Actor-singer Namit Das is a master of all. From playing a clown on stage (Hamlet – The Clown Prince and other theatre comedies), to being recognised as Ranbir Kapoor’s best buddy on the big screen (Wake Up Sid). From the guy who is expected to take care of everything on television (Sumit Sambhal Lega) to soulful poetic renditions at music festivals as part of his band ‘Namit Das + Anurag Shanker’.
His latest accomplishment is a pivotal role in Mira Nair’s stage adaptation of her critically acclaimed film Monsoon Wedding. After a successful run at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, the musical makes its way to Broadway. In conversation with Namit…
How was it to work with Mira Nair ?
Mira is so senior and experienced and yet, so light and easy to connect with. She is warm at heart. Very desi, very Punjabi. As a writer-director, she infuses her spirit into anything that she does, be it film or theatre. A part of her is in all her actors, in everyone working backstage, even the creative team. Everyone starts to see the world through her eyes. It’s really something unique. She is extremely sensitive to tiny details. What people do? How people react in life? She draws a lot from her memories of growing up in India. She directs actors from a very personal space, her space.
How was the experience for you?
For me, this has been a one in a million opportunity. I am very proud to be in this production. For now, I will be traveling to New York and working on the play. Attending workshops and going through the process of making it ready for Broadway. It’s been a unique collaboration. Artists coming from India and America to create something so universal. If it does well on Broadway, we will become a part of a cultural heritage of America. It is so important at this point in time. Where boundaries are being defined and everyone is getting possessive about ethnicity, color or religion. Here is a production which though Indian in texture speaks of emotions that are universal.
Tell us more about your artistic journey? How did it all begin?
I have been doing theatre since I was 17. Started as a production boy. Singing was going to be my main career. Acting just happened. I have always been lucky to have the right people around me. Who have guided me in the right way. Be it Atul Kumar, Sunil Shanbag or Rajat Kapoor. In America, to start off with Mira is a blessing too. But the search is still on. There’s just too much to do and so much to discover.
So you are no more the reluctant actor?
I would still say that I am a very reluctant actor. I am still learning on the job. Theatre still scares me. Being on stage is scarier than being on camera because it’s just that one moment that you have. And you don’t want to get it wrong. Besides, there is no sense of schooling with respect to acting in our country. And acting does need training. Film and theatre require different skills. They need to be learned accordingly.
Tell us a little more about your Music journey?
I wanted to do music all my life. But I had drifted away from it for a while. Then came this musical, Stories In A Song. Artists came and watched it and said, ‘Namit, you sing so well. Why don’t you collaborate with musicians and guitarists?’ That’s how I got together with Anurag, a guitarist.
How do you merge works of Khusrau, Kabir, Faiz with contemporary music styles like jazz, grunge and modern rock?
That’s mainly to do with the way Anurag has reacted to my compositions. His reaction is according to his traditions and the music that he has been into since childhood. We both come from different worlds. We collide in between somewhere to create something. Some compositions are mine, some are by both and a lot of them are my grandfather’s. These were compositions which were made in the 60’s and 70’s and they never found their way out because of my grandfather’s untimely death.
What do you want to #GetMore of?
I want to get closer to the truth of why we are what we are.