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World Theatre Day 2023: We don’t have even one per cent of India’s population coming in to watch theatre, says Vardhan Puri

Vardhan Puri spoke exclusively to OTTplay about his take on the special day and in what way has his ‘theatrical’ background help him shape up for the silver screen

World Theatre Day 2023: We don’t have even one per cent of India’s population coming in to watch theatre, says Vardhan Puri

Pics Courtesy: PR

Last Updated: 04.45 PM, Mar 27, 2023


Besides being the grandson of the most illustrious personality of Bollywood Amrish Puri, Vardhan Puri has more ‘claim to fame’. After having made his razor-sharp debut with the thriller ‘Yeh Saali Aashiqui’, he is now all set to be a part of a high-profile international show, as per sources, although there is no official confirmation / announcement regarding the same.

On the occasion of ‘World Theatre day 2023’, Vardhan Puri spoke exclusively to OTTplay about his take on the special day and in what way has his ‘theatrical’ background help him shape up for the silver screen.

Hi Vardhan! To begin with, what does the term ‘theatre’ mean to you?
To me, theatre means the very foundation to any kind of entertainment. It’s where you learn, grow and become who you actually are. Theatre is the greatest teacher and friend a performing artist can have.

What was your first tryst with theatre?
My first tryst with theatre was when I was 5 years old and used to take care of backstage work with my guru Pandit Satyadev Dubey.

What inspired you to enter the world of theatre in the first place?
My illustrious grandfather (late) Shri Amrish Puri and my teacher Pandit Satyadev Dubey were the ones who got me introduced me to theatre when I was very young. I cannot be more thankful to them for making me experience this kind of euphoria.

What is it about theatre that you enjoy the most?
What I like about theatre the most is the instant reaction and feedback you get from audience unlike any other medium… when you are on stage and connecting with the audience, you can feel it. There is different energy in the room and everybody in that auditorium or hall where you are performing is going to be functioning at the same frequency and wavelength. The moment the performer comes to know that the audience is engaged and connected, it becomes an addictive kind of feeling and you start craving for it and running after that feeling. It’s the most beautiful thing in the world and the greatest high for an artist! I have never felt so magical ever in my life as I have during a theatre performance!

Do you find theatre challenging?
Yes, because all you get is one take and in that one take you have to give it your all. And the moment you know you have given it your all… that feeling is very fulfilling. And the moment you cannot give your everything, you cannot sleep at night.

Acting theatre mein bhi karna hai, acting filmon mein bhi karna hai. What, according to you, is the basic dividing line or the line of difference between the two mediums?
I think the basic dividing line between cinema and theatre is that cinema is more nuanced whereas theatre is more about projection, but both are equally about honesty. When you are honest… you and the audience know that.

Today, we live in the age of not just the media, but also the social media. Has the advent of social media changed the way people are now looking at theatre?
Social media has got far more respect to theatre and people associated with or artists associated with it because I think a lot of great performances, great plays and great writing is being lauded and applauded. It’s just spreading a lot more awareness.

Do people have any misconception/s about theatre?
I have heard a lot of filmmakers say, “because an actor comes from theatre he/she can tend to be overtly theatrical in film.” I truly beg to differ. I feel that theatre teaches you to be extremely flexible and if the actor is a highly trained one then he or she would know how to switch to cinematic acting in a heartbeat. Cinematic acting is also something you learn but for a theatre actor to learn cinematic acting is far easier as opposed to a person who is not an actor who is learning cinematic acting for the first time. Theatre actors are extremely versatile and can take on any role with a sense of ease.

Just like beauty pageants mostly provide the platform for films, do you think that theatre also acts as a platform for films?
I don’t like when people think about theatre to be a stepping stone into films. I feel there is nothing wrong in learning great things in theatre and becoming a film actor. But there should be a part of you which should be attached to the theatre because I don’t think that would be fair to the theatre Gods if you learn everything here and then you desert it. That’s not something I appreciate. I just hope that everyone who comes from theatre has his or her roots still in theatre and gives back to theatre whenever possible. At some point in the future, I will go back to theatre along with being busy in films and being a commercial actor.

Has the ‘pandemic phase’ affected or impacted the theatres scene in India?
Oh yes, definitely. Anyway, our theatre movement is not a large movement. We don’t have even one per cent of India’s population coming in to watch theatre because it’s still not well advertised like cinema is and still not well-funded, plus tickets are expensive and there are various other factors. After the pandemic, the situation has become slightly cruel. Very few people are going for theatre and plays. That’s something we really need to work on.

Is there any advice would you give to aspiring theatre makers?
Great respect for you … theatre makers. I very well know what goes into writing, directing, producing, acting and just being part of the play in some way and keep going. The Indian theatre movement needs you and there will be a point where the movement will eventually grow. It is indeed true that there is not enough money in theatre, but I think the big money will come in soon if keep going! I already see the large institutions getting seduced by theatre and the returns it has all thanks to Feroz Abbas Khan and other such visionaries who are marrying theatre and commerce with experienced based plays and musicals.

Are there any flip sides of theatre?
I only see advantages. The only flip side is that you may not have love life because theatre leaves you with no time at all.

Your most memorable theatre performance till date?
It would have to be ‘Tughlaq’ and ‘Surya Ki Antim Kiran Se Surya Ki Pehli Kiran Tak’. I remember how euphoric and fulfilled I felt after those performances.

How do you deal with people who talk/ chat during the performance or those who DO NOT switch off their mobile phones on silent mode or switch it off?
I become extremely upset if I know someone is interacting with his or her phone during a performance as that is very disrespectful. I remember in a play where I was performing and I had an audience member who kept talking on his phone and sending messages, thereby disturbing people around him. I got off the stage in character during the play, went up to him, switched off his phone and kept it in his pocket and continued with my performance. I remember the audience applauding me for the same. It left the gentleman really embarrassed. After the play I went to him and apologised for what I had done but he understood and apologised to me as well.

Who has been your inspiration in theatre?
My inspiration in theatre has been one man and one man only and he is Shri Amrish Puri, my grandfather. I have been blessed to watch recordings of his great plays like ‘Yayati’, ‘Sakharam Binder’, ‘Hayavadana’ and many others. I think there is nobody like him and I would call him the God of the stage, not only in India but internationally!

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