Actress Tanaaz Irani is known for her comic roles in films like Hadh Kar Di Aapne, Kaho Na Pyar Hai, Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon, as well as for her work in television shows like Do Aur Do Paanch and Jamai Raja among others. The 46-year-old actress is now making headlines with her theatre performances. Selfie is a play that features Irani and is directed by the actress herself. She speaks to Guardian 20 about Selfie, and how comedy as a genre has changed over the years.
Q. Tell us about your upcoming play Selfie.
A. This play is about five women who meet each other at a railway station waiting room. None of them gets to board their respective trains as it’s raining outside and all the trains are delayed. All of them are of different ages and they are at different stages of life with different kinds of responsibilities and difficulties. These women sit together, they get to talking and slowly start pouring out things about their lives and their points-of-view on life. This is how women are… They can just speak to strangers. This entirely is a comic play. I am sure people are going to enjoy it and will not feel bored by it at any time.
Q. You have acted in and have yourself directed this play. How was that experience?
A. In this show, I play the role of Dolly, a 60-year-old nurse and homemaker. She is the type of woman who makes bold statements, passes judgments about everything and thinks that all her life is sorted. Further, in this play when these women get to talking, she realises that after all this time, her world is not so perfect. It was easy for me to portray this role as the role is basically based on my mother. From the way she speaks, to all her expressions and the talking tone to everything else is just like my mother’s, except that she is not that sarcastic. Moreover, everyone complimented me, saying, “This was just your mom on stage.” I have even done a little bit of standup comedy in the play as my character is alone on the stage. I am sure that people are going to love it. It was fun directing this play. And it was a pleasure for me to work with such a wonderful cast.
Q. How is live comedy different from comic roles performed in films and TV shows?
A. Live comedy is obviously very different because when you’re on stage, you are dealing with a live audience as well. The audience is different every time. One should know what the Delhi audience is going to enjoy, which will be significantly different from the Bombay one. So you have to play through the gallery making it interesting with to-the-point jokes at the same time. There are just too many layers when it comes to acting in theatre. It’s a wonderful process and even the rehearsals are amazing.
Q. Did you always want to be a comedian? Who were your early influences?
A. I always wanted to be an actress but comedy came to me naturally. There were quite a few influences, but Boman Irani is my actual inspiration. He is the reason I chose to go for the 60-year-old woman instead of a younger one. There was a play called My Name is Bajirao, in which he played a 70-year-old. The man is my inspiration. I mean, his career started at the age of 45, which must have been so challenging. But if he could do it, even I should try. I felt that I might never get a chance to play something like this again. So why not?
Q. Making people laugh is always a difficult job to do. Now that the audiences have become more sensitive, don’t you think the genre has now become more challenging?
A. Yes, I agree. It has become so difficult to make people laugh. People have become so sensitive, and I am not talking about common people, who usually enjoy everything. But most people just need an excuse to get offended these days. The main thing is, the comedian is an educated person and the audience is educated as well, but there are a few in the middle who are causing all the nuisance. This is the reason we have to think twice so that we don’t offend anybody. Comedy as a genre, back when I entered the industry, was crisp and nice and the writing was just fantastic. I think comedy was quite organic and subtle at that time, in comparison to the present day. These days, comedy has become a little more commercial.
Q. What are your upcoming ventures?
A. I am working on plays like Wrong Number, Selfie, and I might soon be doing a TV show.