There are no happily ever-afters. Suchitra Krishnamoorthi on the myth of ‘the one’
Actor-singer-writer Suchitra Krishnamoorthi will be performing her autobiographical play Drama Queen in the capital on October 6. She tells HT about adapting her memoir for the stage and why there can be no ‘happily ever-afters in real life.
There is nothing as terrifying as a live performance if you’re making your debut. The actor meets the audience on the big screen, the writer through the written word. But the stage performer just has the imaginary fourth wall, which can come crumbling down with one tiny mishap.
Suchitra Krishnamoorthi who is both – an actor and a writer – was understandably tense before the first performance of her play Drama Queen, an adaptation of her 2013 memoir.
“I was so nervous,” she says of her stage debut in Mumbai last year. “My legs were shaking, my hands were trembling. I thought if I just survive the opening night, I’ll be okay,” she says. “Also because it is a play where I am singing live between the dialogues, so I was worried about missing my cues or singing out of tune,” she laughs.
But once on the stage, she realised she was in her element. “The high of performance is something else,” she says. And the responses to the play, which she will be bringing to Delhi on Friday, she says, were overwhelming.
“So many people, especially women, have come to tell me: ‘You’ve spoken about things we don’t talk about,’ ‘my relationship with my amma is so much like yours’, ‘I am also a single mother. I have also been through this’. Once a woman told me it [the play] is exactly like her life.”
The story of my life
The play, like the memoir, looks at the emotionally turbulent years of Krishnamoorthi’s life and is set five years after her divorce from film-maker Shekhar Kapur.
“I’ve taken a few events from the book and tried to convey the emotional graph of the character,” she says about the adaptation. “For example, there is a section where I go around asking all my male friends to marry me. So I took that as a base and wrote the rest of the play around that. Within that come all my relationships: all my friends, my family, my daughter,” says Krishnamoorthi.
Despite the subject, Krishnamoorthi says the play is not serious and performed in “a very tongue-and-cheek”, irreverent way. “The play is a mix between a theatrical production and a standup comedy,” she says.
What sets the performance apart is the fact that it is a one-person act. “We went with the format of having voice actors, because my director Inaayat Ali Sami felt if we have people on the stage, it would take away from the protagonist’s journey. We wanted to keep the focus on the emotional journey.”
Actor to Writer
Krishnamoorthi was a successful model, actor and singer in the 90s, probably best remembered for playing Anna in the hit film Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa (1994) starring Shah Rukh Khan and Deepak Tijori. She disappeared from films post her marriage in 1999, only to return in 2005 with the Anil Kapoor starrer My Wife’s Murder. In 2009, she turned author with her first novel for young adults, The Summer of Cool.
“Acting and singing involves a lot of travel and late hours. My daughter was very young and being a single mom I wanted to stay at home and work from home. That’s how my painting and writing came about.”
In 2013, she published her memoir Drama Queen, which while it contained many candid personal admissions (such as Krishnamoorthi proposing marriage to director Ram Gopal Verma and Karan Johar) was a fictionalised version.
“I don’t think my life is that colourful if I didn’t dramatise it. I wanted to say it with humour. That takes a certain flight of imagination,” she explains.
How to be a woman
It may be a fictionalised autobiography, but Krishnamoorthi mixes fact with fiction to highlight how women – whether single, married or divorced – often get a raw deal because of the double-standards that exist in a patriarchal society.
In Drama Queen, she talks about her needs and her wish to be remarried. And strangely that upset some people. “There was one odd woman at a Mumbai show who came up to me and said you’re a mother, how can you talk about second marriage and be so selfish,” Krishnamoorthi says. “I was taken aback.”
But this is the very mindset that she wants to challenge and change.” We’re so trapped in a certain conditioning – sexual and moral – about the way a woman is suppose to think and be.”
Then there is the myth of The One and ‘the happily-ever after’ fed to us by popular culture. “The main thing I write about in my book is that there is no knight in shining armour. We have to put on that armour ourselves and be our own hero.”
The journey ahead
Taking up films depends on the kind of roles that come her way, says Krishnamoorthi. But for now she is hooked to theatre. “Theatre is very challenging. To get the discipline, the focus, the stamina to do theatre is a lot. And now that I’ve developed it I am definitely going to put it to use.”
What: Drama Queen at the Old World Theatre Festival
When: 5pm and 7.30pm, Friday, October 6
Where: The Stein Auditorium, India Habitat Center, Lodhi Road, Near Sai Mandir