Dastak Directors: In delight to create Mumbai’s Prithvi theatre in Singapore; A rendezvous with Shalaka Ranadive

The founder of Wecandoitt Productions, which also runs acting workshops in Singapore together with veteran actor Anupam Kher’s Actor Prepares acting school, Shalaka Ranadive is bringing a heart-warming story of an old man, as a part of Dastak 2017 from November 16-19, 2017.

Shalaka Ranadive
Shalaka Ranadive. Photo courtesy: Dastak

An accomplished theatre, TV and film actor with over 20 years of experience, Shalaka, after starring in popular TV serials on leading national channels in India, went on to be part of several theatre productions in the UK. Since 2007, she has been based in Singapore and has produced and directed eight plays through her theatre company Wecandoitt.

In 2014, she directed a children’s musical, ‘Nikki’s world’ with an ensemble cast of over 50. She also directed ‘Dhaara’, a play for the Samarpana festival 2014 in Singapore and India. Both Nikki’s World and Dhaara were well received. Her critically acclaimed play ‘Rojak’, which gave an insight on migrant workers in Singapore was a sold-out production. She recently directed ‘All is well’, a play to raise awareness about and reduce the stigma related to breast cancer.

Shalaka Ranadive is also the Singapore representative for Anupam Kher’s acting academy Actor Prepares. Connected to India (CtoI) got a chance to ask the director of Dhundh a few questions.

CtoI: Have you been writing and directing Hindi plays for other festivals and/or your own productions? How do you manage or balance a successful stand-up career and theatre both? Which role do you enjoy more – stand-up comedy or writing?

Shalaka Ranadive: Only theatre and TV acting – Since 2007 I have produced and directed more than 10 plays in Singapore covering a range of themes – comedy, war, migrant workers. I have directed plays under my own production company ‘Wecandoit’ and also for other production houses. My plays have been staged in India (Kala Ghoda festival) as well. I recently directed a play for a Tamil theatre festival called ‘Pathey Nimidam’. In addition, I also run drama and acting workshops for children and adults in collaboration with Anupam Kher’s Actor Prepares.

I started out as a TV actress in Mumbai and have acted in many popular TV serials in the 1990’s when the TV industry was booming.  I moved to London and pursued acting there as well. So if you ask me what is more enjoyable - TV or theatre? TV has more perceived glamour for sure but I would certainly say theatre acting is a more challenging medium for actors and brings out their versatility. To be on stage and perform for a live audience is a tremendous confidence booster and gives a different kick.

Actors Subin Subaiah and Rishi Budhrani during a rehearsal.
Actors Subin Subaiah and Rishi Budhrani during a rehearsal. Photo courtesy: Dastak

CtoI: Singapore’s arts and culture scene seem to have heated up a lot in the last few years, there are too many shows for NRIs to go, in this context do you think a Hindi theatre festival is too bold a step?

Shalaka Ranadive: The NRI experience is largely attending shows that have been brought in from India usually with a well-known personality. Over the years as a producer, actor and director, I came across a large talent pool in Singapore be it writers, actors or other directors – though not necessarily all Indian. They were equally passionate, creative but with no outlet for exposure. In my circle of friends and even in the fraternity one would say “what we miss in Singapore is a Prithvi experience” or those who were from Bangalore would miss the Rang Shankara. Last year a few of us teamed up to create a platform for these talented people and the idea of Dastak was an appropriate stage providing them with the opportunity to showcase their talents. Yes, it was a bold step, self-financed but worth it. It was always my dream to create a Prithvi in Singapore- a theatrical experience where the audience enjoys without it being heavy on the pocket.

CtoI: Dastak seems to be the Twitter of theatre; communicating/telling the story in 10 minutes. How challenging is it?

Shalaka Ranadive: Very challenging! Right from writing a 10-minute script to directing to enacting and finally conveying the context in 10 minutes. Phew! The theatre is a medium which works mainly on characterization, subtext and backstory. Emotions and dialogues come later. So to put all that across in 10 minutes is not easy.  This where the true test of directors lies. What to edit and how to portray the character and at the same time do justice to the story. But now the trend of short films has caught on. So, 10-minute plays can also be the new age theatre!

Actors Subin Subaiah and Rishi Budhrani during a rehearsal.
Photo courtesy: Twitter

CtoI: What is going to be your next project?

Shalaka Ranadive: After Dastak my next project is “project hibernation” after working on Dastak for almost 12 months, I need a break! Then it will again be time for Dastak 2018 and work all over again. A few other ideas are brewing at the moment but let’s see what shape or form it takes next year!

CtoI: How do you accurately portray the modern world on the stage?

Shalaka Ranadive: It really depends on the script and the director's interpretation. A few years back I did a play on foreign migrant workers in Singapore, I had to stick to it being realistic to the modern world. But your imagination can go wild for a play on fairy goddess or a musical. That’s the beauty of stage it can have various interpretations and still make it look interesting.

CtoI: What makes Dhundh unique? What inspired you to select this story for Dastak?  

Shalaka Ranadive: Dhundh is a heartwarming story of a man facing the challenges in his old age. It’s a beautiful story which gives you a peek into old age and how love conquers all these difficulties. The story inspired me to direct this play. It was something I could relate to with my parents and in-laws in a similar situation. They are in India and our generation living overseas, it can be lonely at times.

Garima Kapil
Garima Kapil – Senior Writer

Garima Kapil has around five years of experience in the field of writing and editing. Specialised in writing, performing proof-reading and text editing functions along with content ideation; she has worked with leading e-commerce and as a freelancer. She writes on lifestyle, news, telecom, travel, education, healthcare, immigration, along with other subjects required as a full-time writer and freelancer. 


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