VINAYA WALAVALKAR – MANTRI
I still recall a scene from drama ‘Pai Paishachi Gosht’ which is based on a monologue by veteran actress Ila Bhate. With all humility and great respect we call her “Ila Tai” on the sets of the play. She plays a grandmother in this play. The scene unveils this way: – Ila Tai walks in with ‘Agarbatti’ (incense stick) in her hand, places it near Tulsi, takes a turn and sits on the sofa to strike a conversation with the audience.
The third bell rang and as scheduled the sequence began. Ila Tai descended on the stage as per the scene. And… And what? She comes to know that she has left her spectacles backstage in the makeup room. Oh My God! What a mess.
The specs which she wore as a part of her entire ‘look’, was not just to make her look aged. It was to be used during the act to creatively project nuances of her character. And precisely that was missing.
So what do we do? Ila Tai was right there on the stage. Audience was watching her every step. She couldn’t risk to take a pause and restart the act. That would have looked highly unprofessional. But she couldn’t act without specs. Only Ila Tai and the crew knew about this slip.
Here, the experience and presence of mind came into action. Ila Tai was quick enough to improvise on the scene and pushed a dialogue in it. She calls her grandson loudly “can you get me my spectacles?” In the entire drama grandson is just a reference and not the actual character. She used that reference to cover up the slip.
I was ready with the spectacles at the corner of the stage, not visible to the audience, where she came and took it. Everything sounded like a part of drama. And the show went on.
The show must go on. This is the fundamental of any drama. Any kind of mess-up can’t stop the play and they should not be reflected in the play.
There is always a troubleshooting option when some prop which is a part of the act is found missing from that place. The show cannot stop for such petty errors. In extreme circumstances, the actor can use technique of ‘miming’ which means he imagines that the prop is there and acts accordingly. The strength of imagination is always powerful. But what if the person who is supposed to play the act is absent? Still we will say ‘the show must go on.’
The audience inevitably will note the absence of the artist at that place. That might come as a setback for the credibility of an actor. People will systematically forget the way he slogged to get onto this position on the stage. The audience is unaware about the struggle that he has put in, and sacrifices that he has made to reach up to this level.
What people know is the glamour surrounding the artist. It is really heart-warming to see that the audiences rush backstage to meet the artist after the play is over.
But what about those backstage artists who burn the midnight oil to make the play successful. They are never acknowledged. Rather, people are oblivious to the fact that there are such professionals existing who shape up the drama making it presentable and lovable for the audience.
It would be criminal to say that the artists who are on the stage do not contribute for the success of the act. Without them you can’t really have creativity blossoming on the stage. But the audience should also acknowledge that behind these artists there are several professionals including writer, director, set designer, setting boys, light designer, light operator, music designer, music operator, costume designer, make-up man, hair artists and so many others.
They work tirelessly putting their heart and soul in the job assigned to them. They can’t excuse themselves with any reason because time is what that matters when you are enacting a play. At the backstage they provide all the backup support to the artists who keep entertaining the audience as per the script.
I am purposely mentioning this in my article because we have recently lost some of the veteran artists, right from Reema Lagu to Ashwini Ekbote. It is obvious that the plays in which they were having a role would be done by another actor but certainly the position that they have in the hearts of the audience cannot be replaced.
Recently, Maharashtra’s theatre has lost Dinukaka. Dinukaka had passionately dedicated himself to the theatre for last several years.
The backstage artists struggle their entire life to keep alive the tradition of drama or rather theatre, and some day they just leave us. The common audience who actually enjoys every part of the play due to the creative work of them, hardly knows about them. The way an artist is replaced by another after his death, similarly their roles are taken over by another fellow professional. The shows continue because we believe, “The Show Must Go On.”