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Apeksha Bagchi

IWB Blogger

Meet Sanjana Kapoor, Who Took Her Father Shashi Kapoor’s Legacy Of Theatre Forward

  • IWB Post
  •  November 3, 2018

When it comes to the famous Kapoor family of Bollywood, one tends to focus on their glorious stint in the cinema but what they forget is that their roots lie in the world of theatre. In fact, the foundation of the iconic Prithvi Theatre of Mumbai was laid down by Shashi Kapoor and his wife, Jennifer Kendall, both ardent lovers of theatre. And this legacy was taken forward by their daughter Sanjana Kapoor, who ran the theatre till 2012.

In a conversation with The Quint, Sanjana shared how she fell in love with theatre, why Hindi cinema never interested her unlike her relatives, and why theatre in India is seen as elitist.

On when and how she decided to do theatre and not films

“I realized after doing a film with Naseer (Naseeruddin Shah), Hero Hiralal, that I needed training. I was awful in that film. So I went to New York after that and that’s where the penny dropped. I realized theatre is what I love and that rehearsal process, and people coming together in that safe space, taking risks and not worrying if you fall flat on your face. Finally, performing in front of an audience made up of strangers that you share so much with. And then you get to travel. A big shock soon came to me that travel theatre companies hardly existed in the world, they were dwindling because the economics didn’t work.”

On why Shashi Kapoor, her father, decided to take his father’s theatre legacy forward

“The reason I’d imagine is that he (Shashi Kapoor) married my mother. None of the siblings married women who were from the world of theatre. He, at the age of 18, met my mother in Calcutta. At that point, he was working with ‘Prithvi Theatres’, Prithvi Raj Kapoor’s theatre company, and then joined ‘Shakespeareana’. When they fell in love, he got a job as an actor there. And he toured with them for two years. So he traveled all over the country performing Shakespeare, which he was terrified of but managed to crack. He would have continued being a stage actor if the finances and the economics would have allowed it.”

On why she never wished to make a career in the Hindi cinema

“I’m not the best person to talk about Hindi cinema because I haven’t grown up seeing huge amounts of it. I grew up watching world cinema. My father, ever since I was 8, 9 10, would get films from Pune archive and we’d watch films in Bombay. I think of my 16-year-old son and he hasn’t even begun to scrape the top of what the world cinema was and is today.”

On theatre in India being seen as elitist

“I have a huge quarrel with people who think theatre is elitist because I come from Maharashtra where the theatre is seen by everybody. My greatest joy was 4 years ago when I met this rickshaw driver who was taking me from the airport to Prithvi. He wasn’t a Bihari, which was unusual. He was a Maharashtrian and he started talking to me and he realized who I was and that I was going to Prithvi.

He started telling me that this is where Vijay Tendulkar lived, this is where Makrand Deshpande used to play cricket, this is where they used to rehearse, as we were going along. He used to go to the theatre every month. He and three members of his family would go and it wasn’t the expenses that stopped him from going to a theatre. He said he doesn’t go to the theatre anymore because he’s bored. He’s bored with the comedy. He doesn’t want the snapshot comedy. “Comedy comedy comedy,” he said, “I don’t want that”. “I want social drama. I want interesting things that trigger my mind,” he said. And this is a rickshaw driver!

So that’s the state I belong to. And I think that a lot of it happens in the country especially in the south and maybe in the east. It’s just the North that is very different. There are different types of theatre and there’s such a variety. So rich, and I think that’s what we gotta celebrate.”


H/T: The Quint




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