Home / EDITORIAL / Jazbat-e-guftoogu- In conversation with Shilpi Marwah
Shilpi Marwah, during an act, Court Martial at Shoolini University (Image Credits: Facebook/Marwaha.Shilpi)

Jazbat-e-guftoogu- In conversation with Shilpi Marwah

A renowned face in acting and theatre, has won hearts and impacted minds of people with her strong voice. Taking a stand for social change. A pioneer into the field of street plays a woman fuelled by passion and vision. Bringing to you the excerpts from her conversation.

Read on to delve into the depths of what hasn’t been much known about her as she gets candid with her joy of sharing her dream and goals.

Here is the conversation:

How did you get involved in Acting? From where did you get started?
I was very young when I started. It was more than acting. I was very disturbed about a lot of things. I was very young when my mother died. She didn’t get the proper treatment for the lack of doctors. There were more number of patients than doctors could attend to. It disturbed me a lot so after that there has been an effort that we could do something which could be a means to bring a positive change in the society, For I faced a lot into my life.So I worked in dramatics in my college and have been an active part of school theatre and drama groups.

Did you find it as a medium to express yourself?
It has been a medium to do something which I wanted to communicate and to reach people I wanted to reach.

Have you progressed in your acting career as you have expected?
From the very childhood I had interest in acting, dancing and theatre but I didn’t know that I could work with it in a new direction. Now too I am acting, write, direct but I am doing what is required to make this society a better place like a doctor treating an ailment for free, lawyers taking up right cases.


Have you achieved what you expected in your acting career?

No. There is a lot which needs to be done. It is just the beginning and a long way to go. I feel that I should get over with drama but the things aren’t the way I want, even my 12 years of effort and thousands of nukkad natak. Society isn’t getting better for recently very shocking things happened with small aged children. So it becomes our responsibility as a society to take steps for the betterment.

What has been your greatest accomplishment as an actor?
People have become more aware. As an actor my accomplishment had been that when I started with theatre no nukkad dramas were there. After Safdar Sahab, Nukkad was dead. It only took place in Delhi University’s colleges not beyond. So getting it to the streets was a challenge. When I started I offered free workshops to Delhi University students for Nukkad. So now people recognise me everywhere, it has been my accomplishment. Now we don’t have to tell people that what we are about to do. Now people associate ‘black kurta’. People make a circle. Sometimes they say, sahi baat toh kr rhe h’. Accomplishment is that many people have come out. When I started with theatre then I used to be the only girl. Now girls are coming out, raising their voice, asking questions, for their rights, boys are raising questions, trans genders are coming out. So somewhere it is a depiction of all the issues on which we are raising questions that people are talking about it, raising questions and working on them.

What kind of roles have you performed throughout your career? Are you satisfied with them?
I played many roles into my career. As an actor one shouldn’t be satisfied with a particular character. The point where it comes one stops working so that hunger pushes us ahead. So satisfaction is from within for me as a better human and into the direction in which I want to work more. So there is a motivation that we are working in the right direction.

Do you think you could have done a bit better in any particular role?
No as such nothing for whatever I did I have tried to give my best into it.

Which has been your favourite character that you have played?
Not as such. Dastak is a drama which involves nukkad and talks about women’s rights. In Court Martial I play Vidushi Roy who fights against caste discrimination. In another, I played a lecturer who researches on transgenders . So all my roles have been really important and playing them well is really important to reach to the people and to convey the message even after the play gets over, impacting them.

Into which genre do you put yourself as an actor?
To be very honest it is an infinity. If as an actor if you fit in to a particular character you have limited yourself at every place. There is versitality. So there is no need to put oneself into that. As an actor one should study one’s character and move further with it is a basic. One should be enough aware and sensitive in order to do so to people.

What space for theatre do you think exists in the lives of common middle class men? Do you think such understanding of open ended dramas exist amongst common people?
The plays is for people who has been forced at the back. It is well known to all of us about right and wrong but things around twist them. So instead of preaching we need to raise questions within for bringing about a change.


Do you think there is a space for acknowledging criticism in the present day theatre? How accommodate the feedback from the audience?

Feedback is a way to improve in one’s ability, resources and thoughts which could be limited. So whatever feedback seems relevant I try to accommodate into my plays. My aim is not to fight some good rather include them and discuss on good. My aim is to create awareness so as far as inclusion is concerned it all goes into my mind and transcends somewhere into my plays. In acting we just speak of text, there is a continuous addition into the subtext.

Your vision and future goals for your theatre group, ‘Sukhmanch’?
For Sukhmanch there had been multiple visions. For there needs to be a lot to be done to establish theatre as a profession. Theatre does a lot to shake one’s vision and answer all the questions. Cinema too does that but there is not much discussion and audience just carry it with them.
Somewhere I find people should recognise acting in theatre for actors.
For Sukhmanch should take plays in society which are socio-political and responsibly conducted by wise actors as people tend to follow actors. So people become aware and evolve as individuals be it actors or audiences.

Since now you are a director yourself what have you learnt from the director/s that you have worked with?
Yes, it helped me a lot. As a human I am growing.

What has been your biggest achievement as an actor? Do you think you have matured as an actor? What are your strong points?
Actor has a major journey. Direction is different. I worked as both simultaneously. I wrote too simultaneously. So I have grown a lot. I have taken learning from everywhere putting it wherever I could.

What is the hardest part about being popular/celebrity? How do you think they handle this?
I just hope that this popularity culture ends. It is just that we are more visible though more than hundred people work at the same time on one play. As a human it should be taken as a profession and should be normalised so as to make things better. I don’t believe in being awe of someone. One should appreciate.

Who is your favourite actor from whom you draw inspiration?
There have been so many who I liked a lot for they had been really strong. Some women worked in Indian cinema at a time when acting wasn’t a way for women. So women fighting for their rights in theatre should get recognition. Then Balraj Sahni, Smita Patil who worked really good in cinema.

Choose one :

1) Director or Actor
It is very difficult for me to choose as both are really different. I like teaching. I have taught theatre, actor training, director training and writing. So I like to put myself as a teacher. Acting and direction comes along with it as one tends to revise a lot while teaching.

2) Theatre or Movies
I won’t choose a particular one but I feel that whatever medium I will get to communicate my ideas to people, I will do that. There has been various works which I did. So I won’t choose one but I will work wherever I find a way to reach the audience. Also I won’t leave theatre even while doing cinema.

Any message to your audience or theatre lovers.
Alone I can’t do anything rather any of us can’t do it all alone. So whatever one does should be for the betterment of society, individual and self.

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About Himanshi Garg

Himanshi Garg is our Senior Respondent from Delhi. She is an English Literature Graduate from University of Delhi. Currently, pursuing Master's Degree in Education. She has been writing for Political, Fashion and Home Affairs for a long term.

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