As we look through our archives and revive our most cherished piece of work, who better than the ever-inspiring Saurabh Shukla to relaunch Green Room Diaries.

From Mama-Kalu-Mama to winning a National Award for Jolly LLB, the actor, writer and director has won hearts across generations and mediums.

In this delightful chat, he shares snippets from his journey on stage and his eternal love for theatre. Reminiscing his childhood, Saurabh recounts how it all started with an innocent dream of stitching still images to create a film.

He further elaborates and rightly points out that its essential for any theatre artist to have basic experience in every domain. To be a good theatre actor one must get their hands dirty with playwriting, light and sound design, sets and production. He also urges theatre-makers to take pride in their work and not shy away from monetizing their efforts. Its high time we say goodbye to the ridiculous concept of free tickets!

Simply put Saurabh Shukla has immense pride and love for the Theatre. His confidence in the craft is infectious and assures us that come what may, theatre is not dying anytime soon.

Still from Barrff. Source AGP World

How and why Theatre?

I come from a family which was a very unusual Indian family. Me and my brother, we were allowed four films in a week and when I was in 6th standard, I got an idea. My brother had a still camera at that time. If we keep clicking pictures and if we join it, at the end of it and after one year or so, you know we might probably have a film. But we could never collect the money to buy enough film reels. When I was in 1st year of college, a friend of mine said “Saurabh we’re not able to collect the money and not make the film. But you know, we’re just living this dream so why don’t you practise this art.” He said see if you can do theatre. Theatre has a story, acting, music, stage craft and costume and everything. All it doesn’t have is a camera. He said we can practice the rest of the arts, the day we’ll collect the money we’ll make a film. And then I joined theatre. Soon I realised that it’s a great medium, it’s a different medium.

Still from Barrff. Source Hamara Photos

You act, write, direct and produce. How does this effect the your theatre-making process?

In isolation you can’t be an actor. In isolation you can’t be a writer. In isolation you can’t be a director. So the best thing is that you should have the feel of everything. So you don’t want to act too much, but you know the craft of acting, you know the meaning of acting, you know the problems in acting and you know that what an actor goes through. Then only you will be able to direct an actor. So I think in theatre everybody should do everything. They should write, they should make sets, they should give music, they should sing, they should do production, direction, everything. 

Still from Jab Khuli Kitaab. Source Aadyam

According to you, what is the scope of improving the Indian theatre scene?

We don’t lack talent. But somehow the moment we do theatre, we either try to protect it by saying that you know it’s a sacred thing we’re doing. And we request people, please come to our show. We should have the pride that it’s there, come and watch it. We shouldn’t shy away from money, we cannot be begging all the time.

People come to watch my play, whichever city I go. And people who know me they say “yaar get me a pass”. When my film releases, you never ask for a pass. You quietly go and buy a ticket. So why not in theatre? Where theatre needs it more because theatre can be done in one evening, it can be done on one stage whereas a film can be played on 4000 theatres.

We should be proud of our work and that pride should reflect. 

Still from 2 to Tango 3 to Jive. Source AGP World

Is Indian Theatre dying or evolving?

It’s not a dying art form because it’s a medium in itself. And this medium cannot be compensated with anything else. I’m very hopeful that there will be people who will always be genuinely interested in theatre and they’ll keep doing it and they’ll not let it die.

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