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Behind The Curtain—A Fireside Chat with Ratna Pathak Shah

On the morning of 6th October 2019, The Think Tank hosted the third edition of its flagship event, A Fireside Chat, at Fortune Inn Valley View Hotel. Having been host to esteemed personalities such as Dilip Chhabria and Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma in their previous editions, the stakes were high as Manipal waited with bated breath for this year’s speaker reveal. However, The Think Tank managed to live up to the hype with this year’s guest being the renowned film and theatre personality, Ratna Pathak Shah.

The event kicked off with a welcome note by The Think Tank’s President, Utkarsh Bhurkay, followed by the lighting of the lamp by the dignitaries, including the club’s Faculty Advisor,  Aneesha Acharya K. As Ratna Pathak Shah took to the stage, the 200-strong crowd erupted in loud cheers and gave her a standing ovation.

The chat touched upon various facets of her life, including her upbringing, acting, awards shows, and her strongly worded opinions. She spoke about how theatre was so drastically different from television and films as it involved having to evoke emotions and instil a sense of magic within the audience during the performance, with no takes or cuts whatsoever. Referring to the first-ever award she received, the ITA for Best Actress for her role as Maya Sarabhai, she said it did not mean as much to her as anyone would expect it to. She went on to take a jab at the fake demeanour of the awards show ‘business’ which was met with a huge round of applause.

The Master of Ceremony, Ananya S Rao, quoting Ratna Pathak Shah back to her, “They can barely write a good role for Deepika Padukone, how can they write one for me?”,  asked her to elaborate on that comment to which she replied that the quality of roles written for women in Bollywood, irrespective of age, are almost always sub-par. “If you go on paying to see bad work, where’s the motivation to do better? When will they learn?”, she said as she partially blamed the audience’s tolerance of poorly written content for the lack of development in the Indian film industry. But she believes that the boom in online streaming services has made way for better writers to take up space and put out well-written content, especially in the genres of social and political comedy.

Speaking about Sarabhai vs Sarabhai, the TV serial that made her a household name, Ratna Pathak took the audience down her memory lane, recollecting some of her fondest memories from the show.

The audience couldn’t help but notice how well-versed she was in literature and theatre throughout the chat, as she passed on recommendations to the audience now and then, with witty anecdotes to accompany them. She says it was her foray into Urdu literature and plays that taught her how to engage and captivate an audience.

A short break of 15 minutes was followed by a Q&A session where the audience put forward the questions that they had for her and vice-versa—a session that resulted in roaring laughter but also, eye-opening revelations. Her quip on how society goes on and on about ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ but fails to educate their boys and teach them basic manners and respect, left the spectators in splits.

As the show came to an end, the room was brimming with exhilaration while the audience rose to their feet once again to bid goodbye to the iconic actress. First-year KMC student Radha said, “I love how real she is. No airs and graces, just simple, no-nonsense realness. I admire her even more now than I did before!”.

The event proved to be a tremendous success, in terms of both turnout and audience reception. Several students even expressed their excitement for the next edition of A Fireside Chat.