Updated: Nov 7, 2022
RAD TIMES: Good evening Mr. Akshay. It is a pleasure to have you. So my first question is: How did you start theatre and poetry?
Akshay Shimpi: So the thrill of theatre…… you know the attraction… towards theatre started in my childhood. I used to take part in small gatherings and competitions. And from then on, I knew I had a passion for theatre and I knew I wanted to pursue it. Even in my school days, I loved to portray new characters and mimic them. And then it sort of developed from there. I joined the Academy of Theatre Arts in the University of Mumbai for post-graduation. I studied there for two years and learnt about professional Theatre. And then from 2010, I started working as a rofessional Actor.
RAD TIMES: So how did your career start as an actor?
Akshay Shimpi: I was primarily involved in Hindi and Marathi theatre. Hello Firmaaish, Mr and Mrs. were a few of my theatre productions. So then, I started teaching in Drama School, Mumbai teaching voice, speech and text till 2018.
RAD TIMES: So what is Dastangoi?
Akshay Shimpi: So Dastangoi comprises of two words: ‘Goi’,‘Dastang’ which means story, and ‘Goi’ which refers to the art of narration through poetry. So Dastangoi basically means narrating a story through the means of poetry. It is Urdu terminology, and it started with Urdu poetry. It was revived in 2006 by Rahman Farooqiwith Danish Hussain in Hindi and Urdu. But I brought the tradition in Marathi. So the stories of Dastangoi were very long. Sometimes the shows can run overnight. But now because of the less attention span of people, Dastangoi has reduced to 1.5 to 2 hours.
RAD TIMES: Can you talk about your first show?
Akshay Shimpi: So the first show I performed was not a Dastangoi but a drama called ‘BastimeinMasti. It was performed in Dharavi slum in Mumbai. It was the story of two thieves, Amar and Akbar, and their journey from thievery to an honest life. Their lovers wanted to marry honest men coming from decent families. I and Yuki EIlias who is a prominent director of English and Hindi theatre wrote the play and we both performed.
RAD TIMES: How was the experience of pioneering Marathi Dastangoi? As in the sense, how was it different from Urdu?
Akshay Shimpi: This is a really good question. The audience who watched it in Marathi really took it to heart. We had performed door to door in people’s homes. And wherever we performed people were spellbound and mesmerized. There was no complain from the audience about being it originally in Urdu. They conceived it well.
RAD TIMES: During the COVID how did you take forward the concept of theatre? What were the difficulties you faced?
Akshay Shimpi: During the initial stages of the lockdown, when everything was shut, we tried to make ends meet. Whatever savings we had, we survived on that. On the second hand, how did we work creatively was the question? So then, we started researching for a good script for the Dastangoi performance. We collected a lot of local Mumbaikar folktales, stories and myths, started networking with people over Zoom calls, asking questions etc. Since a lot of libraries and bookshops were shut, we had to refer to online media. We started working virtually at least on the script level during the initial lockdown stage. When the first phase of the lockdown began to cease a little, along with the rules getting a little liberal, we started meeting and rehearsing.
RAD TIMES: How was the audience reaction throughout your entire career? What are your future plans?
Akshay Shimpi: I use two tools: ‘Abhinay’ which is acting and Kavita which are my poems. These are the two tools I used to move ahead and survive. My book has just been nominated for two awards. And I got a good response for my Dastangoi plays and shows and my book. And from both ends, poetry and acting, the audience response has been phenomenal. So this is my journey.
Thank you so much AkshayJi. here.