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For the passion of first love

GAUTAM CHATTERJEE

Jabbar Patel explains how theatre continues to be part of his life intrinsically if not obviously.

When we remember “Umbartha” of 1980, we remember Smita Patil and Jabbar Patel of Marathi theatre and cinema. Patel directed his last play “Padgam” in Marathi, written by Arun Sadhu, in 1988. It has been 20 years since Patel was actively involved in theatre. But he is quick to explain, “I am not out of theatre for I cannot live without theatre. Actually, at present I find plays which I don’t like, I cannot do anything on the stage with these kinds of plays. I prefer plays full of activity and silences with which I can do a lot, but I don’t find those. That is why I am not doing theatre.” The Department of English and Academy of Theatre Arts of the Vidyanagri University, Mumbai,recently organised a two-day national seminar on Indian Theatre Today where Patel presided over the first session with other eminent theatre persons.

But Jabbar Patel continues to be busy with other projects. He has just completed his next documentary on Santoor maestro Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma. His last one was “Hans Akela” based on the life of great classical maestro Kumar Gandharva. It was awarded at the International Documentary Film Festival of Mumbai. Asked about his long association with Kumar Gandharva, he recounts, “In my childhood, I used to share a room in the house of Sriram Pujari, a musical exponent.Eminent classical vocalists like Bhimsen Joshi used to visit there. Kumar ji was one of those regular visitors. He found me there when I was only ten-years-old. I realised his selfless affection in my childhood itself. In 1987, I did my first shoot on him on 35 mm. with the title “Bhairava Tarana” but he never faced the camera all through that shoot. Then I completed my film in 2005 with Satyesheel Deshpande, Vasundhara Komkali, Ramashraya Jha, Madhup Mudgal, Kalapini Komkali and Ashok Vajpai and finally it was released and appreciated.”

At present he is busy with his communication classes in CECA. He is also associated with UGC nationwide as a media consultant for short films. “But I am still looking for better drama script,” he reveals, adding, “I acted in “Ghasiram Kotwal”, “Teen Paison Ka Tamasha” (“Three Penny Opera” by Bertolt Brecht) and in the same way I want a script with which I can do what I love to do. In 1988, I got a script from my friend Arun Sadhu who wrote “Padgam”, meaning ‘wall drum’, a kind of small instrument used in the war. The play was based on a student union, with that I did a lot on the stage theatrically.”

He does agree that theatre is an actor’s medium. In his seminar session, an eminent theatre personality pointed out this was a western influence on Indian theatre. “I do appreciate this fact. I am an actor and I behave as the medium with the audience. Directors came here as a powerful concept from the West. Indian theatre does not need a director,” he concludes gently.

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