Ratna’s Shaw n Tell

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She’s a theatre performer, television artiste and Bollywood actor. Above all, she is a courageous, strong-willed and independent woman. Meet Ratna Pathak Shah, who is coming to Bengaluru on September 5 with her husband Naseeruddin Shah, to stage the play Dear Liar, in support of India Foundation of Arts.

Dear Liar is an adaptation of the correspondence between Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw and actress Stella Campbell. The last time Dear Liar was staged in Bengaluru was in December 2003. Now, because of popular demand, the play is back in the city, retaining its old-world charm despite the many years. “We have not changed the script over the years. We don’t mess with the works of George Bernard Shaw,” says Ratna. She also dismisses rumours about the future replacement of her and Naseeruddin in the play.

Speaking about her career in acting, Ratna says, “When I first started acting, I didn’t think of it as a career. Back then, I didn’t like the roles that women were offered in movies. Also, you couldn’t make enough money to sustain yourself.”

Now, having had firsthand experience in TV, theatre and Bollywood, she believes that each medium has challenges of its own. “Maintaining your sanity is the biggest challenge in television. But I think, as an actor, theatre is the most satisfying.” She also thinks it’s a wonder to be able to act against imaginary characters. “Consider Life of Pi. The actor would have had to imagine all the tigers, whales and pretty much act against nothing!” she claims.
As a director, it’s safe to say that Ratna is one of the most well-researched and well-read of the lot. She “hates it” when anyone doesn’t put enough thought into their work. Although she doesn’t mind masala entertainment flicks she likes them to be in-depth. “India is a country of so many cultures! Why must we have just serious films or just entertainment films? I love the variety, but expect excellence,” she states.

In her free time, Ratna loves to cook. She likes to read about and discuss cooking. She loves reading fiction like PG Wodehouse. Currently, she is fascinated by The Making of Modern India and how relevant it is to every one of us. She is also quite the globetrotter. She highly recommends Morocco, but loves to travel within India. “I love going on long drives in my car. I even love train journeys. I would love to explore the North East next,” she shares. Ratna’s work with children is very close to her heart. She has been working with an NGO, Avehi-Abacus Project, since the 1990s, which provides teaching material for over 900 schools.

Currently, the prolific actress is involved in designing a kit called Saakshaat, which aims at enabling teachers to speak about gender discrimination at a school level.

Dear Liar will be staged at Chowdiah Memorial Hall on September 5.

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