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Dad says follow your heart

Dad says follow your heart
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Sanjana Kapoor, shares various anecdotes as she discusses the influence of father Shashi Kapoor in shaping her obsession for theatre Shashi Kapoor...

Sanjana Kapoor, shares various anecdotes as she discusses the influence of father Shashi Kapoor in shaping her obsession for theatre bhavanaShashi Kapoor is not only the first actor, but remains the only actor to work extensively in foreign films, notably Merchant Ivory Productions like 'Householder' and 'Shakespeare-Wallah' but also the first to train under a foreign theatre group. This extraordinary experience and exposure reflected in the choice of films he produced under his banner. 'Kalyug', 'Junoon', 'Chowringhee Lane', 'Vijeyta' and 'Utsav' were all critically acclaimed films. It was his dream to resurrect his father's Prithvi Theatre and he created history by giving Mumbai city a platform for aspiring actors. For a long time his wife Jennifer Kendall was the moving spirit of the theatre, then daughter Sanjana Kapoor took over the reins and today, son Kunal Kapoor is running the show while younger sister Sanjana Kapoor has moved on to launch Junoon theatre group that travels across India exploring new talent. Summer time is a special time for 'Junoon' and Sanjana as she holds active workshops for kids aptly titled 'Arts at Play'.
bhavana1How does your dad react to the many changes in your career?
My father has been an enormous pillar of strength to me over the last 22 years as I worked through my various dreams and ideas at Prithvi and elsewhere as well. He has always been my most faithful and most critical audience. Tell us about his critical comments? He is a fair audience and always praised where I deserved and he has watched everything I have done - Happy Home & School for the Blind, or my hosting of the Amul India Show in the good old days or the various programmes and events at Prithvi theatre � he was always there and responded with brief comments of how a particular scene worked well with the kids play, or how I needed to check my breathing whilst hosting the TV show- when he found me out of rhythm. His observations on exhibitions at the Prithvi Gallery always mattered because he always had something special to say.
It was he who inspired you to do summertime programmes didn't he?
Yes, and it was a huge success and I continue with the idea even now under my new banner Junoon � this time titled- Arts at Play Summertime). For as long as we held the programme at Prithvi he would make it a point to be there on the last day of the show and hand out the certificates to the participants. Later he would share his observations on their talent in private � guide me on how to help them. It was always an enriching experience. They looked forward to his advice and blessings. So did all of us. It was a special moment for all of us
He is always present at the theatre on 28 February every year as well.
Yes and that is the only time Papa agrees to address an audience and it is because it is my mother's birthday. Long ago we decided that we would celebrate her birthday with a performance and Ustad Zakir Hussain who my mother adored and never missed his recital � said he would perform on this day! Since then it has been a tradition to hold an annual musical concert and the audience looks forward to it.
Were there any disagreements between the two of you in the process of evolving theatre definitions?
Once we held a workshop titled Science Toys where we taught children how to make scientific toys from waste material. Papa was in the audience and looked disapproving. My heart skipped a beat. I was convinced about why I had included the subject as part of our creative workshops but knew that papa was thinking otherwise. I avoided looking in his direction till the kids were ready with their creativity and I could see that papa was impressed. This was one of my greatest joys because both mom and he have always stressed that innovation is the essence of theatre!
Very few know that side of him.
Very few remember that he started his career in his father Prithviraj's touring theatre company, Prithvi Theatres � as the 3rd Assistant Director putting up and packing the sets, setting out costumes of actors and making lights out of Dalda tins! In fact Papa used to tell me of how Rajji (Raj Kapoor), would make the stage come alive at the start of one of their production with the most beautiful light effect of jugnus (fireflies). The duo created lightening effect for a scene by placing two wires in a bucket of water! Look at their imagination and confidence. Lack of resources did not diminish their passion!
It's interesting that he has shared so many stories of his past with you.
I know a lot but I should have known more �I should have spent more time accumulating information. This is a side of the family that nobody knows� the years of struggle and toil and great theatre. It was only a few years ago, in 2006 when we were celebrating Prithviraj Kapoor's 100th birth anniversary at Prithvi Theatre (something that my father made sure we did not forget) that I got to know more about his theatre years as we set about to create an exhibition on his years in theatre.
Tell us more about those days?
Papaji and his entire troupe traveled everywhere together -by train in third class. There was no segregation from director to the light boy - everyone ate and stayed together. They did riyaaz and rehearsal with such amazing discipline and the same actor had so much to contribute in Parliament. Prithviraj Kapoor was in the Rajya Sabha on the Presidents nomination for two consecutive terms and it was his suggestion that government grant 75% Artistes Railways Concession, which is a boon for so many performing artists across the country today.
You must feel proud of your legacy?
It is the passion that feeds into all our efforts currently -my new baby 'Junoon' � co-founded by myself and Sameera Iyengar � aims at creating multiple platforms for accessing the arts and creating rich engagements for both the artistes and the audience and there is no way I could have dreamed of this without the guidance of my father. I feel grateful to be a part of a legacy passed on to all of us children by our two sets of grandparents and our parents. I cannot thank them sufficiently for living their lives close to their passion � their devotion to theatre was a junoon! How does your father react to 'Junoon'? He is always encouraging new adventures; he says follow your heart and you cannot go wrong. www.bhawansomaaya.com
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