SATYADEV DUBEY, A FIFTY-YEAR JOURNEY THROUGH THEATRE || SHANTA GOKHALE

Rating : 9/10

Review by Ankur Sardana

The book starts slow, but ends with you wanting more !

It begins with friends talking about friends and the time that went by, with very little for the new theatre enthusiasts to hold on to and one feels like dropping off, but do hang on. Pleasure peaks when documentation ends and conversations start.

After completing the book I fully get the point of the book, I understand a bit and wish to know more about Satyadev Dubey’s Theatre and his personality.

Author Shanta Gokhale explains the motive of the book :

“One of the tragedies of theatre is that a director’s work doesn’t really live on after them… the plays remain, the text, but the not the vision with which they are transformed on stage. That is why this book is important. It gives us some idea of how he worked at his plays, what he was after, how he handled actors, stage sets, everything. In theatre, names hang around long after a person’s best work is over. People know of Dubey, of Badal Sarkar and Vijaya Mehta. However there may be many in the current generation of theatre practitioners who have never seen plays directed by them. In that context, documenting a director’s work puts the next generation in touch with what this person was about, what kind of work he did, how he approached his craft. Even if that is all it does, it’s still worth doing. For succeeding generations, this is history.” [Full article]

As she says, there’s hardly any way that Dubey’s work can be seen. There are no video recordings of his plays in public domain. Which is horrible, considering his impact and popularity. He himself never wrote a memoir or published his plays. There are hardly any youtube videos of Satyadev Dubey. Which is strange. So, the book becomes even more important. What we have in the book mostly are thoughts on Dubey from people, who knew him closely (the who’s who of Mumbai Theatre circuit of 60s-80s).  The better parts of the book are where Dubey is being interviewed. Deeper the relationship with the interviewer, better the discussion. Here are some quotes from the interviews :

About the constant feeling of martyrdom in theatre artists.

It is only when you are selfish that you are able to adjust. If you start with a martyr’s attitude, that is where theatre starts dying. Everyone in theatre must be in a position to define his selfishness

About the pain and pleasures of acting

In acting you need a person who is not tranquil. You act in a play because you not tranquil. You become tranquil after you’ve performed.

About his famous fury against the actors

The actor never learns by himself. You have to rape the people. That’s why I like the actors who an take the ‘rape’.My direction is shouting at them and actually caring for them.

About his dilemma with how much is enough

Good Name is like interest..if you keep depositing in the account it from time to time, it accumulated (and if you keep withdrawing)..

About ‘lines’ and the importance of memorizing these

When you have said them over and over again, memorized them and have got completely fed up with them, you will begin to understand what they are saying. The meaning of acting lies beyond words

The book talks about his fiery personality, his rants and his style and more, but somehow the part which is platinum plated is the single chapter on his workshops. I wish that there were more of such chapters which talked about technique and exercises for budding actors.

While saving Dubey’s legacy SG also documents the history of Mumbai’s experimental theatre in this book. She has done that in more detail with Sahapedia in another book The scenes we made.

Places which have historical importance like Bhulabhai Institute, Walchand terrace & Chabildas school have been documented through notes, drawings and interviews.

Have a look at all the great work by Shanta Gokhale on her website.

As mentioned earlier, there’s almost nothing on youtube on Dubey, here are some related links:

His friend, theatre artist and co-traveller Sanjay Dadhich about his journey to Sangli.

His speech about language in hometown

There was a outpouring of sorts with regards to Dubey’s death, some obituaries :

Gayatri Jayaraman : mint

Sunil Shanbag (Dubeyist) : theatreguide

The Hindu

An interesting interview, republished by artviewblog has this statement which resonates a lot with me. After having high expectations from Shah’s autobiography, I was stunned at his inability to explain the acting process.

Naseeruddin Shah was trained for years at Delhi’s National School of Drama, and at Pune’s Film Institute. Even he doesn’t know that acting can’t be taught but he is still teaching it

Some interesting interviews of Dubey’s friends from Sahapedia

 

 

 

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