The epoch spans from the late ’60s to early ’70s. Then, Chitra Palekar, who is now a veteran theatre personality, was a student of Economics and overly enthusiastic about performing arts and sports (table tennis was her forte). A heart operation forbade her from participating in sporting activities, so she devoted herself to the stage. Chitra donned several avatars — that of a dancer, an actor, a script writer and was also at the forefront of the experimental theatre scene of the days gone by with iconic names such as Satyadev Dubey and Badal Sarkar. As far as films go, which she sees as belonging to the same school of aesthetics as theatre, she made her debut as an actor with Amol Palekar’s Aakreit in 1981 and later branched out to writing scripts and dialogues and directing. Now, 32 years since she made her on-screen debut, she returns as an actor for Sachin Kundalkar’s upcoming film Happy Journey.
“Acting is my greatest love,” says Chitra, who holds a Masters in Economics. “Economics was a fashion those days and I was a good student. And in a way, I never wanted to rely on my passions for livelihood,” she adds.
Her art was avant-garde when measured against works of those times. “My first serious role was in Satyadev Dubey’s production of Girish Karnad’s Yayati in 1967, in which I shared stage with Amrish Puri,” recollects Palekar. She adds , “The next was a Hindi play, which was an adaptation of PL Deshpande’s Sundar Mi Honar, which went on to win the state award. These experiences were gratifying enough for me to stick to the form.”
She recollects the artistic environment of Mumbai in those times. “I met Badal Sarkar in 1971 when he was visiting Bombay. The artistic community during that time was very tight and well-connected. Poets, playwrights and artists, came together,” shares Chitra, whose art form intensified with these diverse influences.
“Gochee was a landmark play for me,” states Chitra, adding, “We were greatly inspired by what (Jerzy) Grotowski was doing with theatre in Poland. So with Gochee, which was written by Prof Sadanand Rege, we moved towards abstraction. We wore tights on stage, which in itself was quite radical in those inhibited times. We performed in a genuine intimate theatre format wherein the audience would be sitting a few feet away. Theatre wasn’t about grand sets and elaborate costumes. It was about the audience and the performer.”
Now back on celluloid with Kundalkar’s film, which stars Atul Kulkarni and Priya Bapat in lead roles, Palekar says, “It was a happy journey through and through. My role is small and I can’t reveal much about the character I’m playing.” She adds, “Sachin called me and told me the role was important and cut for me, which in a way was flattering. My character’s got a quirky sense of humour. I hadn’t been in front of the camera for such a long time but the crew, which was young and jovial, helped me settle in.”
Upen Patel in a Tamil film
Actor Upen Patel, who has done Hindi films like 36 China Town, Namastey London, Money Hai Toh Honey Hai, Run Bhola Run, to name a few, will now be seen in a Tamil film. He is presently shooting for director Shankar’s Tamil film Ai in the South. The actor has been doing some action sequences during a ten-day climax sequence being shot which has him hanging from a moving train. The international fight director from Iron Man 3 has been roped in to direct this sequence.
Rituparna plays a prostitute
Rituparna Sengupta is to soon start dubbing for the Bengali film Taaan. For her role of a prostitute in the Sundarban area near the border of Bangladesh and India, the actress had apparently done a lot of research to get her character and dressing in place. The film is based on the Bangladeshi writer Al Mahmood’s life. Directed by Mukul Roychaudhuri, the film is due for release by February end.