Chit Chat

My entire childhood was spent in the laps of India’s finest actors: Shah Rukh Khan

As Shah Rukh Khan says, “In theatre, just like in life, there are no retakes.” The fact that in theatre an actor stands bare, performing live in front of an audience, makes it the toughest form of acting as it comes without retakes and almost no frills of enhancing your stardom.

Your performance is your only tool. This live performance requires years of discipline and training. And while theatre may be a niche form of art, viewed by a select elite and intellectual audience, many of our most popular and respected stars have been trained by it. We highlight some of them for you to bring out the contribution of Indian theatre and its gurus in the life of Bollywood.

Your memories of NSD (National School of Drama)?
My father used to run the NSD mess (located opposite Modern School) during Nadira Babbar’s time. He ran restaurants, but he would spend most of his time there and not at his other restaurants. I studied at St. Columbus and would come there and wait for my sister for two hours and then we would go home. I was a very cute child and my entire childhood was spent there in the laps and roaming around with arguably India’s finest actors. It sounds very strange, but I used to call Raj Babbar, Babbar sher uncle as he used to teach me some of the greatest plays, be it Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda, Razia Sultana or Tughlaq. I have only grown up wanting to be an actor growing up watching these actors, be it Rohini Hattangadi along with many others. I may not meet them now, but they have taught me how to act. Anupam Kher used to come there, Naseer (Naseeruddin Shah) bhai used to teach at Modern School. I have watched all their plays and rehearsals for months. I remember watching Raghu bhai (Raghubir Yadav) who was the junior most then, singing the Ganpati puja during rehearsals.

Theatre is known to discipline an artist. Did it discipline you?
Hugely. Physically, it taught me voice and body control and patience, but besides that, it taught me the fact that rehearsals have to be so rehearsed that they look natural. People feel that I perform effortlessly and deliver my lines with so much ease, but learning your lines are basic things that theatre teaches you. Besides, doing theatre you can sense that you have done it right as a live audience teaches you that. And the most beautiful part of being an actor is that you can be seen by thousands of people, but you can’t see the thousands from the stage. You are quiet on stage. And yet everybody is looking at you. To be able to be looked at and called upon to perform and to be able to do so. Theatre teaches you that. That is why you will sometimes find some of the best actors uncomfortable with performing live, but anyone who has done theatre will not be uncomfortable. It lets you be the person who is stared at and yet not feel conscious. It makes you invisible to the stares. A lot of my understanding of acting and being able to do what I am able to prolifically on stage or in front of the camera comes from nine years of solid theatre training. And not just in acting, but in all aspects of it, be it makeup, lighting, being able to send junior artistes on stage, cueing, props, costumes, everyone had to do everything. I realised that making of an actor is not due to acting. Making of an actor is due to the peripherals. So I have a lot of respect for all aspects and for the entire team. Theatre teaches you to be in a group and it teaches you to move in a group. So, in any film that I have worked in, they will tell you that everyone had so much fun as it has always been a team effort. Theatre has helped me to create that atmosphere in each and every film where I have been the lead actor. I always create an atmosphere of theatre on every film that I have worked with.

Is there any difference for you in being an actor in a film or an actor on stage doing theatre?
No difference. You develop a sense of superiority if you are a theatre actor. That’s all as you just feel that hume zyada maloom hain. Theatre is like life where there is no retake.


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