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Of theatre & lot more- Sanjna Kapoor
Pooja Agarwal | Saturday, 5 December 2015 AT 09:58 PM IST
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In city to inaugurate Gyaan Adab’s ongoing three days festival ‘Journeys: A Festival of the Arts’, Sanjna Kapoor frankly spoke to Sakal Times about theatre, politics and a lot more.

Gyan Adab-

“This is what we need. This building is prime property in Pune. I mean they could sell this and make huge amounts of money but they haven’t. They decided to make it a cultural centre. It’s extraordinary. You need more people like this in India.”

-Sanjna Kapoor

Theatre actors and actresses abroad are celebrated and they can choose theatre as a lucrative career. That still hasn’t happened here.
Well...luckily we are in Maharashtra where it’s still the highest calibre regarding commercial theatre. It still has standing. You can say you are a theatre actor in this state and people won’t say “acha, par karte kya ho?” But yes the parallel theatre is suffering and there is a certain finesse, professionalism and quality that the West-end or broadway has to offer and we are far away from that, but one thing to remember is that formal theatre in this country is just 200-250 years old, we have thousands of years of classical theatre but formal theatre is at an extremely young compared to the west. But what we forget is that there was a possibility to perform everywhere in basements, homes open spaces etc. We need to nurture that. If authorities come down and start asking for entertainment tax, ad this tax and that tax, it becomes prohibitive.

You once said  “we don’t have a cadre of people who can manage theatre”. Is the condition still the same?

I sadly can’t say it’s changed. It will still take a few years, but some things are changing. In big cities including Pune there are alternatives opening up. In India we have so much richness of talent but we don’t have the infrastructure and all we need is a change of mindset.  We need more people to think about management and do the work that I do which is very unglamorous.

Kingdom of dreams in Delhi is much spoken about. Do you think that model can be adapted by different cities?
I have seen two performances there, but I would rather go and see a Hindi movie. I think that it doesn’t capture the magic of live performance. If we jump to trying to create that really which is the ordinary reality without nurturing everything underneath then we’ll fall flat on our face. It’s not a financial success. It has to lease out it’s venues for corporate events, shaadis...it’s a hoax that it is doing well financially. It’s a big problem. It’s like Singapore, they invested in so many performance centre but they didn’t have the talent. So they had to import talent.

In one of your interviews you had said “Theatre is human-intensive and expensive, so it needs a strong financial model”, have you been able to find such a working model?
What ideally it should have is government safety nets. In UK they have the Art’s council so in case of a fiasco, you have a bounce back ability because the government supports you. We still have a very pre-historic way of functioning with our central government schemes which are still very feudal-from the whole patronage ‘mai-baap’ philosophy, they are not about nurturing things to grow.
The audience today has the ability to pay for good theatre in urban cities, we just need to entice them. Because I don’t think that cinema gives you the same thing at all. What joy, fulfilment and sense of community that theatre brings about in an audience is so powerful and so strong, it’s may be also why the government fears it!

Post Independence, it is said that it is just Marathi and Bengali Theatre that have continued to excel and evolve.
Both theatres are facing enormous challenges. Bengali theatre is virtually dead-they are going to hate me for saying this but the Group theatre movement is dead. Marathi commercial theatre is also going through a huge challenge and no one is stopping to grasp what the problem is. I have friends who are producers and directors in Marathi theatre are agreeing that no one is trying to study the problem. And the government is handing out money for commercial theatres. Where is the world does commercial theatre get Government grant? So it’s also very political.

The fact is that we have such diverse practise of theatre in this country. In Assam we have Mobile theatre which is as commercial as it gets. It’s unbelievable! In the drought prone Vidharba you have the Jhadi-Patti theatre. The farmers are creating theatre and their turn-over is in crores. It needs us to recognise it.

You were only 23 when you joined Prithvi. Looking back, are you happy with what it has been?
As I have always said, that if there were 10 other Prithvi’s in Bombay, one could have focused on doing so much more. Prithvi had to take this burden of being responsible to nurture too many groups. Nowhere in the world does a theatre of that size have 550 performances a year. On one hand it’s amazing but on the other the quality is compromised. For me, it’s been the most wonderful experience to dream up ideas and work on them.

Then you started Junoon and how has that journey been?
It’s been so different from Prithvi and the biggest learning experience for me. We have gone out to the audience and to the artist and told them that this is our dream and let’s do it together.

It seems that more than your Kapoor lineage, it is your maternal side that has influenced you...
Prthviraj Kapoor created his theatre company at the peak of his career so theatre was there from both sides. My dad would have continued working in theatre if it was a viable medium of income in those days.

What do you think about the recent FTII controversy?

That’s a tough one. I actually have not immersed myself in the FTII controversy.

What is your take on the intolerance debate that is going on? Do you agree with those returning awards?
I think it’s incredibly important. I don’t think we can brush it aside and say that these people are out there to get publicity, that’s really foolish. Two things are really scary for my- one is the vitriolic response that one is hearing from people are completely missing the point of what this symbolic action is. The other of course is the wonderful silence of the government and all the great platitudes with which they have responded and I am not interested in hearing platitudes about tolerance. Luckily we are a democracy and we can vote again and again.

Satyadev Dubey once said “that Sanjna, her father and her brother are running Prithvi theatre even though it is a constantly losing proposition, I don’t know why they are doing it!” Why are you doing it?

He also said that to do theatre you need to have ‘theatre Ka Keeda’ and I think that’s what we have.

JOURNEYS (A Festival of the Arts)
December 4-6 2015
Gyaan Adab Centre,
Plot no. 30, Lane 3C, Kalyani Nagar, Pune, 411006


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