He is someone who has already tasted success in the ad and theatre worlds. But one look at Rahul da Cunha will tell you this man has no plans to stop yet! Co-founder of RAGE, a Mumbai based leading theatre production company and also creative head of ‘DaCunha Communications Pvt. Ltd’, the Mumbai-based advertising agency that has handled the Amul account since 1966, Rahul is pushing new boundaries.
With RAGE, which he co-founded with Bollywood and theatre actors Rajit Kapur and Shernaz Patel, his plays, some of which have seen him in a double role of director and writer, have travelled across the world. Be it ‘Class of ’84’, ‘Pune Highway’, ‘Flowers’, ‘Love Letters’, ‘I’m Not Bajirao’, ‘One for the Road’, ‘Steel Magnolias’ or ‘The Siddhus of Upper Juhu’, all have been runaway hits! Rahul was in the city for the screening of ‘The Siddhus of Upper Juhu’, as part of a fund-raising event by Zain Foundation, when MCL caught up with him.
You are one of the three co-founders of the theatre production company RAGE. How has been your journey so far?
We had done many plays before we formed RAGE. ‘Nuts’ was the first play where the three of us worked for the first time in 1984. As we enjoyed it, we collaborated with each other in different combinations till 1991. And then, it was a great year for all of us when we formed RAGE in 1992 and the first play we produced was ‘Love Letters’. And since then, it has been a long journey of 25 years and we are still going strong. It has been very fulfilling. The three of us, I, Rajit and Shernaz are friends for several years and are like brothers and sister.
Having directed a number of plays, which is the closest to your heart?
Among all the plays, my favourite one is a play that I directed many years ago called ‘I’m Not Bajirao’. It was a play with Boman Irani before he became a known face in Bollywood. The play was a comedy that dealt with old age.
Whose acting do you like the most, when it comes to theatre?
There is no other way to go about it. Of course, my favourite theatre actors are Rajit Kapur and Shernaz Patel. That is why we got together in the first place.
So, how do you handle situations when there is a difference of opinion among the three of you?
My experience with these two has been really good. We get along very well together. We are similar in what we like, but different in the way we function. Of course, we have had different opinions many a times. But we have managed well as 25 years of togetherness isn’t a small time. It’s almost like a marriage. We welcome all the differences as that is the way we can progress. Besides if you can get to know what are your faults and where you are lacking from your colleagues and friends, you can always improve for the better.
Both Rajit and Shernaz always make me understand their perspective and the three of us have always cooperated with each other notwithstanding any difference of opinion. The best part is we respect each other’s opinion.
How do you plan a certain play?
It actually depends largely on the kind of play you want to do. The approach that I would have to take up for a musical would be quite different from that of a love story. We also have to take into account the mood of the audience, which matters a lot to us. People connect instantly with the concept of the play if it appears relevant to them.
What kind of response have you received for your plays abroad?
Good Indian plays have a very appreciative audience abroad because India today is considered a popular destination and unlike a decade ago, everybody today knows India. The play we did 15 years ago didn’t receive the same feedback that we get today. The foreign audience is very keen to know more about India and what is happening here.
Why do you think theatre isn’t not getting an audience like cinema?
Commercial cinema has always had the masses. Because theatre is not a mass product. Plays neither have songs nor do they have stars. Unlike movies, plays have specific audience. In Mumbai, we do have a large and good audience for English theatre. But the Hindi theatre isn’t in a good state. Instead English theatre is way ahead of Hindi theatre. We have to continue the good work. If it’s a nice play, people would definitely come to watch it.