'Theatre has power of transformation'
Best known for acting in movies like Black and Guzaarish, Shernaz made her theatre debut in 1984 with ‘The Diary Of Anne Frank’, and has since then become a juggernaut in the Indian English-language theatre
Film and theatre actor Shernaz Patel, best known for acting in movies like Black (2005) and Guzaarish (2010), feels that more people are watching theatre than 10 years ago and in this medium, one can experience stories that matter.
Shernaz made her theatre debut in 1984 with 'The Diary Of Anne Frank', and has since then become a juggernaut in the Indian English-language theatre.
"In theatre, we can experience stories that matter, that are urgent and force us out of our comfort zone. We can share stories that push us to think, to face truth that help us figure out things about our own lives, or to see a different perspective of the world," Shernaz said.
She explained why theatre, when well done, has the most incredible power of transformation.
"The actors are there in front of you in flesh and blood and if what they say matters to you, you will be profoundly changed, affected or moved by the end of the performance."
Asked which current trends she observes in the Indian theatre, the industry veteran said that "big musicals have been drawing the largest crowds".
She also saw growing number of alternative performance venues that are welcoming spaces for young theatre-makers to experiment.
The artiste also mentioned a "cross-pollination" of talent as international theatre-makers collaborate with the Indian artists.
"Other than these, a good story, well told, is what audiences will always go for, regardless of genre and form."
Shernaz, born to Gujarati stage veterans Ruby and Burjor Patel, had a childhood spent in makeup rooms and theatre sets, where she inherited her passion for the medium. "I subconsciously absorbed everything I know about the theatre from my mum and dad."
Theatre productions are attracting viewers in large numbers and while the medium may not be as commercially viable as cinema, it sure has a continuously growing dedicated audience base that ensures theatre doesn't just survive but thrive.
"Theatre has always existed and will continue to exist. It can never die... we humans need to role play and daydream. We need to have a space where we can imagine freely and that's what theatre does," Shernaz explained.
She is the artistic director of Aadyam, a theatre initiative by the Aditya Birla Group that opens its fifth season in Mumbai on July 20. "Over the past four years, Aadyam has been significant in bringing in new audiences to see theatre. What we aspire with Aadyam is to share great stories that are well told."