) A novelist has many tools to present his characters' nuances where as a playwright has only one, dialogues. How do you manage to create this one tool into a strength?
A) A play can be written without dialogues too. The true canvas of a play is conflict. Characters in conflict with one another. Without conflict you cannot have drama.

Q) When a potential actor does come to you for the role, do you have any words of wisdom for him or her?

A) No. I like to see what the actor's strengths are and whether I can use him or her in a particular role or not.
Q) Most of your plays portray the woman as the cause of the trouble in a man’s life. Men are portrayed as victims. This is especially evident in Dance Like A Man. Why are women the ‘types’ in these plays?

A) This is your interpretation of the play. The cause of trouble in Dance Like a Man is Jairaj's father who does not want to see his son dance. 

Q) Lastly, a personal request, leave us with one incident, one experience during writing a play and or performing it, which were special to you?

A) I remember after a performance of Final Solutions, one man came up to me and said his name is Bobby and it was originally Babban. He was ashamed of his religion and so he had changed it. But after watching my play, he will change it back to Babban. Just like my character did! It was a very happy moment for me that someone could be so inspired by my character.