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Mahesh Dattani astutely depicts the hollowness and dissatisfaction of urban lives”, says Shilpa Shukla

Mahesh Dattani Shilpa Shukla

The actor who stars in Zee Theatre’s ‘The Big Fat City’ says, working with Dattani has been a dream come true

Shilpa Shukla first shot to prominence as a rebellious hockey player in the 2007 sports saga ‘Chak De! India.’ Her subsequent work in the neo-noir film ‘B.A. Pass’, and in OTT shows like ‘Mentalhood’ and ‘Hostages,’ established her as a versatile and gifted actor but she still finds theatre to be the most challenging medium.

She says, “When I was offered ‘Zee Theatre’s ‘The Big Fat City’, I was thrilled. Playwright and director Mahesh Dattani has astutely depicted the hollowness and dissatisfaction of urban lives in the play. Working with him has truly been a dream-come true. The story is a perfect representation of Mumbai’s turmoil and took me back to the time when I too was a newcomer here. My character took me on a thrilling ride again into the heart of a city of dreams and nightmares that we all adore and fear. Via the play, I once again succumbed to its allure, its hideous power and beauty.”

The play is a social satire depicting events that unfold after a happily married couple, invites guests to their new flat. Tension mounts when a surprise visitor arrives to stir things up and lives and emotions threaten to spiral into chaos. Says Shilpa, “There is so much in this story that is relatable. Be it the seemingly affluent couple with EMIs to pay, a troubled TV star, or an ambitious actress with stars in her eyes. There is such immaculate timing in the ways things happen in the story. Nothing is as it appears and the play makes you laugh and also think. It touches on so many issues through humour and demonstrates how unreliable imagined realities are. ”

About working with Mahesh Dattani, Shilpa says, “Mahesh sir’s plays have always been personal favorites of mine. In fact, his ‘Final Solutions’ and ‘Tara’ marked my stage debut with Asmita Theatre Group in college. The audience’s reaction to these plays was always stunning. Working with him was a fantastic learning opportunity and the rehearsals and the shoot were seamless. Even though this was my first teleplay, I felt very comfortable with the format, thanks to him.”

Talking about the teleplay format, she says, “Even though I have worked on stage and in cinema, it was very rewarding to deconstruct certain notions about acting before attempting to construct a character. This was not exactly a live medium like theatre but it offered a new way to tell a story. Theatre is so rich in literature and emotions that it must be modified for a new generation. As an actor, this was an exciting territory to delve into. I find it fascinating that Zee Theatre is bringing a huge canvas of literature to life via teleplays without sacrificing the soul of theatre. About ‘The Big Fat City,’ I would say that it is a riot of laughter interspersed with thoughtful reflections. Watch it and expect to be entertained.”

The play will be screened on TataPlay Theatre, Dish & D2h Rangmanch Active and Airtel Spotlight on May 14th. It also stars Bhavna Pani, Mansi Multani, Nissar Khan, Sid Makkar, Anuj Guruwara and Deepal Doshi.