For Makarand Deshpande, theatre is all about searching for answers to various questions of life and bringing it to the masses. He believes that theatre is a cathartic experience that helps in experiencing and releasing the unresolved issues of life.
If you are performing theatre on a regular basis is one of the best therapies. A theatre helps in untangling the knots inside an individual in terms of self-expression and opens many other doors of feelings and emotions. It helps in relieving one self of any emotional baggage.
When I saw Makarand Deshpande for the first time, I could hardly recognise the man. I had only seen him with his unruly hair playing small, villainous, menacing characters on the screen. I was expecting to meet someone larger than life, instead I met a quiet, observant man who lives and breathes theatre. His play ‘Miss Beautiful’ was a part of the eighth edition of the recently concluded Jairangam: Theatre Festival 2019. The play was about a scriptwriter (played by Makarand) who is working on a new script which is based on his life and the life of his ailing parents. He aspires to give his parents a ‘beautiful death’- an intriguing concept. When I met him, I couldn’t help asking him about this concept.
No one talks about giving parents a beautiful death. Where did this come from?
We work so hard in our lives. We don’t prepare for our death. We see our parents growing older and weaker. In our social fabric, death is viewed as something very terrible. Growing old should be celebrated, death should be celebrated.
How can one help parents to celebrate an approaching death?
Parents tend to compel their children to do things which their children may not want to do. The parents tell their children to get married just because they want to see them married because they die. They tell their children to have children so that they can see their grand children before they die.
Why are we scared of death?
I feel no one is prepared. The desires don’t die. People have new desires even on their death bed. There are times, parents on their death bed tell their children that they should not fight because they (parents) want them to live together so that they (parents) can die peacefully.
So, does that mean that parents try to control everything?
Yes. Parents need to give up control to have a beautiful death. In the earlier times, we had people giving up their worldly life and going to the forests. It was known as the ‘vanprastha’ ashram. Slowly they use to detach from everything even food. Thus, their passing was more like becoming a part of the forests, going back to the nature that they came from. It was a gradual process where the family would not come to search for the individual. The mindset was that the parents had done their bit, served their roles, honoured their commitments and now it was time to let go of the world and everything in it.
So that brings us to a very interesting question. According to you what is the role of parents or the duty of parents in a child’s life?
It is they who keep searching for things to do in the lives of their children. They want their children to be settled. I am okay till there. But then, they want to ensure that everything is alright with their grand children too. They don’t want anything for themselves but they want to ensure that everything is okay with their children. How is that possible? How can they control what will happen to their children’s lives?
How is it like in places outside India? Is it different?
I am sure. I don’t know personally but I have heard and read that people in many countries don’t let their children sleep with them after a certain age. However, the point is not that of independence. The point is you are alone with your death no matter how many children you may have and for that don’t make people guilty. Don’t emotionally blackmail them. Actually, death has nothing to do with your children’s marriage. Saying that their children getting married will help them to die peacefully and easily. What does children getting married have to do with peace? They are people who say that they can now die peacefully just because their children are married, they have their own children and businesses or jobs. The question is are the children alright with themselves. Its not about success or failure. I believe a poor man can tackle an approaching death more successfully than people who have everything. Maybe he just accepts death more easily and gracefully.
You have dealt with a topic like death which is considered a taboo in the society. How can plays help to deal with these topics and other unexpressed emotions?
Plays approach emotions more deeply because you are not writing one emotion at a time but many emotions at a time. A scene in a play is a combination of many scenes unlike a film which is one scene. It is more impromptu. Theatre is a cathartic experience from writing to acting. Whatever emotional experiences you have are used not necessarily your own but surroundings also effect your emotions. If you are performing theatre on a regular basis is one of the best therapies. A theatre helps in untangling the knots inside an individual in terms of self-expression and opens many other doors of feelings and emotions. It helps in relieving one self of any emotional baggage. That is why you see the actors who perform theatre on a regular basis unless until they are not into drinking and spoiling themselves, they are one of the happiest people till they are acting. That is why you see many people who play negative characters in their reel life are great people in real life because they have been able to exorcise whatever negative emotions they had in them through acting.
What do you think is theatre to Jaipur and Rajasthan?
I have been a part of Jairangam for the last eight years and I have seen some unbelievable work being done by Deepak Gera (founding director of Jairangam) and his friends in this field. We need theatre every where. The problem is whether there is enough exposure for this artform or not. Theatre is a live performing art just like dance or music. If people can go to watch a dance performance or listen to music, why shouldn’t they come to watch theatre? Theatre has conversations and dialogues. I am happy to see that the number of people coming to see theatre has increased in these years. But now I want to know if the popularity of theatre amongst the people has increased so much that if the price of each ticket is 500 INR, will people still come to see a good, well-performed play even if there are no known faces in the play? Then I would really know if theatre has gained that popularity in Rajasthan. I want more people to come, not only those who know and understand theatre but also those who are new to this art form.
So can theatre match the popularity of movies?
Yes, of course! I feel if we give them easy access, people will love to watch plays. Today, they are used to spending money on movies. If theatres are built in malls where the movies and theatre are playing side by side, then we will be able to make theatre as popular as the movies. Today, theatre does not get that kind of exposure. The prime location in today’s world is a mall. So if we have theatre in a mall, it will become a prime activity. So, we need to elevate theatre to a prime slot. I want the common man to see the theatre not only the elite and those who know theatre.
Do you think as a nation we are obsessed by our past?
It is okay to be obsessed by our past but we should not use the past to fight. If I am using the past to talk about my grandfather who faced these challenges and emerged victorious, it is good and inspiring. Other than that past should not be used to dig out old issues and fight about them. How can we talk about the future when we only keep regretting the past? To plan for the future, you need to live in the present.
How has thirty years of theatre helped you to evolve?
When I passed out of college, we formed a theatre company called ‘Heads Together’ where any one could join. I have written plays to answer the questions that came to me in the course of my life. I wanted life to become a part of the plays that I am performing or creating. Its like having an experience in life and exploring all the possibilities of that experience in a play, whether it was about doing a play of Mahabharat where it was about Hanuman sitting in the flag of Arjuna’s chariot and his take on the war after sunset. I am not a seeker or a very ambitious person. I recently did a play called Ram where I had to read Valmiki’s Ramayan, Ram Charitamanas etc. So my play is not Ramayan, it is Ram. This play is my take on Ram in today’s time. I wanted to feel and express Ram. Today we are talking about Gandhi. So now I want to feel Gandhi and find out if he and his thoughts still exist. If he is there, then what can be the manifestation through a play.
Published Author, Poet and Youtuber
This article was published in Rashtradoot Newspaper’s Arbit section on December 4, 2019