Naseeruddin Shah and Family Are in Dubai for a Play!
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Naseeruddin Shah and Family Are in Dubai for a Play!

A chat with Imad, Heeba and Vivaan Shah on what it's like to work with their legendary father

It’s a dream come true for theatre lovers – watching Naseeruddin Shah and his entire family on stage at the same time. And that’s exactly what you are going to see, as the veteran actor brings ‘Riding Madly off in all Directions’, a stage adaptation of a set of five short stories by Canadian humourist and political scientist Stephen Leacock. Satirical, ironical and amusing, these stories offer an interesting take on everyday mundane happenings – be it going to the bank or asking for a match! – cleverly moulded into separate plots. While Naseer and wife Ratna Pathak Shah have performed in Dubai before, what’s would be interesting to watch is their chemistry with their children - Imaad (he has worked in films like Dil Dosti Etc, Little Zizou among others), Vivaan (seen in Happy New Year) and Heeba (a seasoned theatre artiste). What’s it like to be performing with the greats of theatre who also happen to be their parents? Hear it from the next generation of Shahs themselves!   

IMAAD SHAH

What do you look forward to the most about performing in Dubai with your family?

I am looking forward to the show and excited to see the reaction of Dubai audiences. I am also looking forward to spending some time with family and friends in the city.

As an actor, what is the biggest challenge of working under your father Naseeruddin Shah?

He is a genuine taskmaster and expects the highest standards from all his actors. Discipline and a lot of dedication are the basic things he expects. The amount of rehearsal needed for doing this sort of play is huge and he expects a lot of focus and daily rehearsal. Perfect body language, enunciation and all the other tools an actor has, have to be sharpened and in perfect shape all the time. 

Which one is your favourite Leacock story and why?

My personal favourite is 'My Financial Career'. It's satirical and a really humorous take on something mundane that we all do regularly. The writer's way of looking at this situation though, is incredibly unusual, funny and endearing. 

Satire and irony are the leitmotifs of most of Leacock’s works. What’s the challenge of bringing those elements to stage? Does the tone or content need to change to suit a particular audience?

I am confident that all audiences, regardless of cultural backgrounds will associate with these stories. They are accessible, funny and transcend geographical boundaries. The challenge of performing this material is connected to acting skill and technique. They are not easy in terms of mastering the speech patterns and body language needed to convey the mood and setting. Especially with the high acting standards expected of all of us, it needs a lot of practice and internalising but they are a joy to perform on stage.

What are the roles that excite you the most as an actor? 

The ones where I have to push myself to be someone I am not, are what excite me. The process of getting into the head and body of a character or person keeps me excited. I also like playing with speech patterns so I’d love to do more roles where I need to adopt and convey effectively a way of speaking that is different than my own. I love listening to accents and observing people and cultures. 

Naseeruddin Shah and Family Are in Dubai for a Play!

VIVAAN SHAH

What, in your opinion, is the biggest difficulty of adapting literary works to stage and performing it to an audience who may not be aware of the authors’ works?

Dramatising the works, and making them into engaging stories for the audience is the biggest difficulty.

The Conjurer’s Revenge is an interesting tale of a performer’s emotions when his act is ruined by a nasty audience. Do you think the artiste, in this case, overreacted to criticism? How would you personally react if you were annoyed by an audience member during a live performance?

I suppose he did. I would personally ignore it, but that is because in theatre we are sort of cushioned by the material, whereas I can understand why a magician would react like that because out there, his material itself is being sabotaged, and the content of his performance is being questioned.

As an actor, what is the biggest challenge of working under your father Naseeruddin Shah?

The biggest challenge would be to deliver exactly what he wants.

What kind of roles are you looking at in Hindi films at this point of time?

The kind of roles my dad and Om Puri did in the 70s and 80s. Roles that are about real people, and real life things.

Aside from the play, what are you looking forward to the most about your Dubai trip?

Dubai is a great city; I find it to be an iconic city. I spent two months here shooting Happy New Year, so I’m really looking forward to visiting Atlantis the Palm again.

Naseeruddin Shah and Family Are in Dubai for a Play!

HEEBA SHAH

Have you visited Dubai before? What do you look forward to the most about performing here with your entire family?

Yes I have been to Dubai before a few times. I'm looking forward to performing the play for the amazing audience of Dubai. I'm also looking forward to meeting my friends and relatives and shopping, eating and looking at the bizarre and fantastic sky line!

How did Motley decide upon these short stories from Leacock’s collection to be a part of the Smorgasbord?

My Father has always been interested in Leacock's work. We opened this play at the end of last year and it got fabulous reviews, so I suppose he, being the director, thought this would be something that would be of interest to the audience at Smorgasbord. 

What did you find the most amusing part about ‘My Financial Career’?

'My Financial Career' brings to attention the similar feeling that we all experience when we go to the bank, any bank, especially our own. It's ironical that in order to withdraw one’s own hard-earned money, one is made to conform to standing in lines and is made to act as if the bank is doing you a big favour by giving you some of YOUR own money! It's more applicable now with demonetization.

What are your favourite Stephen Leacock’s stories and why?

My favourite Leacock Story is A B C D. It's a perfect tribute to Mathematics, is extremely funny and the imagination is superb. 

As an actor, what is the biggest challenge of working under Naseeruddin Shah?

I know that I'm working with the best and therefore I have to give my best and my all, at all times. There is no way my Dad or Mum will accept a mediocre version of me or any of my siblings, or anyone in our theatre group for that matter, due to their sheer honesty and perfection and hard work. It's challenging but it's also loads of fun when you are made to give your best and nothing but the best is allowed. It's exhilarating.

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