Stoutly defending the autonomy of “theatre” and the timeless dimension to it, Vinay Varma, a well-known theatre personality, and the moving spirit behind city-based “Sutradhar”, is not for playing to the gallery. “For me theatre is not propaganda,” says Vinay, with the quiet confidence and conviction of a thorough professional. Personally, one may be wedded to a particular political ideology or rooted in a religious faith. “These are only personal,” he says.
Five, scripted by Srikumar Verma, is a political play he staged recently in Chennai. But “theatre is not about propagating any ideology,” he says, adding, “Theatre is your ideology; I am going purely by the script.” Vinay asks forthrightly, “When Bharat Muni wrote the Natya Shastra what ideology was there? Ideologies come and go but theatre goes on forever,” he reflects. Vinay describes theatre as “primal, basic and purest form of human communication. It is live, the vibrations with its audience is it’s connect.”
For Vinay, acting is a reaffirmation of the human soul, the common bond of humanity with the audience. “I say you are reborn in every enactment of a play,” he says, adding, “every play is like a life-death eyrie.”
“Nothing is apolitical in life. When there is politics even in the family, how can there not be politics in theatre?” he asks, adding, “But it all depends on how discerning you are in being able to distance yourself from the political subject you may happen to talk about in a particular play.
Vinay, who won worldwide accolades for playing the unsung secular writer and hero Rahi Masoom, who lambasted religious fundamentalists of all shades, situates the purpose of “theatre” in the larger context of its organic links to culture. Rahi was daringly telling all religious fanatics to get lost. “Unless folk arts are preserved, we can’t talk about anything,” says Vinay. Discussing current political issues, the unease in the dialogue comes through, but with no sense of cynicism. “Hyderabad is a mini-India,” quips Vinay, adding that people from different religions have made it their home. The perceived threat to “our multi-cultural cosmopolitan outlook” is a bit hyped, feels Vinay Varma. Apart from heading both theatre groups Sutradhar and Sutradhar Casting House, Vinay also dons several other hats as a director, voice-lender, dubbing artiste, scriptwriter, translator, casting director, acting trainer and more.
On how it all started
Initially, I didn’t know anything about theatre. But like every other youngster, I was keen to act. Hyderabad, though, had only limited opportunities at that time. But the opportunity came to me when I was doing my Masters. After acting in my first play, I realised that I enjoyed being on stage and I was also convinced this is what I should be doing,” he reminisces. He continues, “Those days, before the advent of Internet and lack of accessibility to resources, our job was difficult and challenging. But it was also interesting. One major change I find now is that barring a few theatre groups, many seem to be uprooted — Westernisation has made an impact on theatre too. Leading your life the way you want to is okay, but on-stage, you really have to go back to your roots; else the sustainability won’t be there.”