It’s a wonderful dramatic life!

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Come June and Aamir Raza Hussain's house will change into a theatre workshop for four months. Their drawing room, full of antique items, some of them centuries old, will all be packed away to make room for rehearsals.

Aamir and his wife Virat have lived theatre, literally. They both have worked together on many famous plays like The Fifty Day War, which was based on Kargil war, and The Legends of Ram, based on the epic Ramayana.
“We all are draamebaaz here,” declares Virat. “We have only work discussions at the dining table, during breakfasts and luncheons as well,” adds Hussain. And it was a conscious decision to convert their home into a theatre workshop, says Virat. “Theatre is a very demanding profession and once our kids started growing up, we realised that they needed more of our time. We knew we couldn’t afford coming home late night after rehearsals, so we decided to do it at home only. In fact, Hussain has an office at home,” says Virat. Hussain is the creative director of Stagedoor theatre company.
You can probably take them out of the theatre, but you cannot take theatre out of them. One cannot help asking if their two kids Kaniz Sukaina and Ghulam Ali Abbas are going to follow their footsteps. “I don’t think I would like to. I am a bit shy about acting in front of many people,” says Sukaina shyly. On the other hand, Ali, who is a nautanki according to his father, says, “I have done a play as an assistant director in school. So maybe!”
The kids are not under any pressure to join theatre, continue their parents. “They are free to do whatever they want to do. Like Sukaina has a flair for writing. So we would be happy if she takes it up as a profession. Only thing that saddens me is how the schools in the country are shaping their curriculum. We used to have so much exposure and freedom, right from nursery, to try our hands at various activities like theatre, singing and even drawing. But now schools have these four-hour programmes in the name of annual day, where I struggle not to fall asleep,” laments Hussain.
If exposure is what children lack at school, there is plenty of it waiting for them at home as they see their parents working on a variety of scripts from the serious The Fifty Day War to comic Love In A Tub. However, the biggest challenge in theatre for them has been taking it out from the confines of time and space, they say. “When there are so many entertainment options at the tip of the fingers for audiences, why would they come to theatre unless something different is happening! So we have made a stage of over hundred acres of space, moving theatre, chopper flying over and bombs exploding for The Fifty Day War,” says Virat.
Virat’s father, Retd. Major General Surendra Kumar Talwar says, “I love to watch their productions. We try to attend all their performances in the city. And it’s great to be there with our grandchildren,” he smiles.
However, even after over hundred productions and over thousand performances, Hussain says that it continues to be a struggle to raise money for the plays.
“Sponsorship is the biggest challenge for us even today. Another problem is finding good actors,” says Hussain. “Even before reading out a line at auditions, they want to know if they will be offered an important role or not. No one wants to struggle,” says Virat.
At present they are busy with an on-going thriller play Murder and another small play on Dadasaheb Phalke is under production, says Virat. When Hussain interrupts saying that it’s not a small play but a big production that they are working on, Virat smiles and says, “Unless a play is complete I do not like to call it big or important.”
So, being in the same profession, do they ever face creative differences? “Very rarely. And even if it happens, we reach a mutual decision,” says Virat. She insists it is theatre that keeps them together. And so agrees her mother Ramma. “Theatre brings us together often. Also festivals, be it Eid or Diwali, we celebrate all and enjoy together as a family,” wraps up Ramma.

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