This woman is driven by the passion of making all her roles look alive, be it on a stage or behind the camera; while on the other hand, this man knows that be it film or theatre, the script is always the king. And whenever this duo comes together, a crowded theatre and an eager audience follow.

In an exclusive and candid interview with Life Beyond Numbers, two veteran actors Sonali Kulkarni and Milind Pathak share their love for theatre, taking White Lilly and Night Rider across the globe and why falling in love is necessary in the age of Tinder.

Milind Pathak and Sonali Kulkarni

The two sensible actors totally vouch for the fact that not length of the roles, but it is the story that pulls the audience to the theatre and keeps them glued to their seats. And all the actors need to do is portray their characters confidently and convincingly.

The story behind White Lily

Originally scripted in Marathi in 2009, the 150-minute play White Lilly and Night Rider was written, directed and acted by Marathi actress Rasika Joshi and Pathak. Belonging to the romantic comedy genre, this play portrays the changing dynamics of relationships in the age of technology.

The story revolves around two singles in their late 30s, who carry a lot of emotional baggage from the past and yet on a mission to find love. With corny pseudonyms White Lilly (Kulkarni) and Night Rider (Phatak), they chat online and develop an interesting connection with each other. Based on their virtual bonding, when both decide to meet each other in person, they realize the stark difference between reality and virtual life expectations.

“What triggered us to write the play was the changing dimensions of the concept of marriage. If we go back a decade, the internet revolution changed the whole concept of communication. People who shared long distance relationships had no other way but to use virtual mediums to connect with their partners. While the whole world got connected via social media platforms, real connections in life took a back seat,” narrates Pathak to LBN.

It was after the sad demise of Rasika in 2012, Sonali stepped in her shoes in 2014 as she took the challenge to prove that the show must go on. Herself being a big fan of the play, Sonali says, “The basic reason behind doing this play was I could connect with it immensely. I loved the way this play has been written by Rasika and Milind. The idea that all of us are so wanting to fall in love, but we are absolutely scared to commit ourselves fascinated me.”

It is encouraging to get to see a drama, which highlights the nuances of relationships in a digital world. This play is more of a window that gives a glimpse of relationships in the digital world where emojis replace emotions and bonding happens in online chat boxes. “We are living in a society and an age where all of us are in desperate need of love, we want to fall in love and yet we are so scared to commit ourselves for the rest of our lives,” she adds.

Even after 10 years, the content of the play looks fresh and stays relevant when it comes to discussing the nuances of relationships in the fast pace world. The play underlines the fact that of all said and done, the human need of love remains constant and in order to gain something, you have to lose something as well in the process. “One cannot live with anyone if we don’t let go of certain things or adapt ourselves to the situations. It is simply because to love is to care,” says Pathak.

Keeping Theatre Alive

Even though most of us are only aware of Sonali’s Bollywood face, very few know that she has been actively involved in theatre since her college days.

Started in 1992, Sonali is also one of the founding members of prestigious theatre group Samanvay in Pune that has provided theatre space for passionate theatre activists. When asked about her passion for theatre, Sonali says, her greatest inspiration is theatre legend Pandit Satyadev Dubey, from whom she got to learn every single day. “Working with him helped me to shape the actor in me,  my personality and career. Whatever I am earning today, I owe it to him. Even though I have been working in films, the theatre will always be my first love.”

In the span of almost a decade, Sonali took White Lilly to the global theatre with shows in Scotland, UK, and Thailand. Keeping in mind the changing taste of the audience, Milind has also adapted his own Marathi writing to Hinglish for wider outreach. This year the duo is planning to perform 3 Hinglish shows and 2 Marathi shows in Canada.

White Lilly and Night Rider

Over the years, the play has earned itself a loyal audience and a huge fan following. There is even a fan club for White Lilly and people still write to the makers about the play. Apart from people, the faithful audience from the industry also catches the show whenever the duo perform. “Somewhere, we honestly believe that what drives people to the theatre is the content of the play. So, it is our responsibility to keep theatre alive and do whatever it takes to keep it going,” says Sonali.

“We take immense pride in saying that Mumbai’s iconic theatre company, Prithvi theatre invited us for their first season of Prithvi Festival at Dubai, in 2016. There were revolutionary artists like Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi in the audience and White Lilly and Night Rider was standing proudly in the middle of the festival,” she recalls.

It is always encouraging to get to see a drama, which highlights the nuances of relationships in the internet world.

“This is not a heart-breaking story where everyone dies or get exploited in the end,” says Kulkarni between laughs. “I loved the way they have concluded it. Today we are very clear about what to expect from our partners, but deluded about what we have to offer in our relationships. I want to encourage women to fall in love instead of growing barriers in the millennial age. I don’t believe men are from Mars and Women are from Venus. We have come a long way from gender biases and there is still a long way to go.”

There is no crime falling in love, but you have to go through a series of experiments, to experience the game of love. The play gives a lot of hope to the audience, and encourages each one in the audience to fall in love,” she concludes.

Oscar Wilde once said,The stage is not merely the meeting place of all the arts, but is also the return of art to life” and this is so beautifully proven by Sonali and Milind in their production- White Lily.

The play, which earlier got an invitation from Copper Hills High Theatre in the US is now going on an exclusive Canada tour on June 9-23, this year- June 9 in Toronto, June 16 in Vancouver and on June 22 in Calgary.