Quasar Thakore Padamsee has always been revered as one of those mindful theatricians who were slated to bring about change in the art form and make space for oneself, even if artfully so amidst all the flamboyance and the frailties of the theatrical world. One of the founders of the popular theatre movement, Thespo, Quasar was able to make that space and do great work right from when he was in his early twenties.
In an exclusive interview with NW18, Quasar speaks about his recent collaborations that were showcased at the Serendipity Arts Festival, his love for a good immersive theatrical experience, inclusivity in the theatre world, his parents Dolly Thakore and Alyque Padamsee, and much more.
First of all, congratulation on the brilliant curations that you brought forth at the Serendipity Arts Festival, last year. Can you please talk a little about the objective of placing a plethora of acts before the audience? What made you choose the acts that you did?
I think all the acts were curated keeping in mind, how much we missed performing during the entire pandemic. One of the things that I keep telling myself is that Serendipity for sure does cater to a large audience but at the same time it also caters to performers too and many a time performers themselves are amidst the audience, so I wanted to make it special. When we were thinking of what the lineup could be, the word ‘community’ sort of kept creeping in, not just an actor-audience community but a community of those who have not been able to tell their story and for whom it is important to tell a story and that became a main theme when we finally were able to choose the works that we did.
We also wanted diversity, in every sense of the term. Once we sat down and looked at all the plays we had put together, we were really happy to see the range of acts that we were able to put together. A theatre performance can no longer be described as a play it can be a musical performance or simply a dance or even has some sort of projection or movement, so that is was made up to the lineup.
You have always spoken about how all rather theatre per se should be more of an immersive experience. Could you please elaborate on that a little and personally how have you ensured that happens?
Before anything else, I am a huge theatre fan and I love going and watching theatre shows. So, for me, I enjoy work that is uniquely theatre and thus when I am creating work, then I am always going to make something that cannot be replicated anywhere else apart from a theatre stage, may that be television, films or OTT. I love an immersive experience and personally, I feel it sort of has an impact on me and the moment anything I find impactful, I will go ahead and talk about it to others, so it is a win-win.
Theatre is ever-evolving, what are some of the changes in recent years that you appreciate?
I love how there are a lot of smaller theatre spaces being created in the metropolitan cities, a lot of theatre studios have come up now in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Bangalore it is almost like neighbourhood pubs we now have neighbourhood theatres, which is great to see. I think all the places have come up because theatre is evolving differently and because there are smaller places now we are also being able to create much more intimate theatre. Indian theatre is evolving towards telling personal stories more powerfully and that is very exciting.
The use of technology has also changed the game, the use of live cameras or projections has become a part of theatre almost.
You have done some stellar work in the past, looking back what are your biggest takeaways from the years gone by?
I just enjoyed doing work, there were stories that we wanted to tell and we wanted to tell them interestingly. I love doing theatre and being in a theatre, trust me I would not change it for anything. The understanding of humanity and understanding why people do whatever they do sort of makes me a better person. I am an atheist and I struggled to understand people who have faith, then when I worked on a show where a character’s backbone was literally the fact that he had spiritual faith, I struggle even more but at the same time I also started understanding why people choose to believe in what they do. It made me understand the world a bit better.
Do you have a dream for Indian theatre, do you envision any particular things for it?
I do hope and wish that it were a little easier. I wish there was a larger artistic policy across, so working in theatre is hard and not lucrative at times and theatre allows people to work in other mediums too because the other mediums ends up paying more. But, I hope it was easier for people to just stay in theatre and I wish there were policies where people understood the value to life that performing art brings, I think we are very shortsighted on that and we were not always that way.
How has the line of your parents’ work inspired you as well as the work that you do?
It is a bit of a mixed bag, to be honest, as a kid, I detested theatre part of it because my mom who was a theatre reviewer would end up dragging me to all the shows and so for me, theatre was like a chore. When I went off to boarding school, fortunately, I discovered my relationship with the art form. I was seventeen when I came back to Bombay and was sitting at a cafe with one of my father’s friends who went on talking about dad’s work little realising that it made no sense to me because I had not watched a lot of it but when he realised that I was not getting any bit of it he started putting everything into context.
My mother watches everything, she is hungry and greedy for content, so that level of generosity and enthusiasm is something I have happily inherited from her. I am a fan of theatre first and foremost, making theatre is secondary. I did get an opportunity to work with my father on a couple of shows, so his attention to detail is something I remember.
His shows were large in scale and I do tine shows so that difference somehow always feels lovely. I remember when I was directing my first show, he turned up on the last day of the rehearsal just to wish everyone and when everyone started inviting him inside he happily declined and waited till the interval to come in and hand me a cake. When I asked him if he wanted to watch the second half, he smiled and said to me that this was entirely mine and that he would come and see it tomorrow with the rest of the people and in that act, not that I look back was a certain amount of faith and respect.
The influence has not been as direct as people would expect, it has been slightly the other way around where they let me run on the path that I chose for myself. My dad always watched my shows on opening night and never for once was he like come on let us watch it in advance and fix anything that is wrong with it, my mother on the other hand watches everything and is slightly biased with my work, which is lovely. One thing that I have gained from both of them is to know what it means to tell the story that you are telling, when we put a play up it is a privilege therefore one must be very careful about what we are trying to put up.
What is your word of advice for anyone who is trying to find a voice in the theatre industry?
I would say, just get in the room in whatever way you can. Sometimes, we are a little hoity-toity and give up on smaller roles or roles that do not suit us but with regards to the theatre you have to just dive in and do because it is an opportunity to make an impression and a chance to learn.