The "Paraya" who became a playwright

Conversation @theDSM: Shafaat Khan with Akshay Shimpi

by Gaurangi Dang


Gaurangi Dang is an alumnus of The Drama School Mumbai. She has been working with Ramu Ramanathan since she graduated from the DSM. He was the one who told her about the talk. After the talk, Gaurangi annoyed him with questions. The next day he said that DSM wanted a write up about the talk and if Gaurangi would be interested in doing it or should he ask Akshay Shimpi instead. Gaurangi said that he should ask Akshay sir, for she didn’t have any notes.

Three hours later, Gaurangi sent him whatever she remembered. Here it is.



Shafaat Khan spoke to a handful of theatre students and theatrewallahs at the legendary Purandare Hall of the Mumbai Marathi Sahitya Sangh on 13 May 2017. It started when he was a little boy. His father had a government job that required them to constantly be moving across Maharashtra. Young Shafaat Khan would create a new identity for himself, each time they moved and he’d continue to be this person until he was caught in “a lie”.

Sometimes things would get awkward, especially in the history class.

Shafaat Khan said, “History is taught in a specific way in our country. There are very few Muslim heroes in our books. When little children learn about the battle between the fearless Shivaji and Afzal Khan in class, they all want to be Shivaji.”

The children in Shafaat Khan’s school were no exception. Since there were already so many Shivajis, the responsibility of being Afzal Khan would land on the tiny shoulders of Shafaat Khan regardless of whether or not he wanted to play the part. The original battle ended with Shivaji beating Afzal Khan, but this history chapter continued during the recess breaks.

By the time he was six, the family had moved to Gokarna. Their neighbours – their home was directly opposite his – had hosted a Yakshagaan performance in their aangan one evening. This colourful, loud and noisy spectacle formed his first impressions of the magic of theatre.

Later from another terrace, he’d see lines of people going towards the temple near his house on a regular basis. These people would be clutching a chicken by its feet and singing jovial ditties. On their way back, they’d still be holding the chicken by its feet and singing, but the head was chopped off and so the blood would drip down and cover the entire pathway.

In all this lay “drama”.

The Khans lived in a government housing with sprawling compounds. Back in those days, theatre troupes would travel from village to village, performing Ram-Leela. Sometimes the troupes would perform in their house, near the water-tank and often Shafaat Khan would watched the play from his vantage position in the home. After their scene was enacted, the actors would return backstage, lift up their saree or dhoti, sit on the floor and light a beedi and sip their chai. To someone who had just seen them on stage, these people were gods and they looked like gods, but there they were sitting at an arm’s distance from him smoking their beedi. The actors made up like divinity with bows and arrows in hand, squatting on the ground and behaving so mundanely – can do to the mind of a child, who then watches them step onstage and play gods in a completely different light!

This was the story within a story within a story.

This young Shafaat Khan grew up, wrote a one act play for an inter-collegiate competition that bombed, but still he fell in love with writing.

He eventually went on to become a cult playwright.

In 1997, the NSD wanted to create a repertory of work in order to commemorate the 50 years of the “radiant, auspicious journey” of the independent India. For this golden jubilee celebration, many playwrights were invited for a workshop – Arjun Deo Charan from Jodhpur, Hasmukhbhai Baradi from Ahmedabad, Shafaat Khan and others – to write an Independence Day play with government grants. Khan had no concept for the piece, and the pressure of producing something was massive.

While most of the writers went into the residency with a story, Shafaat saab was still waiting for the story to come to him. Each morning they’d all wake up and share their respective stories and how far they’d gotten. When it was Shafaat Saab’s turn, he’d apologise and tell them that he was still searching. This went on for a few days. At this point Shafaat Saab had begun to get a little restless.

While at the workshop, he read a newspaper clipping about a jeep traversing a dessert to drop people off to their destinations. A villager had gotten off at his village, and had found himself unable to pay the Rs. 2 fare that the driver demanded. What happened as a result was that the driver drove his jeep in reverse, ramming into the villager and killing him.

Something clicked inside Khan’s brain.

He said, “A play is prepared inside of you. This newspaper report triggered it within me. Fifty years after his country has received independence, a citizen doesn’t have Rs 2 to pay for a ride and it results in his death. Who has acquired this freedom we speak of? What dirty politics are played in the name of class and caste? These are the questions a writer must ask.”

