When veteran actress Lillete Dubey craves creative satisfaction, she doesn’t look to Bollywood films. They don’t excite her like theatre and fully-fleshed roles in dramas do.
“Let’s face it, Bollywood is still a male-dominated industry. The roles that I get don’t stretch me as an actor,” said Dubey prior to her stage appearance in Dubai on Friday. The Monsoon Wedding star will stage her English play, Where Did I Leave My Purdah, at First Group Theatre in Madinat Theatre. Written by award-winning playwright Mahesh Dattani, the play is directed and enacted by Dubey. It also features actress Soni Razdan in an important role. Excerpts from our chat …
Q: What should we expect from the play?
A: It’s a play about a theatre actress Nazia, a feisty and wickedly irreverent personality. It shows that several actresses give their life to their craft and are governed by a burning desire to fulfill that creative need. In that process, they pay a price. It’s mature and has lots of humour. Plus, it’s a set during the India-Pakistan partition era, a tumultuous period filled with sociological and political changes. Above all, it’s a play about human relations.
Q: Is it based on a real person, such as Zohra Seghal?
A: Initially, Mahesh Dattani [the playwright] and I wanted to base the play on Zohra Seghal’s life. But we realised that her biography, though fascinating, wasn’t fully fleshed out and it wasn’t dramatic enough to be played out on stage. So we returned the rights to her and decided to branch out a bit more. It’s based on Zohra’s feisty attitude but the lives of several actresses.
Q: How’s this play different from Kareena Kapoor’s Heroine and Vidya Balan’s The Dirty Picture, films that delved into the seamier side of the film industry?
A: Those films are in a different space. In our play, we don’t explore the neurosis in an actress’ psyche., Nazia is someone who’s highly focused in her career and when a person is so involved in achieving that goal, their world becomes narrow. There’s rage and frustration there.
Q: Speaking of Bollywood, we don’t seem to see enough of you.
A: I don’t consider myself under-utilised. I am what you call an “accidental film actor”. I entered films with Zubeidaa when I was past 40. So it’s good I have been able to act with some amazing actors like Amitabh Bachchan and Paresh Rawal. But you can’t compare Bollywood with theatre. In films, they don’t write roles for you. It’s a male-dominated society. Good roles for women are few. Most of my roles in Bollywood films are not demanding. They don’t stretch me as an artiste. For adrenaline and juicy roles, I look to theatre. I have never had butterflies in my stomach when acting in a Bollywood film, but in theatre even today I feel excited.