On the eve of his theatre group’s performance at Vadodara’s M.S. University, I received the opportunity to converse with director Chintan Pandya about his new play, Raashi-Man.
Mr Pandya spoke with me about the difficulties he faced while adapting Raashi-Man, whether cinema is killing theatre, his favourite Akira Kurosawa film, and much more.
#1. Can you please tell our readers about Rashi-Man?
Raashi-man’s basically an adaptation of two short-stories namely “In the Grove” & “Rashomon” written by the acclaimed Japanese author, Ryunosuke Akutagawa. There was also a film made on Rashomon — the second short story — by the late film-director Mr Akira Kurosawa.
Raashi-man’s a murder-mystery, with the plot chronicling the events that take place after a murder. We hear testimonies from people who’ve been directly involved with the incident and from people who’ve been dragged into the incident due to various circumstances. The idea is that everyone has their own version of this event and we i.e. the audience have no clue as to whose version bears the actual truth.
So, after the publication of this short-story, there came to be coined a new term in Psychology known as the Rashomon Syndrome. The syndrome states that every person tends to have his own way of describing or recollecting an event or phenomena. Thus, sometimes we never know the real truth.
Truth is contextual, there’s not one specific defined truth. Let me explain this by giving you a real-world example. Suppose there’s been an accident on the road. The person, who’s suffered the accident, will have his own take on the incident. Similarly, the one responsible for the accident will have his/her take on the incident. And then the people, who witnessed the accident, will have their own versions regarding the event.
Everyone’s opinions, justifications, views etc will be different and unique, but in the end, they’ll essentially be true. Also, there will be different motivations behind a person’s opinion on an event.
So, in the end, Raashi-Man’s all about these various factors affecting the ultimate truth. It’s not just a murder-mystery but is also a story working on a deep psychological level.
#2. Do you feel nervous about performing this play in front of the people who’re already probably aware of Rashomon?
#3. Did you face any problems while adapting this play?
I think the adaptation was a very well-researched process. We knew what we wanted to do. We didn’t face any major problems, but there were some minor difficulties like we wanted to set this play in Gujarat since we (the cast members) are all from here. Thus, we started finding out cultural similarities between Gujarat and Japan. But, a bunch of issues started emerging while doing that, as not only did we want to justify the story but also at the same time make sure not to compromise on the cultural aspects of India.
So, we started researching about other suitable locations in India. We also did a lot of historical research. So, despite some minor hurdles everything was well researched and we made an effort to not leave anything to the audience’s imagination.
#4. Do you think Cinema’s killing Theatre?
I think there are two parallel phenomena taking place in India both on Cinematic grounds as well as Theatrical grounds. I think those big budget Bollywood films which used to do very well on box-offices and we would have at least five to ten big-budget films and other small-budget films couldn’t come to main-stream is no longer the case. A lot of people are making smaller budget films. So, something that used to happen as parallel cinema is now coming into the mainstream. And now the same thing is happening in the theatrical scene which has no-doubt suffered a lot, in fact, is still suffering a lot in terms of financial condition because there are so many mediums of entertainment and people are less and less inclined towards mobilizing themselves unless it’s a personal motivation.
I think in theatre also a lot of new ventures have emerged. We have lots of new alternative places that have popped out. I don’t know about Vadodara, but in Mumbai, Surat, and Ahmadabad there are a lot of new small-scale alternative performance venues. Due to this a lot of youngsters are also helping out the scene in their own ways and of course, social media’s helping us out a lot.
#5. Apart from Rashomon which are your other favourite Kurosawa films?
I liked Throne of Blood, which’s his adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. I think it’s a wonderful film. Kurosawa’s a master at adapting different stories. It’s amazing how he picks up stories and then adapts them into his own cultural context. His adaptation technique’s so great that I think anyone who’s not seen or read Macbeth will consider Throne of Blood as an original story.
#6. Can you share some information about your future projects?
As far as current projects go we revived one of our older plays called “Dakhla Tarike”. It’s in Gujarati and has been written by me. The play is a satire on the contemporary Gujarati theatre scene and the youth of today. We recently did a show in Gandhinagar and are planning on having shows in Ahmedabad and Vadodara.