Friday, Sep 30, 2022

Theatre of Dreams

Sanjana Kapoor,former director of Mumbai’s Prithvi Theatre,talks about her new production company,activism in theatre and why the stage will always be her first love

She is a self-confessed dreamer. Dressed in a white flowing kurta and a cotton skirt,46-year-old theatre patron Sanjana Kapoor talks of a world that is,and the world that can be once art and culture flow in the veins of cities,towns,schools and colleges. In the city to launch the pilot project of her new theatre production company Junoon,Kapoor talked about how,after managing Prithvi Theatre for over two decades,she sees Junoon as “a natural progression”.

Sitting at the airy office of Delhi Public School (DPS),Pune,Kapoor says,“It is very important for our rich culture of art and theatre to be ingrained in the minds of students.” Junoon has launched its school programme designed and curated by Kapoor and her associates in two schools — at DPS,Pune,and at DPS,Patna.

Kapoor,who lives in Delhi with her husband,tiger conservationist Valmik Thapar,and their 11-year-old son Hamir,left many stunned when she announced her plans to move on from Prithvi Theatre in November 2011. She had taken charge of Prithvi in 1990,six years after her mother Jennifer Kendal Kapoor’s succumbed to cancer. “Leaving Prithvi was a hard decision in some ways,but a natural progression in others,” says Kapoor,with a dimpled smile. “Through Junoon,I can now reach to a wider audience,as we are planning to take traditional and contemporary theatre to smaller cities and towns across India,” she says.

Carrying a heavy-weight Bollywood surname and the legacy of theatre from both sides of her parental lineage — Kapoor’s maternal grandfather Geoffrey Kendal had formed the travelling theatre group Shakespeareana along with his wife Laura in the ’40s — Kapoor has always maintained that theatre is her first love. “I have tried my hand at films but it was not for me,” says Kapoor,who has acted in films such as 36 Chowringhee Lane (1981),Hero Hiralal (1988) and Salaam Bombay! (1988). She had also hosted The Amul India Show in the ’90s for Star TV.

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“Television is one of the most powerful mediums,but also abysmally abused — especially in India,” she says. Ask her if she’d like to go back to TV,Kapoor hesitates for a minute and replies,“I would like to host a travel show where I showcase the rich theatre culture of India.” She adds with a laugh,“But this is a pet dream of mine.”

As the legacy of travelling theatre in India is up for revival,theatre in smaller cities as well as colleges and universities is coloured with issues,slogans and activism. Case in point is the recent attack on the students of Film and Television Institute of India,Pune,when they had invited and stood in support of controversial theatre group Kabir Kala Manch. “If you ask me,there isn’t enough activism in theatre,” says Kapoor. “A theatre production,the play and the director should have a stand about something. There’s no such thing as an apolitical artiste; that’s a myth,” she says.

Kapoor has a treasure trove of anecdotes,memories and experiences to share. Would she perhaps like to write a book someday? “No way,” she says. “I can’t write for nuts. Deadlines,word counts and staring at a computer for hours,I just can’t do that,” she says,clearly in jest,as she already writes a column titled Art to Heart for The Week.


Speaking of her ideal world,Kapoor says it’ll be when the government would ensure a cultural centre for every ward in the city. “But that’s asking for the moon,” she says with a laugh. Until then,she is doing her bit to rescue theatre and its patrons.

First published on: 01-09-2013 at 05:06:37 am
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