Manoj Shah is a theater actor, director and producer who runs the much loved theatre group Ideas Unlimited since the past 15 years, with more the 157 freelance artistes. He has made more than 78 successful theater productions, and has also participated in major theatre festivals across the country. Festivals like Prithvi Festival, NSD Festival, Nehru National Festival, Kalaghoda Festival, Mumbai Theatre Utsav, Sahitya Sangh Mahotsav, Sudarshan Pune Festival have witnessed his team create magic on stage.
Recently, Urban Asian caught up with the much revered veteran theater wizard, and got some interesting details out of him. Check out the interview right away!
- How were you inclined towards theatre?
I was associated with John Mathab around 30 years back and was working on an advertising film but then suddenly we realized that they need a lot of money for making cinema. Theatre is the medium of cinema where I am the king and where my actors and I have the space to perform, where the show can go on and on. I love cinema but I am more fascinated with theatres because it’s live art.
- Which is the aspect of theatre that you enjoy the most?
At this age, as of now, I want to sit and direct a play. But it’s not fixed as in which part I enjoy in particular because I enjoy everything. I have contributed in all forms from writing to music, to everything.
- You have travelled all over the world. Are the NRI audiences different than Indian audiences? NRI audiences are more welcoming. They are alienated from their roots and their hospitality is amazing. India is also good but the NRI audience want to be with us more. They connect with us more.
- You have worked in movies also. What is more stressful – theatre or movies?
I have not felt any stress in my entire career; because stress is in that kind of work that you don’t want to do. You don’t earn a luxury life with theatre, but it is fine.
- There is less money in theatre but people make a living out of it?
Yes! Because there is peace in it.
- How do you audition an actor?
I look for their passion towards work. I don’t put them directly on stage. First I train them backstage with the production work .Different people have different abilities. You can slowly make out whether the person wants to be a theatre actor or not, but it takes time. I create a rapport with my actors. All of my actors are type casted. No one can replace anyone.
- How was it working on Mohano Massalo?
For many years I have been doing Mohano Massalo. I had performed this play for the Jawans, Adivasi boys in Madhya Pradesh, Birla and Reliance Corporation. Play works phenomenally. It is not planned it just happens to work well. We get different feedback and a different feeling performing in different places. Atul Dhuria, Ghulam Mohammed Sheikh, and Bhupen Thakker have contributed in production.
- What’s next in store?
I am working with Nehru Centre for the next play. Planning to do a production about the history of Gujarati theatre. Research is on and hopefully by the end of this month the work will start.