Theatre, best place for actor to test skills: Comedian Asrani

Business Standard

For veteran Bollywood comedian Govardhan Asrani, whose rib-tickling humour has powered many films, theatre continues to offer the best platform to hone acting skills. 

An alumni of the Film and Television Institute of India(FTII), Asrani who featured in big films like ‘Sholay’ and Bol Bachchan’ keeps returning to his first love theatre. 

“When I was in film institute stage plays were compulsory part of our training. We began with Shakespeare, Premchand and other good plays. After moving to Bombay I continued working in plays at the Rabindranath Tagore Auditorium where once Prithvi Raj Kapoor was the chief guest,” says Asrani. 

The actor who immortalised the character of ‘Angrezon ke zamaane ka jailor’ in the 1975 blockbuster ‘Sholay’ considers theatre as a part of his life. 

“The stage is one place where you come face to face with your audience unlike cinemas where you cannot see the applause or the booing by the audience. Theatre gives you an altogether different kind of thrill which every actor who wants to grow must try,” he says. 

The veteran comedian who in 2014 paired up with actress Padmini Kohlapure for the stage production “Baap ka Baap” is now featuring in “Kya Family Hai” a play set to be staged in Gurgaon tomorrow. 

“I got busy with films and found it difficult to devote time to theatre. I waiting for a good script, good producers and company to make a comeback on stage,” he says.
The septuagenarian actor heaps praise on the work culture 

in the West where film stars as big as Richard Burton or Marlon Brando would make sure they returned to Broadway to test their acting prowess. 

“You would be amazed that there’s a queue of Broadway theatres in New York. Every actor tries to come to Broadway be it Richard Burton, Marlon Brando or Liz Taylor or Shirley McClain. I saw Al Pacino on stage, Jet Lemon on stage. I saw ‘King and I’ and the audience applause moved me, that’s the biggest prize an actor can get, which is amiss in cinema. 

“You would wonder why such great actors need to come work on stage. That’s because they have to test their skill, polish their skill and rejuvenate. And the stage is that one place to do it,” says Asrani. 

“Eventually, you need to polish yourself,” says the actor whose film career spans over 50 years. 

The iconic actor describes “Kya Family Hai”, a 90-minute satire as “holding up a mirror” to the fading morality of society. 

Asrani said that during an earlier performance in Delhi, at the Sri Ram Centre, the drama had evoked appreciation from the audience. 

“The play holds up a mirror to society, and showcases basic human nature. You can see the rumblings related to money, property and other issues and how families and societies deal with it. Be it small cities or big towns everybody can relate to it,” says Asrani. 

The drama produced by Thespian Theatre Company and directed by Raj Upadhyay, is set to be staged at Epicentre in Gurgaon.

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