Tuesday, May 26, 2015

From The Stage To The Screen

In 'Cineplay', Subodh Maskara and Nandita Das have come up with an unique concept: making films out of plays

By Shevlin Sebastian

Actress Nandita Das was skeptical about the idea suggested by her husband Subodh Maskara. What Subodh wanted to do was to make a film out of a play.
I felt that the magic of theatre is in its live performance,” says Nandita. “You feed off the energy of the audience. And that interaction is crucial.”

But Subodh felt that he had a winnable idea. “Theatre does not travel to every part of India, because it is not viable to do that,” says Subodh. “There is a large population in the non-metro cities. We could reach out to these people with a film.”

The first film that was shot was the play, ‘Between The Lines’, in which Subodh and Nandita are the protagonists. The play was shot in five days at a studio in Mumbai. There were close-ups, long-range shots, and multiple takes, just like in a film. The end result was shown at the National Centre for the Performing Arts at Mumbai on February 16, 2014. And one of the first fans was Nandita herself, who hugged her husband after the show, and said, “It's wonderful.”

Indeed it is. When you watch a film version of the play, the intensity comes across with twice the force. “You can see the expressions so clearly,” says Subodh. “A camera captures so much more than the eye. In a live production, no matter what happens, you are watching from a distance. You get a broad idea, but you are unable to catch the nuances.”

The analogy is with cricket. “It is different when you watch the game live at a stadium and see it on TV,” says Subodh. “On TV, you get close-ups, you can see the expressions, and it is so much more intimate.”
An encouraged Subodh has made seven CinePlays so far. They include plays like Mahesh Dattani's 'Dance Like a Man', Mohan Rakesh's 'Aadhe Adhure', and Vikram Kapadia's 'Bombay Talkies'. “These plays have stood the test of time,” says Subodh. “They are strong in their content and relevant even today.” Another nine plays are in post-production.

One indirect benefit is that, through CinePlay, plays are being archived, for posterity. “When my son grows up, he will get a chance to see all of them,” says Nandita. “This is a revolutionary idea. I wished it had happened years ago. Then we could have seen the work of [great directors like] Ebrahim Alkazi, Habib Tanvir, Shambhu Mitra and Vijay Tendulkar.”

Meanwhile, Subodh has been taking the CinePlays all over India. “We have exhibited in clubs, theatres, colleges and cultural centres,” he says. “Right now, there are 50 distributors who are regularly screening our films.” It is a 90-minute show which happens on the weekend or once a month. The ticket prices range from Rs 100 to Rs 300.

Recently, Subodh screened 'Between The Lines' at the Ranchi Club. “All the 400 members came to see it,” he says. “And they paid rapt attention throughout. At the end, there was a standing ovation.”

An elated Subodh has also shown it in Washington and New York. “We got a fantastic response from an all-American audience,” he says. “I have realised that even though the context is Indian, the emotions expressed are universal.”

Subodh's future plans include making CinePlay a brand that leads the genre. “I also want to make CinePlays from different regional as well as international languages,” he says. “So, I will be making films of Malayalam, Kannada as well as American, Asian and European plays.” 

(Sunday Magazine, The New Indian Express, South India and Delhi) 

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