Kissing the firmament with Prithvi Theatre
Shashi Kapoor might be "backseat driving" as far as running Prithvi Theatre is concerned, but he has been utilising the time for his book "The Prithviwallahs" releasing in Delhi this coming Thursday.
Book time now for Shashi Kapoor. Photo: V.V.Krishnan.
THIS IS Kapoor family's month in Delhi and Mumbai. Where on one hand, Mughal-e-Azam is stealing the show in which legendary Prithviraj Kapoor has become the benchmark for his imperial role-playing, his labour of love, Prithvi Theatre that he founded in 1944 and worked with 150 people staging eight plays a year all around India for 16 years, is now doing rounds in Delhi. Prithvi Theatre Festival 2004 that has brought nine plays to the Capital till this coming Sunday, has it own shades of "uncertainties about the quality of foreign plays," as Shashi Kapoor puts it.
"I have no knowledge of foreign plays. The problem is, they send their recorded plays which makes it little difficult to judge its original quality. We just keep watching foreign plays to keep track of what is happening in their theatres. But frankly enough, in 1988, an Italian company came with its play in Mumbai, which I didn't like. Yet, we gave them a chance to stage it in Prithvi Theatre. I am not active in selection of plays now, my daughter Sanjana does it. I do backseat driving," says the actor who turned his father Prithviraj's dream into reality by concretising Prithvi Theatre in 1978. "For 16 years, my father kept on trying to find a permanent premise for Prithvi Theatre but couldn't. He died in 1972 with his dream unfulfilled. Jennifer and I spearheaded it in 1978 and realised his dream," recalls a visibly happy Shashi.
Not that Shashi is too happy with Delhiites' response to theatre. "Despite the fact that many auditoriums are staging plays regularly, Delhi doesn't have professional theatrical group till date. National School of Drama is getting close to being one. I got a whiff of it when last year, I saw a play titled `Train Compartment' based on Ahmedabad riots which had Shabana Azmi, Nandita Das and Zohra Segal as its main characters," he states.
"Theatre samajhne ke liye language bahut zaroori nahi," he thinks as he got a proof of it in Nagercoil in Tami Nadu. "Here 50 years back, we staged Hindi version of Shakespeare's `Merchant of Venice'. People did not understand the language but they continued watching it till it concluded. Later, they came backstage to convey that they loved it. It was overwhelming," he recalls.
Now theatres, a strict no-no for this Kapoor, as "Aree bhai uske liye bahut jaan chahiye," he is all geared up to release a book "Prithviwallahs" this coming Thursday in New Delhi. Mere mention of the book brings a glint to his eyes. "This book scans period from 1929 to 2004. It is a story of how a 23-year-old man called Prithvi came to Mumbai after his B.A and L.L.B, how he without knowing anyone, landed up in the job of an extra in his first film and as a hero in third film Cinema Girl in 1929, how he joined the only English theatrical company called J. Grant Anderson which remained in India for a year, got trained and played heroine in Nrachkritka which I remade as Utsav later, how he formed Prithvi Theatre, how it got closed and how it was brought back to life by Jennifer who sent architects to see how theatres were made in foreign countries and lastly, how it is thriving now,' he informs.
The book is narrated to Deepa Gahlot by Shashi and is published by Roli Books.
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