A series of highrises looms over him like the teeth of a giant animal. They offer, not the promise of companionship, but an awareness of alienation. Alone in a city to which he does not belong, the young protagonist fights loneliness by devising games in which he speaks to a chair, a pair of balloons and a cup of coffee, among others. Shaayar… Shutter Down, a solo play directed by Tripurari Sharma, had actor Teekam Joshi in an intense role of an economic migrant to a big city that is missing the human bonding of his hometown. To be more efficient requires him to pull the shutters down on the poetry that surges within him. “In 2012, I went to Tripurari ji with a single word — loneliness,” says Joshi. The latest show of Shaayar… Shutter Down was at the Bharat Rang Mahotsav, the annual theatre festival of the National School of Drama in Delhi, on Tuesday. An interview with Joshi:
How autobiographical is the play?
Loneliness was an integral part of my life when I came to Delhi from Bhopal. I also saw it in the lives of my friends. Our sense of belonging came from another place. We were busy working during the day but it was in the evenings that we realised that the friendships that existed naturally back home, were missing. The evenings stretched empty ahead of us each day.
How has the character of the protagonist changed in these past years?
In the beginning, I used to feel sad for him and this made my performance heavy. I used to get tired. We created four approaches — the Present Self in the metro, the Past Self that belongs to another place, the Professional Self that works hard in office and the Pretending Self that negotiates through conflicts in the city. The different selves and how to apply them has become clear now.
Director Tripurari Sharma describes you as a ‘fine actor but an emotional actor’. How did this affect your role?
Scenes in which the protagonist holds a cup of coffee and says, ‘Touching this raises my courage’ when, in reality, his courage does not increase, would move me immensely. He talks of walls clinging to each other, he argues with his chair, searches for a dog — these would overwhelm me. I couldn’t control myself. Those who live in the metros have found their paths but outsiders must still discover ways to fill their time.
The sets add to the sense of claustrophobia. How did you structure your performance for this solo show?
A solo needs a lot of stamina. I am 42 now, I was 38 when I first did Shaayar…Shutter Down. It is a very intense performance, but I get my energy from the audience and the stage. The background of walls has a very heavy presence. Space designer Rajesh Singh created the set in a way that does not allow for a release point. The energy needed to be compressed. Against the skyscrapers, the human figure appears small — towering vertical lines contrasted with the horizontal line of the protagonist.