Ahmedabad: A little more than 24 hours before his thriller is to be staged at Blackbox Theatre in Ahmedabad, Mayur Chauhan is a relaxed man, and one of many talents. A theatre and film actor, a former radio jockey and a budding poet, he’s best known for his portrayal of the memorable character Naresh in the film Chhello Divas and Tilok in Karsandas Pay and Use. Once he eases into his chair after a table-reading session, watching the director of Normal give instructions to the stage designers, we talk about his play, his journey as an artiste, his inspirations and Gujarati theatre.

A play in Hindustani

Normal was an idea Pratik (Rathod, the director and cast member of the play) and I have been toying with for some time. We’ve been friends for the last seven years, and during one of our conversations he popped the idea of staging a play on the life of serial killer Peter Kürten. An FTII (Film and Television Institute of India, Pune) graduate, Pratik had seen the stage adaptation of the original Anthony Neilson play of the same name staged at his institute during his days there as a student, and he wanted this to be brought to Gujarat, too. While reading the script, I was blown away by the characters and I decided that I am definitely doing this. This is something very new and unique the audience in Ahmedabad will be witnessing as they will be made to delve into the mind of a serial killer, his thought process and what makes a serial killer so remorseless even after snuffing out several innocent lives. Apart from Pratik and me, Rupanshi Kashyap is the female lead in this play. The music is given by the brilliant Margey Raval, inspired by Ludwig van Beethoven. This being staged at Blackbox Theatre is what is going to make it interesting and this is just the second time it is being staged (the first was in October).

Wearing multiple hats

I have been into theatre since 2010. I started off with acting workshops at Darpana (Academy of Performing Arts). I’ve had a penchant for acting since my schooldays, but back then it wasn’t serious. I started off as a junior artiste, one of the extras during the first edition of Kadak Badshahi by Mallika Sarabhai. But whatever the role may be, I ensured that I gave my 100 percent to it. This was noticed by Nisarg Sir (theatre actor and director Nisarg Trivedi) and I was offered a meatier role this time in the second edition of Kadak Badshahi that we wrapped up last month.

I was also a radio jockey (RJ) for GujaratiRadio.com by Naishadh Purani. I was RJ Michael and my show was on Gujarat literature, which I loved doing as I am an avid reader and a literature geek. I did that for a year and as I continued to do theatre, I was offered Chhello Divas, an opportunity that I grabbed instantly. But Karsandas Pay and Use is something that is very close to my heart. When you are the lead of a movie, it gives you wide room to explore myriad emotions and expressions in that one character you are portraying, which I had while playing Tilok in it, which makes it one of the favourite characters I have played so far…

Writing poetry and sharing it on social media

(Chuckles) I just try being poetic when something comes to my mind and I feel like writing it down. Some are my own thoughts and pandering, while some are inspired by other great poets I follow.

His idols

I am a big fan of Amitabh Bachchan. I love Shah Rukh Khan and Jim Carrey. I used to imitate their style and characterization as a child. I idolize Nisarg Trivedi Sir a lot. I first learnt theatre under him at Darpana and I was in awe of that man. The knowledge he brings with him and shares with all the students under him is simply unparalleled. He is a volcano of talent. There is nothing he can’t do. Another person whom I admire a lot is Abhinay Sir (actor, director and mentor Abhinay Banker, who had in an earlier interview had spoken highly about his “favourite student” Mayur). He has not just been my theatre mentor to me at Darpana, but a great friend and co-actor, too. My relationship with him is something that I cannot describe in words. It is for the plays Khuda Hafiz and The Greatest Sovereign I performed under his direction that I won two of my awards in theatre, one for best supporting actor and another for best actor. I took lessons from him not just in the craft of theatre, but on life, too. These two are the people I took my inspiration from during 
my early days in the circuit as I was testing new waters in acting.

What next?

I recently finished doing a movie which will be announced soon. Currently, I am shuttling between the different plays I am a part of. I will be performing Akoopar in Gir next week. I have Normal coming today. I have been getting a lot of offers in movies, but, for me, content have always been king and so far the content has not inspired me to pick it up. I don’t wish to be typecast… After Chhello Divas, many offers that came to me were similar to Naresh. They had rural flavour and humour to it, but I was looking for something different until Karsandas happened. I still get called to be a fulltime presenter and jockey for radio stations, but again it was something I found interesting and I tried my hand at it, loved it, but now I have to move ahead and I am looking for newer avenues to explore myself.

Gujarati theatre and its growth

We’ve had some of the most brilliant acts and plays in Gujarati theatre, but I feel a lot remains unexplored. We still need to tick all the boxes to make that one play stand out with its own identity. While working in Mumbai, I’ve seen the kind of production and professionalism that goes into making a great play. First and foremost, we need well-written scripts that can connect with the audience. The play has to be marketed well to the masses. It is a wrong perception that successful movies have now begun driving the audience towards theatre. No doubt the plays with actors from those movies get far better visibility than what they used to get before. The star factor and investment can play their part later on. Most of the plays happen at Thakorebhai Desai Hall in the city, but with many open-air theatres in the city, I really wish they are put to good use. The Ouroboros Blackbox Theatre is doing a great job by providing a platform to talented artists to come and perform. I really miss Natrani; it was our second home. I grew up as an actor there. Currently, it is under renovation and I am looking forward to performing there once it is back to hosting plays. I really want people to pursue theatre because it not only hones your craft and skills in performance, but it builds your persona and makes you a better human being, too. Be honest to your craft, be a good human being, work hard towards your goal, one will definitely succeed, be it whatever field you are pursuing.

Sujith Nambiar tweets at @sujith17nambiar.

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