A few days later on the invitation of his director friend Waman Kendre to the August Kranti maidan. Kendre was rehearsing for a play nearby and asked him to come along for a rehearsal. The play was based on the freedom struggle. Huge performances were planned for the August Kranti maidan. Elephants and canons were all present on the maidan alongside my Marathi theatre friends, who had called me there for a rehearsal. The first thing Khan saw on entering was Jhansi ki Rani, Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi in conversation whilst in full costume. On seeing Khan, Nehru instantly came up and asked, “Do you have a matchbox, I need to light my cigarette?”

Khan couldn’t even recognise his friend in costume, and the matchbox interaction with Nehru struck him as very odd.

He thought it would be rude of him to deny Nehru a cigarette, especially since they all looked so exhausted. It turned out that Shafaat Saab had found his story.

It had always been within him. This was just the turning point.

The images buzzed in his head, and the first draft was ready in five days. This was Shobha Yatra’s process.

Someone at the talk asked him during the Q&A session, “Why writing?”

He very wisely replied, “As a child I always felt like I was ‘paraya (outsider)’. Playwriting was my way of getting society to accept me.”


Aakash Prabhakar@theDSM: Crumpled

Crumpled – A Compilation of Imperfect Love Stories


DSM alumnus Aakash Prabhakar comes to DSM with Crumpled, a compilation of imperfect love stories. Aakash is accompanied by a talented cast and crew who make these five stories something you will remember for a long time.

Crumpled will be performed on the 27th of May at 7 pm. Of course at The Drama School, Mumbai.


Crumpled is a compilation of 5 modern short love stories of 10-15 minutes each showing what and how relationships are all about now in the contemporary times.

Written by: Aakash Prabhakar, Julianne Homokay, Rahul Rai, Kalpak Bhave.

Cast: Aakash Prabhakar, Chirag Lobo, Gaurangi Dang, Himanshu Sharma, Mahnaz Damania, Manu Gupta, Rajan Sharma


The stories:

The Connection

Written By Aakash Prabhakar

Life without the Internet seems pretty impossible doesn’t it?

The Connection is a story about what happens when a young couple go through a traumatic loss of loosing their (internet) connection for 10 minutes and what happens for those 10 minutes and how they find a deeper connection with each other than the one they lost.


The Tinder date

Written By Rahul Rai

“Tinder” which is so widely used and loved here in a city like Mumbai, is loved may be because people who use it are from Mumbai, or any other metropolitan city.

What happens when a boy from Haryana who moved into Mumbai goes on a tinder date with a “Mumbai Girl” is what The Tinder Date is all about. Was swiping right really the right thing to do?



Written By Kalpak Bhave

Sometimes people really wish they could just go back in time, may be just for a few seconds, sometimes you also have to be really careful of what you wish for. Hasan makes a choice, which his girlfriend Tara is clearly not happy about and he wonders if he would have done the same if he could go back in time just for few seconds ..and he does go back in time..

He would have done the same? He wouldn’t? May be he…


The Wedding Story

We always go for the stereotypes don’t we? Create the most typical characters while we tell our kids a bedtime story? It is Usually about A prince and his princess, whisking away on a white horse to Hawaii for their honeymoon after their marriage? The storyteller who tells this story will surely be surprised when these characters suddenly pop out from the story his weaving to tell him what the reality is. Of course, in front of all those kids he is telling the story to.


The American Dream

Written By Aakash Prabhakar

A nice big house in California or Washington Dc may be, two cars, two kids, make a lot of money and enjoy that lifestyle that we see on television or hear our relatives living all the time is usually what we want isn’t it? That has always been the dream. The American Dream is a monologue about the American dream that a boy always chased since he was in 4th grade. But not all dreams come true isn’t it?

Who cares if it doesn’t? Life moves on anyway..



Date: 27th of May 2017

Time: 7 PM

Venue: The Drama School, Mumbai


Conversations@theDSM: Shafat Khan and Akshay Shimpi


For the second session, we have chosen the journey of Experimental theatre from Chhabildas movement to theatre in intimate spaces as the topic of discussion. It will also shed light upon the theatre across the world, how the scene is changing from the perspective of playwrights.

