Sushma Deshpande :
– In the discussion, you spoke about women empowerment and their struggle. What has your experience been as a female performer?
I was very blessed. I did not face any issues because of my being a woman. My career was supported and if anything, I was given blessings. But I do understand that this is not the case everywhere, which is one of the reasons why I like playing characters that depict the struggle and strength of a woman. Most of my characters portray an independent woman who does not give up. I think it is my way of trying to inspire the women all around the world and giving them a voice for their story.
– It has been 30 years since you started doing Marathi Theatre, what was your inspiration along the way?
It has to be a character that I play – Savitribai Phule. She is an illiterate woman from the 19th century – someone who overcame the hardships that life threw at her and paved the way for herself. She went on to become the first lady teacher. She defined her own life and did not let anything or anyone come in between. She inspired me and still does. It is because of her that I could stay focused on my journey. She could, so I did. Many people ask me to retire, they tell me my age is a limitation, but I don’t stop. She never stops inspiring me and I never stop doing what I love.
– Describe your experience here at the HLF 2016.
It has been splendid. There are so many people here that I loved meeting. Old faces and new. It has been lovely to reconnect after so many years. All the sessions that I have attended have been fabulous.
Bhaskar Shewalkar :
– You’ve translated a lot of original plays into local languages, specially Marathi. What would you say is special about this one language that keeps making you go back?
It is simple. Marathi Theatre is rich. It is powerful and it experiments with burning subjects. It is full of content that makes the audience relate and think. It keeps them on the edge of their seat and makes them ponder. It is also bold. There have been plays about everything that a common man experiences or could experience. Nothing is taboo in Marathi Literature and I think this is why I like working with/in Marathi. It is audience-oriented but not commercial. Its made for the audience, not for the money that the audience can bring in.
– You stay in Hyderabad. Can you define the relation of Marathi theatre and our home town?
Many people don’t know but Hyderabad celebrated 100 years of Marathi Theatre in the 1940’s. We have so many theatre groups here that translate brilliant Marathi plays for the local audience hoping to give this rich heritage a nation-wide appreciation. Most of the famous plays have been performed in Hyderabad at some point or the other. I myself have witnessed Marathi plays being translated to Telugu and Urdu to suit the Deccan audience. People over here appreciate them as much as the Maharashtrians. So Marathi Theatre and Hyderabad have a rich past and a strong relation.
– What can you say about your experience at the HLF?
It is all wonderful but I do have a complaint. The thoughts are too many and the time too little. It would be nice if I had more time to express my opinions and interact with the audience. But nonetheless, it was a pleasure to be here.
Sonali Kulkarni :
– You have done so much theatre. What is the one character that has stayed with you after all these years?
There are two and I absolutely cannot pick one. Laxmi from Sakharam Binder and Bhakti from White Lily and Night Rider. Laxmi because that role was a challenging one. She was nothing like me and it was a wonderful experience to experiment with myself and play someone who was so alien to me. She gave me a sense of achievement and also helped me understand the threads of human survival as her story was inspirational and I loved telling the tale of a fighter. Bhakti because her story depicts today’s generation. She sends a bold, loud and clear message – expectations always clash with the will to give back. She relates more to the audience of today and that is why I love playing her character.
– You told us that you experimented a lot with your career. You also said you were a rebel who wanted everything and wanted to stop nowhere. So, if there is one piece of advice you could give to young adults who are going through similar struggles, what would it be?
Before setting expectations with yourself and your life, learn the importance of commitment. You do not have a silver spoon. You will have to invest energy and time in your dream if you want to watch it come true. Nothing comes easy in life, you have to make it easy. The more you give to your dream, the more it gives back. Till then, work , travel and experiment.
– How do you feel about being here at the HLF?
The audience is amazing. I got such a nice response for my work here that I think they gave me the confidence to keep going and doing my job for the next ten years. I am overwhelmed by all the appreciation and am genuinely grateful to the HLF for giving me this opportunity.