Michael Muthu on his new play, Gaslight, tackling the Victorian era and his plans for movies
Allow us to stray away from the norm and give you the bad news first. Michael Muthu’s latest play could very well be his last one for some time to come. The founder of Boardwalkers, who’s been staging (and acting in) plays for the last 25 years, wants to take time off and direct a full length feature film. “I’ve been wanting to do movies all my life, so I think it’s time I just went ahead and did it. I already have three scripts ready to go; I just haven’t had time to go meet producers,” begins Muthu, who wants to start with a dark tale set in the 1800s and tell us nothing more that it is “a true but unknown wild wild west-like Indian story with lots of action and intrigue”.
And now on to the good news. The director is almost ready with his suspense thriller, Gaslight, a co-production with The Madras Players. “It’s been a while since I tackled this genre and this one’s been on my bucket list,” says Muthu, a fan of both the play and its 1944 celluloid adaptation, adding, “I only choose a script if it engages me enough to read it in one sitting. If it takes longer, I don’t even consider it for production.”
Penned by British playwright Patrick Hamilton in 1938, Gaslight follows the story of a couple living in Victorian England. The husband, who has a secret, does his best to convince the wife that she is slowly going insane. But the intervention of a policeman puts a spanner in the works. “One of the reasons I teamed up with The Madras Players is because I wanted a senior actor to play Detective Rough and I knew PC Ramakrishna fit the role. For the other two lead roles, I had the actors in mind (Sarvesh Sreedhar and Shaan Katari Libby) and, thankfully, they agreed to do it,” he says.
The right space
The only challenge he faced while directing his ‘swan song’ was getting the period right. Muthu researched—both in the pages of books and online—to nail the Victorian architecture, décor and costumes. And he promises us a slice of the times through the sets that he is building and the costumes being created by his wife. “I’ve also made sure I’ve removed all references to the place and deleted overtly British references, so that the play is neutral,” he explains. With the last spurt of rehearsals underway, Muthu—who acted in Manoj Night Shyamalan’s debut film, Praying With Anger—might miss the ‘boards’ he named his theatre group after, but at the end of the day he feels both plays and movies are the same, telling stories.
June 19-21, at the Museum Theatre, from 7.15 pm. Rs 200 onwards. Details: in.bookmyshow.com
Surya Praphulla Kumar