We speak to Mohammad Ali Baig, the man who single-handedly revived theatre in Hyderabad, on his forthcoming project, a documentary on the famous Footsbarn Theatre Company
A sepia-tone painting of his handsome father Qadar Ali Baig adorns the wall of the reception. Every corner of the little reception has remanents of Mohammad Ali Baig’s artistic personality. As we soak in the persona of the name that every theatre lover loves to take, Baig walks in, exuding a natural warmth that immediately charms you. His confidence in his work and his love for his profession is evident as he opens up to us on subjects that touch him.
He tells us about the beginning of his association with Paddy Hayter of the Footsbarn Theatre Company, “I met Paddy in 1992 when he was making a production called Tongues with my brother Moin Ali Baig, and since then, we became good friends. We remained in touch all through, and in 2010, I went to France to share my theatre revival model with him.” Baig is in awe of Footsbarn’s great talent and is proud of his association with them. He says, “Paddy and his wife Frederica once did a special play just for me in Lyon, France. Even in the cold, they stood out to welcome me. How can you not be humbled by that? They live in trucks, carry 15 tonnes of equipment, and perform at every major theatre festival you can think of. And theatre runs in their family, just like ours. This is not just a mere foreign collaboration, but a sharing of legacies. I am proud that he chose me to make a documentary on Footsbarn, spanning an era of four decades.”
Paddy Hayter is the student of the famed Jacques Lecoq, an actor and mime instructor, who Baig holds in high reverence. He tells us, “Apart from Dariofo, Antonin Artaud, Jacques Lecoq is the other name that is legendary. I take inspiration from him and try to make my work as appealing as it can get.”
It would not be exaggeration if we were to say that today, Baig theatre festivals are not mere plays, Baig is no less than a brand in itself. How else would you explain packed auditoriums, gate-crashing theatre enthusiasts and those willing to pay a sizeable amount of money just to witness the Baig theatre festivals? Says Baig, “I am proud of where we stand today — and I owe my enthusiasm and love for theatre to my dad. He was a selfless man — he never aspired to use theatre as a stepping-stone to make a foray into films or other ‘popular’ media. I am neither motivated by bedroom comedies, nor aspiring to seek something from theatre. This is what I believe that every other theatre actor should do — it is the love for theatre that should keep them here.”
Mohammad Ali Baig as we clearly see, is not a man who believes in conventions, or one who goes by popular definitions and choices. And, with his creative interpretations and representations, we know that he will give to the world many more good reasons to write about.