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Posted at: Apr 15, 2018, 1:54 AM; last updated: Apr 15, 2018, 1:54 AM (IST)

Women, as the market sees them

In the play Item, director Kshitish Date explores the underbelly of Bollywood, which thrives on objectifying the other sex

Monica Arora

Theatre director and film actor Kshitish Date is a very keen student of life. His astute understanding of how people function or react in a given situation makes him a fine judge of how to plan the lighting, visualise the music, design the set and other nuances before he directs his actors on stage. Owing to this meticulous level of strategy and organisation, it is no surprise that his play Item has been nominated in several categories for the META or the Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards 2018, such as best director, best production, best actor and actress in a lead role and best actor in a supporting role.

According to Kshitish, Item opened a fresh dimension of stage design. Right after the first reading of the play, the narrative clicked and he was hooked to the play. The icing on the cake was the fact that he had to set up a Bollywood style ‘Studio Floor’ on the stage and that was his adrenaline rush while directing the play .

Kshitish goes on to opine, “The play made each team member revisit conditioned ideas of gender and its power structure, which are largely provoked by media content. This led to creating a ‘dead pause’ in the minds, akin to that occurring on the stage. What does this pause mean? Need to change? Guilt? Fear of oneself? Item compelled me to break my concept of making a content work a certain way and made me develop a newer stage narrative, which rubbed off the ‘say out loud’ process and rather stressed the undercurrents.”

As narrated by item girl and B-grade superstar Sapna’s assistant, the play explores the underbelly of Bollywood, which thrives on objectifying women as items to be leered at and used as props for promoting any movie. Thus, amidst the loud scenes similar to the chaos on a film set, the play was working on a sublime level whilst exploring Sapna’s mind process rather than the ostentatious setting.

We point out that in the contemporary times, even the so called A-grade movies need a hit item number... Kshitish says, “Be it A, B or C-grade movies or the advertisement industry, women have been used as an item for sale of a product or for catching eyeballs. The idea of ‘using women as a commodity for selling’ explains that a huge amount of media content is often created from men’s point of view. Women have to surrender to this set up. It is quite a vicious circle, unfair and pathetic.”

Besides theatre direction, Nitish has acted in a short film, Dhuka, selected for Satara Short Film Festival, as well as in Yashwantrao Chavan — Bakhar Eka Vadalachi, which was directed by film and theatre veteran Jabbar Patel. Acting in his first film was “a beautiful experience” for the young actor, whose only concerns at the time were dealing with scenes alongside “the brilliant” Nana Patekar. However, eventually, he acclimatised to the sets and scenes. Even at that time, he observed Patel’s techniques of creating a very warm set up for performance, which helped him later in directing Item.

Having dabbled in both theatre and films, he finds a world of difference in both the media as the “process, take and vision” are completely different. However, he confesses that his “first love remains theatre.” At present, he is extremely busy with acting in two plays: Y and Adhoore, besides staging regular shows of Item. He has also finished acting in two Marathi films entitled Maza Bhirbhira and Mulashi Pattern. Besides, he is also acting in Marathi serial Devashappath. Kshitish says he is enjoying every bit of his almost nerve-wracking schedule and looks up to stalwarts of films like V. Shantaram, Steven Spielberg and Anurag Kashyap. His “check marks in theatre” include Mohit Takalkar and Vijaya Mehta.

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