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    Aamir Raza Husain on his latest production, Once Upon a Murder, and why minimalism is not his thing.

    Amir Raza Husain’s tryst with theatre began at the age of 13, when he played Tom Snout the tinker, in his school production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Part of the Shakespeare Society in St Stephen’s College (Delhi University), the Padma Shri recipient was directed by Shashi Tharoor in his first college play and was awarded the best fresher actor award. Husain founded the Delhi-based Stagedoor theatre group in 1974 and since then “it’s been theatre all the time,” for the veteran director, playwright and actor.

    New ventures
    Bringing down his new production, Once Upon a Murder, to the city, Husain, who has done more than 5,000 shows throughout his journey as a theatre artiste, says that it’s not the performances you remember but certain dialogues. “You don’t think you’ll remember, but suddenly you’ll get the urge to quote from a play,” the 59-year-old states. Not revealing much about the play, which is set in colonial times and will also be the stage debut of his son Ghulam Ali Abbas, he says that it was four weeks in the making, “which is normally what we take,” and has an eight-member cast. The script was a collective effort by the team, shares Husain who has co-directed the play with his wife, Virat. He had come to the city last year with his production, The Lion in Winter.

    Grand gesture
    Husain is known for his grand productions, such as The Fifty Day War and The Legend of Ram, and says that theatre is and has always been a “huge exercise.” Commenting on the recent trends of keeping a minimal set and costumes, the director who has had trains explode and helicopters going over the audience, says “no director wants to be minimal, he is forced to be minimal”. When I ask him about any new innovations that he might have introduced in his latest offering, Husain, true to his up-front disposition says, “Innovations don’t come in a proscenium stage. Absolutely not in a travelling company. There is no space for innovations because, normally, it takes two to three weeks to put up a stage properly. But here you have got to put it up in 12 hours, dismantle it, put it into two trucks and carry it away.”

    September 18, at ITC Grand Chola. In association with Aircel. Entry by invite only. Details: 22200000

    —Simar Bhasin

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