The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, August 6, 2000
Scene Stealers

Scene Stealers

Sanjana’s passion

Wearing capris (short trousers) and a loose T-shirt with her hair tied in a knot, Sanjana Kapoor looks like an ordinary, hardworking girl and not a celebrity. Busy conducting a theatre workshop for children at the Habitat Centre in New Delhi, she looks radiant despite no make-up . There are no props and no fuss. The atmosphere is warm and friendly. Suddenly, Sanjana raises her voice a little and Sanjana Kapoor says firmly, " Except the children, every one leave the room. No outsiders." the voice has a ring of authority and parents hurriedly troop out of the room. Later, she says," I am not into promoting theatre for any publicity. It is my vocation. I want to help it revive and survive, and I brook no nonsense."

In fact, theatre festivals and workshops dominate her life at the moment. She has put her all in making Prithvi Theatre a success and her ardour for it comes from her parents, Shashi and Jennifer Kapoor. She chose it as her profession after she dabbled in films a bit and then started work for television. She has hosted the Amul India Show for three and a half years and admits that TV is a "powerful and fascinating medium." However, her heart is in theatre and she does TV "for the money."


Sanjana says that she has dedicated her life to theatre. But her theatre is for the educated elite. She wants to sensitise them towards this medium. That she has succeeded can be gauged from the fact that all her performances are paid for. There are no free tickets available. Sanjana says that she devotes time to children because she wants them to inculcate a love for theatre. And in Mumbai she has made theatre-going fashionable by making Prithvi the happening place.

Keeping his dream alive

Another person who has made theatre her life is Maloyshree Hashmi, wife of late Safdar Hashmi. Of course, her theatre is different from that of Sanjana’s. Her quest is to spread social messages amongst the poorest of the poor. Her target groups, therefore, are slum-dwellers, factory workers, street children etc. Her genre is street theatre or nukkad nataks. Maloyshree or Mala works in Sardar Patel School for a living and devotes all her free time to theatre. She has a sparsely furnished hall in the CPI office at Ashok Marg where she holds her workshops and rehearsals. Her committed group, Jan Natya Manch, also called Janam, has strived hard to keep Safdar’s dream alive.

Safdar HashmiMala’s mother was also a member of the IPTA and as a child she accompanied her to rehearsals and shows. The experience left a deep impact on her. She joined theatre in the late 70s while she was studying at Delhi University. Through Janam she has

organised more than 50 new plays which have had 7,500 performances. She also holds

discussions, seminars, poetry-reading sessions and training workshops. Besides, the group has created a mobile theatre called Safdar Rangmanch and publishes a quarterly.

Maloyshree believes that ‘they" ( she never speaks in the singular while talking of her theatre) have been able to keep alive their dream because of the support given by the common people. Wherever a nukkad natak is held, onlookers pay whatever they can afford to. She does not believe that a play, however powerful, can change lives but states that it can be a potent force, a catalyst for social and political change.

Mala is committed to a socialistic pattern of society. She is an idealist who has not given in to the lure of glamour and money. Her remuneration is the love that common men and women shower on her.

— Belu Maheshwari