By Jivraj Burman
Mumbai, Nov 16 (IANS) Sanjana Kapoor carries a big responsibility on her slender shoulders - running Prithvi Theatre in Mumbai, a family legacy she inherited from parents Shashi Kapoor and Jennifer Kendal. But she says she enjoys it thoroughly and is confident that theatre will outlive technology.
"I'm surprised that most of the audience patronising the Prithvi Theatre Festival in three venues in the city comprise young people who are used to interacting with each other through SMSes, MMSes, e-mail and e-mail chats. So watching a live-action play is a revelation to them and therefore they are enjoying the experience. Mark my word, theatre will outlive technology," Sanjana told IANS.
This year's ongoing festival, which began Nov 6, is in a way a tribute to master Hindi playwright Satyadev Dubey.
Though the festival is now 30 years old, Sanjana treats it as her baby even though she lives the better part of the year in New Delhi with husband Valmik Thapar, and their son Hameer.
"Fortunately, I have a team of some dedicated young men and women who run the show when I'm away in Delhi. They keep me posted about everything that is going on in the theatre," said Sanjana.
But in October-November, she invariably comes down to Mumbai to put together the annual Prithvi Theatre Festival.
"To tell the truth, I have very little to do in Delhi apart from bringing up my child and running the house. Since I rarely socialise there, I haven't had a chance to integrate myself with the culture milieu of the capital. So I look forward to any excuse to be in Mumbai and the Prithvi Theatre Festival is one great excuse," she laughed.
The fact is the festival would not have had a 30-year run if Sanjana had not come forward to manage it.
Ever since his wife passed away in 1984, actor Shashi Kapoor lost interest in the theatre. It was on the verge of decay until his son Kunal and theatre director Feroz Khan volunteered to take charge of it.
"After running Prithvi Theatre and its theatre festival for eight years, Kunal and Feroz felt restricted as they could barely spare time to pursue their respective individual careers. So I stepped in, with some trepidation at first, I must say," Sanjana said.
What had actually scared her?
"The very thought of shouldering a responsibility scared me," she replied.
Indeed, saving an institution like Prithvi Theatre from peril was not an ordinary task. And when Sanjana revealed her intentions to her father, he told her matter-of-factly that she would have to manage everything, including raising finance to give shape to her dream, on her own.
"I almost had a second thought then. But I plucked up courage and went ahead. Fortunately, my daring paid off," she grinned.
She gave Prthvi Theatre and the festival a new lease of life. And today both have grown in stature, popularity and prestige.
Sanjna, who took charge in 1993, said she had ventured in with a five-point agenda for Prithvi Theatre.
"One, I wanted to have a children's theatre workshop; two, I hoped to revive the Art Gallery situated at the Prithvi Cottage opposite the theatre complex; three, to clean up the ambience of the café, which is an inseparable part of the theatre; four, to start our own production company under the name of Prithvi Players; and, finally, to have a drama library and a reading room," she said.
Sanjana has already put four of her five-point agenda to practice, making Prithvi Theatre an important cultural landmark of Mumbai and the festival an event that is eagerly looked forward to.
The only dream she hasn't been able to realise yet is to find a suitable place for the drama library, though Prithvi Theatre already has over 1,000 books on drama and a good collection of plays. Many books, however, were destroyed during Mumbai's 2005 deluge.
A great lover of circus, Sanjana regrets that most of today's kids, including her son, have never gone inside a circus tent.
"In fact, I want to have a circus company on the lines of those in the Western countries in which all human participants are treated and act like artistes, not just perfunctory performers," she said.
Any unfulfilled dream?
"Yes, there is one," she admitted.
As a child, she heard her maternal grandfather, Geoffrey Kendal, talk a lot about the tours of his travelling theatre company 'Shakespeareana' and she always wanted to have a Prithvi travelling theatre company in which all artistes would travel in a bus and perform at different places on the way.
"I don't know whether I will be able to fulfill this dream of mine," Sanjana said.