We managed to catch up with the pretty female lead in ‘39 Steps’, the lovely Renu. Only 3 productions old, she’s definitely someone we should be looking out for. We asked her a couple of questions on the play, working with Evam, her thoughts on handcuffs, and more!
Us: What’s happening? Things are heating up, and we’re coming closer to showtime!
Renu: Yeah, it’s very exciting. I’m getting butterflies in my stomach, and just crossing my fingers that things go well!
Us: Tell us something about yourself. Are you a professional actress?
Renu: No, I’m not. I work for Frappe magazine. This is actually only my 3rd stage production. The first 2 were musicals, so in a sense, this is my first play, and it’s been a great experience.
Us: How so?
Renu: Well, I’m not going to lie. It’s been a very exhausting and difficult couple of months. It’s a very technical production as well, as I’m sure you must know. So, part of the nervousness as an actor comes from hoping that everything falls into place. You know, the props, costume changes, lighting, etc. That doesn’t detract from the actors at all, obviously. Ultimately, the props will add charm to the production, but at the end of the day it’s all on you.
Us: The main buzz about this production is that 4 actors are playing 140 characters. Shoosha and TMK take about 70 roles. How many are you doing? Can you tell us?
Renu: I’m not doing anywhere that number! I don’t think I could survive it! It’s a single digit number. That’s all I will say.
Us: How have you found the process? TMK said that he finds it exhausting, not so much physically, but emotionally. Your thoughts?
Renu: Oh yes, definitely. TMK plays around 30 characters, so he obviously finds it tiring. I find it tiring, with my few roles, so I can just imagine how he feels! It is a tough process, because you have to get into the character, modify your body language, your voice, basically everything that makes a character a character. It’s difficult, because there are so many things to concentrate on. Also, we’re all in great pain. Me and Naveen have a scene with handcuffs, and they really hurt!
Us: This is your first time working with EVAM. Tell us about that.
Renu: It’s been wonderful. They’ve really made me feel welcome, and it’s a great experience, because it’s such a young, energetic company. It’s very different from the other theater groups that I’ve worked with. It’s very segregated, meaning that actor’s are given the space and freedom to concentrate only on acting. The marketing team is kept away and they do their work. And so on.
Us: What about the cast? There’s a first time director as well.
Renu: It was fantastic working with Shoosha, and TMK. It was a great learning experience, really, just to observe their perfectionism, and their commitment to the production and every facet of their art. It was inspiring. Baggy is doing a great job, as director. He knows exactly what he wants, and he’s not afraid to specify. At the same time, he accepts things that we don’t like, or may have an issue with. With me, for example, he lets me experiment with my character, and if it works, he lets me keep it. That freedom for an actress is very important.
Us: TMK mentioned an interesting point. He said, no matter how much he rehearses, he can’t get a “hold” on the play until he’s actually performing it before an audience. What are your thoughts, and give us your opinion on the play in general.
Renu: Yes, I completely agree. I think it’s an actor thing. It’s difficult to explain. I’m starting to get a feel of the essence of it, especially now that we’ve started full run throughs. But, yeah, I’m still waiting for show day! My thoughts on the play. I’ll put it this way. It’s like a good masala flick on the stage. It’s very entertaining, there’s something in it for everybody. It will definitely make you smile.
Us: How do you think Chennai will react to ‘39 steps’?
Renu: They will be surprised, for sure. I’m not going to mince words. Mediocrity seems to work here, for some reason. I’ve seen some really terrible plays that people seem to like. So, when Evam is consciously raising the bar for theater in India with a play like ‘39 steps’, there will definitely be some surprise. I honestly can’t tell you whether that surprise will translate into appreciation. But, I’m hoping it will!