Trying to talk to a much-admired figure on a topic close to their heart (and ours) is a pleasure indeed. It is always so good to see Sonali Kulkarni portraying roles in a realistic manner and being utterly charming. Recently, her play White Lily Night Rider completed 100 shows and she, along with her co-actor and the play’s co-writer-director Milind Phatak were felicitated for the same. Most hardcore theatre lovers are now aware of the play’s popularity and relevance. The play is all about two middle-aged people who know each other online but then decide to meet in person. Living together and deciding the future of their relationship defines this progressive play.
Sonali had a tough task ahead as she had taken over the role from Rasika Joshi whose untimely death to cancer meant the play closed down. Rasika was also the play’s co-writer and had got much appreciation for her role. Sonali was highly impressed by Rasika’s performance. “I always feel one needs to pamper the writers and I had complimented on this beautiful play. I had asked on how I could help them. I always wanted to help them. I wanted to produce it professionally.” She admitted to seeing the fourth show and then the 100th show with her husband and in-laws. One of the best things Sonali did for the play was to gift its tickets to friends and family to watch. “The freshness of the play remained the same. It is still unique and best.”
Accepting an acclaimed role must have been a tough job. She admits to being in the ‘don’t know’ phase. “Last year, Milind called up and asked if I wanted to work. I said yes. The subject had stopped after Rasika’s death and I had not thought of what happened to the play. I said yes instantly. It would be a perfect tribute to Rasika’s spirit. It was important to keep doing the play. I wanted to keep the promise of producing the play and the new play is produced by me.”
Sonali went through the phase where during the rehearsals, she often felt that taking the role was a risk and feared of being written off. “On day 1, I decided not to compete with Rasika as I loved her. Secondly, I decided not to ape her as she would have hated that. The success or failure would be my own. The rehearsals went on for three months.” Her co-actor, Milind Phatak, is an equally talented actor and Sonali happily admits to have worked with good actors. “Milind had patience and never tried to suggest that I do something in a particular way. It was tiring to start from scratch. The script was rewritten and I got involved. I got a chance to work on it.”
She calls the 100th show of the play as a landmark, keeping in mind the script and thoughts. ,”The script compels you to think and it stays with you. For the first show, we had done the proper rehearsals. But when I was going towards Shivaji Mandir for the show, I completely broke down. I had lost a friend for the role. It was shattering and overwhelming for me. One of the most private moments was when I got in touch with Rasika, during the show.” She finds the charac teristics of her character in many people. “She is over-conscious, not ready to commit, bubbly and so on. It is funny. All want someone to love and be loved back. Everyone can relate to her.”
If you think we have not seen Sonali much recently, she asks us puts this thought out. “I am always open to acting and never calculate things. I have worked in regional films and also in Marathi films. I have been around for a while. It feels good to be around and do what I want.” We always feel happy to see Sonali Kulkarni in White Lily Night Rider till then.