Mikhael Kantroo: We want to bridge the gap between films & theatre

Giant is a theatre production which is the first ever stage adaptation of the classic Hollywood film of the same name. It premieres at the Royal Opera House in Mumbai today, 14 December. Producer & actor Mikhael Kantroo talks about what makes Giant tick.

Why did you choose to adapt a classic Hollywood film like Giant to the Indian stage?
We decided to adapt Giant because I strongly feel that it is time to recognize Indian theatre as a massive platform for every artiste. I've wondered why is there a disparity in theatre & film? The answer is production value & this is from the audience. As a production house, we wanted to bridge the gap. I believe in the 1940s & 1950s in Hollywood & in India, a lot of stars came from stage & became stars overnight in films. They were already established in theatre, Prithviraj Kapoor, Raj Kapoor & Marlon Brando, to name a few. Later on Al Pacino & Diane Keaton, among others. But today theatre is perceived as an artsy and niche experience whereas I look at it as a commercial & artistic extravaganza.
Thus the responsibility of changing the perception starts with us & we hope the audience connects with it.

What is the USP of Giant?
Giant is a story that is so rich that even after 60 years it's relevant. Whether it's the traditional father figure or the feisty mother we all have, rebellious children that we all are & of course there's Eklavya, played by me (laughs).

Giant has live musicians, singers, & dancers who are not background dancers but they are part of the narrative making it a beautiful amalgamation of storytelling & entertainment. Also, the story spans more than 2 decades and offers a plethora of emotions.



Tell us about Eklavya, your character in Giant.
Eklavya Rajkhowa is a poor orphan who is arrogant despite being destitute. What I love about him is he's human; he's not a Marvel Comics villain. He is that void which we all feel within ourselves & is an enigma we all wish we could be because he does things unabashedly & that makes him unhinged.How did you prepare for the role?
I lost 6 kgs to play the part, didn't give a damn about my appearance because Eklavya's appeal is in his attitude & his mind which cannot be enslaved. I have lived this character for 6 months now & I feel like we know each other very well now.

I was told by a lot of people that I am taking a huge risk & I should stick to playing pretty boy roles but I don't understand that kind of stuff. In the second half of the play, I play a 45-year-old man with prosthetics & whitened hair. In my upcoming short film Dozakh, I play an unemployed Kashmiri youth who has been trapped by Islamophobia. Don't get me wrong, my favourite actor is Shah Rukh Khan but I am self-aware. When the time arises, I will play those roles gleefully but right now there is a fire within me & I want to play characters that mirror what people are actually going through.

Giant is playing at the Royal Opera House in Mumbai on 14th, 15th, 21st & 22nd December.