Home Interview Actor Zeeshan Ayub, actor-director Rasika Agashe to provide platform for playwrights through...

Actor Zeeshan Ayub, actor-director Rasika Agashe to provide platform for playwrights through Sanhita Manch

For quite some time now, theater practitioners have experienced a shortage of Hindi plays. Are enough plays not being written or are playwrights just struggling to get their scripts published?
Rasika and Zeeshan from ‘Being Association’ feel it’s the latter. Playwrights across the country are churning out new plays but they often fail to reach the right people and be brought to life on the stage. Mumbai based ‘Being Association’ has taken the lead in bridging this gap. ‘Being Association’ was started by two National School of Drama graduates – Mohd Zeeshan Ayyub, a prominent Indian film actor and Rasika Agashe, an acclaimed actor and director who works in Marathi and Hindi theatre. Together, they are committed to the revival and long-term success of Indian theater. And the first step towards that aim is ensuring an abundance of great plays.
With the aim of encouraging upcoming playwrights, Rasika and Zeeshan launched ‘Sanhita Manch’ in 2017 as a nationwide hunt for new Hindi plays. This first-of-its-kind initiative received an overwhelming response, prompting Rasika and Zeeshan to turn Sanhita Manch into an annual event that playwrights across the country avidly look forward to. Sanhita Manch is back again – this time at a scale that’s larger than ever before. Sanhita Manch ’23 is inviting new plays in not just Hindi, but also in Marathi and English.
And for the first time, Sanhita Manch is open to not just Indian playwrights but to playwrights across the globe. Authors and playwrights are requested to submit their new and original plays, that have not been performed or published elsewhere, by filling the online Google form available on the Facebook page – ‘Sanhita Manch’ and the Instagram page – ‘Being Association’ The best Hindi plays will be adjudicated by the eminent theatre personalities Purva Naresh, Sapan Saran & Atul Tiwari. Mohit Takalkar & Prajakt Deshmukh will judge the Marathi plays while English plays will be judged by theatre personalities Keval Arora and Quasar Thakore Padamsee.
“Take baby steps to perfection”
Excerpts from an exclusive confab with Zeeshan Ayub
Tell us about Sanhita Manch?
So basically, the aim of Sanhita Manch is to provide a better platform to new writers in the theatre. They get mentorship and a chance to present their plays in front of a good jury, from which they receive feedback and special attention. This helps them gain better clarity and understanding about their work. The major issue for plays is that they often struggle to find a platform and good directors or shows. Sanhita Manch provides that platform and exposure for them. It also helps in connecting writers with the rest of the theatre community. That is one of the biggest advantages.
What do you enjoy most about acting?
Acting brings a lot of joy. It can be therapeutic as it helps release tensions and problems that exist within oneself. Acting acts as a catharsis and provides a sense of relief. All these factors contribute to the enjoyment of acting.
Do you have any funny or interesting anecdotes to share from your auditions? How do you deal with negative reviews?
Personally, I have auditioned very few times. I have received scripts directly, so I didn’t have to audition. Luckily, I haven’t received negative reviews so far. If there are any suggestions or interesting points for improvement, I take them positively and try to work on them.
What are your future releases/roles that your fans can look forward to?
I have multiple projects lined up, including “Joram” with Manoj Bajpayee, “Haddi” with Nawazuddin Siddiqui, and “Sam Bahadur” directed by Meghna Gulzar. There are also shows like “Lal Badti” with Nana Patekar. Prakash Jha has directed one of the shows, and there is another show in Canada, although the details of the shoot location are not decided yet. Chandan Arora is the director. So, there are multiple projects in the pipeline.
What advise would you give aspiring actors?
For aspiring actors, I would just say to keep working hard and focus on the work you get at this moment. Sometimes, actors make the mistake of thinking that they will showcase everything once they get a big opportunity. I believe it’s important to take baby steps, learn gradually, and build upon small projects. That’s how you gain experience and become better.
“Both talent & training are essential for actors”
Excerpts from an exclusive confab with  Rasika Agashe
Did you always want to be an actor? What have been your career high points so far?
Career high points are still yet to come for me. Studying in NSD (National School of Drama) and getting the opportunity to learn there was a big milestone, and now I am taking on different roles. It goes back to my childhood. I am Marathi, so I wanted to become like Madhuri Dixit. But as the years passed, I gained more understanding and maturity. Thankfully, I found a good theater group in Pune, and it gave me a direction in terms of the kind of work I wanted to do. So, yes, I have always wanted to become an actor since childhood.
How and when did you discover you wanted to be an actor? What kind of training have you enjoyed?
I had a lot of fun studying at NSD during my training. I enjoy realism as much as I enjoy training in folk arts. I find the same joy in training in traditional arts, whether they are Indian traditional arts or foreign traditional arts. And now, when I teach acting, it is the biggest learning process for me because I can quickly learn from the students about what is not working and how to make it work. It brings a technical clarity.
What is important for an actor as well as a writer, talent or training?
This is a tricky question whether talent or training is necessary for an actor or a writer. I think both are necessary. Sometimes, there is a need for talent first, and then training can be built upon it. It’s like extracting a diamond from coal; training helps in that process, but it is essential to have that diamond within. On the other hand, I also believe that relying solely on training may not be enough. Having a basic talent and aptitude is necessary.
How did Sanhita Manch materialize?
I would like to share a few things about Sanhita Manch (literally translated as “Script Stage”). It has been almost 5 years since its inception. Sanhita Manch started because we were sitting and discussing that we wanted to do theater, but we couldn’t find any good new scripts. There was no fun in doing the same old plays. So, we thought about what we could do. I suggested, “Let’s announce a competition and see how many scripts come in.” And that’s how our friendships and discussions gradually took a formal shape.
We made the announcement and relied on Facebook for social media promotion. In the first year, we received around 80 scripts. Then we thought, “Why should I alone perform these plays?” So, we started giving scripts to two more directors. That’s how Sanhita Manch started. Now, Sanhita Manch accepts plays in Hindi, Marathi, and English.
On Sanhita Manch’s social media handles, you can download the submission form, and the selected plays will be published in a book format. Along with that, we will assign four different directors in four different cities to stage those selected plays. The premiere will be held in Mumbai, and then the festival will travel to other cities.