Besides acting, Denzil Smith hosts jazz tribute concerts on International Jazz Day
Geetanjali Minhas | May 23, 2018 | Mumbai
Denzil Smith is a stage and film actor who has featured in several Indian and international productions that have achieved both critical and commercial success. Gurinder Chadha’s Viceroy’s House was based on partition in which he played the role of Jinnah. He also appeared in The Lunchbox and Bombay Velvet. Besides acting, he hosts jazz tribute concerts on International Jazz Day. In 2006 he founded Stagesmith Productions to produce Indian English Theatre rooted in home grown narratives. He has trained in voice at the National Centre for the Performing Arts and does voiceovers for commercials, corporate films and documentaries besides conducting voice workshops in theatre institutes and colleges in India.
What are you reading at present?
The Book of Chocolate Saints by Jeet Thayil
What do you feel is best about the craft of acting?
The ability to step into several people’s shoes.
Any memorable moment while performing on stage?
It was when Ben Kingsley came to my dressing room to congratulate me after a performance of Letters to A Daughter from Prison directed by Vijaya Mehta. I had played the role of Pandit Nehru. Second was when the set crashed on me in the middle of a performance on stage in Mumbai many years ago.
Why is it important to have local narratives in English theatre?
All art is a reflection of life and vice-versa. Stories of our people, events of the past and present act as a mirror and hopefully help us see where we are going or not going.
How is the theatre scene changing with time?
Many new theatre companies and playwrights are being born. Theatre seems to be thriving. However, we are in need for many more performance spaces. While the number of theatre practitioners has gone up, the number of theatres has remained the same if not diminished.
Your views on new age cinema?
Cinema in India has never been in a better space than it is now. Films are being made in all kinds of budgets, for all sorts of audiences in different languages. If only the archaic censorship system were changed there would be many more exciting movements to look forward to.
Who has been your greatest influence in your life?
My father who I lost at the age of 11 and actor Naseeruddin Shah. I respect Naseer as my guru and teacher.
Governance issues that affect you the most.
Simple things like roads, lack of discipline, corruption everywhere, pseudo-nationalism, rule of the mob, freedom of speech, censorship, etc.
Have you ever been at the receiving end of misgovernance?
How can the government promote dramatics, cinema and arts?
It needs to start small initiatives at district levels in every discipline and put some serious money and resources into it. The arts should be incorporated deeply into the education system. Government should make it a rule for all schools to have the necessary facilities to foster all forms of arts.
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