For this discussion, we have veteran Marathi playwright and theatre director Shafat Khan who will be interviewed by actor Akshay Shimpi, who also happens to be a faculty at the DSM.

Experimental theatre has grown and has experimented with itself over time. From the first sessions in the halls of Chhabildas High school to rehearsals and performances in specially built, intimate performance spaces. From handling socially aware topics to exploring movement and performance, the experimental theatre has come a long way. Witnessing this growth was Shafat Khan, while being an active part of that movement. He has written and directed Marathi plays over decades and seen the growth and the change of experimental theatre.

About Shafat Khan

Shafat Khan is a veteran writer and director for the Marathi stage and is renowned for powerful, engrossing plays like Mumbaiche Kavle and Shobhayatra. His approach to writing for the stage is an inspired and meticulous one.

His plays include Kisse, Policenama, Gandhi Aadva Yeto, Popatpanchi and Dry-Day.

Shafat Khan recently got awarded for his work by the Sangeet Akademi.

About Akshay Shimpi

Akshay Shimpi is an actor, a theatre graduate, and is currently working as a faculty member at the Drama School, Mumbai.

About Conversations@theDSM

Conversations are a tradition in theatre. And so, the DSM brings an entire series of discussions, talks and conversations, curated for the first weekend of every month. Our purpose in these conversations is twofold. First, we celebrate the bond between guru-shishya. Teachers in school, professors in college, coaches at the gym and directors in the rehearsal hall – all mentors have taught you something through conversations. That something makes you the person you are today.

The second purpose in these conversations is to celebrate Rekha Sabnis.

Rekha Sabnis was a one-woman theatre army. She ran theatre group Abhivyakti from her house. She took care of sets, costumes, bookings, transport, tickets as well as acting and directing. Abhivyakti starting performing at the Mumbai Marathi Sahitya Sangh, the same building that houses the DSM today. Rekha Sabnis was a key force behind the DSM-Sahitya Sangh partnership. And this partnership makes our work forging a new generation of theatre-makers, possible.

Rekha passed away in September last year, studying elements of the Natya Shastra till the very last.

Conversations@theDSM started in April. It is our small way of paying tribute to a great spirit who made theatre a little bit better for us all. These conversations form part of an ongoing series of talks between theatre-makers young and old. The entire series has been curated by Yugandhar Deshpande and Anuja Kale of TheatreAcross.

Date: 13th May 2017
Time: 5 pm
Venue: 5th floor, Mumbai Marathi Sahitya Sangh, Kele Wadi, Girgaon, Charni Road East, Mumbai 400004.

The DSM Comes to Chennai!


Chennai: DSM Open Day series with Tushar Pandey

The DSM’s Open Day series visits for the first time in Chennai! And it is completely free and open to all!


At the DSM Open Day, leading theatre-makers, who are also DSM faculty, will show you what students at the school are taught as a part of their training. This is an excellent opportunity for you to witness first hand what makes learning at The Drama School Mumbai the best stepping stone for a bright career in theatre.

After successful Open Days in Bangalore, Mumbai and Pune, the DSM Open Day now comes to Chennai for the FIRST time ever.


About the Facilitator

Tushar Pandey

Tushar is an India based Actor, Director and a Teacher. He is an International awardee, with specialisation on Lecoq’s pedagogy from the London International School of Performing Arts (LISPA) and a graduate of the National School of Drama (NSD), India, Tushar has been practising performance since 2003. During the last eight years, he has been associated with various projects in India and the UK, performing, conducting workshops, creating works from classical styles to site-specific contemporary, acrobatic and mask-based works.

Apart from performing and creating work for stage in India, UK, Greece, China, Dubai, Tushar acted in a pivotal role in acclaimed film ‘PINK’, released in 2016, and has also played a lead role in an independent film, ‘Beyond Blue’, which premiered at Marche du (Cannes Film Festival 2015). He received Best Actor special mention at a festival in Rome in December 2015.

Tushar’s work concerns highly visual movement-and-text based combinations of fiction and non-fiction sources and is presently devising works to develop performance language and create new expressions that go beyond existing performance boundaries. Tushar is the co-convener of The Drama School, Mumbai and has been a visiting faculty at National School of Drama, New Delhi.

Oh, and the Open Day is completely FREE and open to all!

To sign up, write to us on or give us a call on 9619336336.