Published: Verve Magazine, Nerve, September 2009
After a long hiatus, Mahesh Dattani returns with Brief Candle, a tragi-comedy about love, life and death, situated in a hospital for the terminally ill. Post the first opening last month, Sitanshi Talati-Parikh takes a theatrical turn with director, Lillete Dubey and the playwright
What should one expect from this Dattani play?
Mahesh Dattani (MD): I don’t know! It is a piece of drama like my other plays except it plays with theatrical conventions. [On another note] I do seem more motivated when a director is willing to commit herself to a production of my play. Lillete announced the play even before I had written it!
Lillete Dubey (LD): Mahesh’s hallmark ability to tackle difficult subjects with humanity, humour and deep insight.
You have had a very successful working relationship with each other….
MD: Lillete and I make a great team as our creative thoughts have common ground and yet we are two very different people. It is this synergy that creates an exciting creative environment at rehearsals and even in our personal interactions.
LD: Mahesh and I both enjoy stretching ourselves down a road less travelled – both in terms of theme and structure – and we try to create pieces that push people to re-examine their lives and the world around them.
What brought about this particular story?
MD: Well, the first thought came to me after a personal loss in my family. The concept of relationships that get defined only at the time of closure seemed to grow in me. While the play is not autobiographical it has sprung from personal loss. A lot of what my mother went through, although she did not suffer from cancer, found its way into characters like Shanti, a survivor of breast cancer.
Do you believe a topic like this can be handled with humour and without a deep sense of loss?
MD: There is a very fine line between comedy and tragedy. Both stem from a sense of loss but with comedy, that loss is viewed from a great distance. I have attempted to show characters who are going through a grave sense of loss but would like to distance themselves from it.
LD: That’s the challenge – to pick a subject like mortality and see how one can fashion something moving, meaningful, affirmative and even comic out of it!