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"You cannot climb Mount Everest
everyday," explains Renu Setna when you ask him about his love
for Gibran's Prophet, which he has been performing for the last
thirteen years witrh rave reviews. "The challenge to craft this
widely appreciated book and devise and mould it on my own has been
the biggest one. Besides, this is probably the only work of
Gibran which I think adapts so readily to the stage."
For this Pakistani born, who won a scholarship to Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in
1960, the road from building houses as a manual labourer constription in England in the
early fifties to winning critical acclaim for his one act show, it has been a
journey of love, self-discovery and exploration! Having played in Delhi, Pune,
Mumbai, Calcutta, Hyderabad and Bangalore, his entire play, set on a bare stage minus
props and settings - is a revelation.
When Renu was given a copy of Khalil Gibran's 'The Prophet', way back in the early
sixties, he read the first few pages and put it away because he found it too deep. But
something kept him going back to the book every now and then. Though the idea of
dramatizing the book was not born out of any impulse, the idea germinated because of the
sheer frustration that he was experiencing as a performer. "Most of the parts that
kept coming my way were caricaturish portrayals of British Sitcoms. The opportunities to
get on to more challenging things just didn't seem to come my way!" recounts Renu
about his quest. It took him two years to put it all together, years that he admits were
draining and riddled with self-doubts about whether this one act-play would work. His
first performance was in 1985 at the Commonwealth Theatre in London. And even today
thirteen years and nearly 250 performances later, the magic is still there. Renu
doesn't do too many performances in a year. "I would like the text and performances to
be fresh for me, " he firmly explains that this one and half hour play, does not drain
him emotionally because the play in itself is an extremely uplifting
Renu carries the same book of 'The Prophet' that he received 13 years ago! Dog-eared and
underlined, his most prized possession. Ask him, whether 'The Prophet'
mindset or his philosophy and he is quick to answer, "I am not conscious of the
effect, if any ... but I must admit, while the philosophy that is explained in the book
might be easy to understand, it is an extremely difficult one to follow." Artlessly accented,
Renu admits that he loves what the critics have to say about his play. " It is
extremely flattering when Kaleidoscope, BBC reviews it only to praise it to the
skies!" For him, it is his highest compliment to be told very sincerely by avid
readers of 'The Prophet' that he succeeds in bringing the book to life.
But there are still a lot of dreams as he craves engaging, thought
provoking, roles in movies. "I want to be able to play one cameo role in a film
that would test my acting skills to the maxima!" It makes you understand a man
weary of the unimaginative dronings of playing the professsion's caricature Asian.....