Sai Paranjpye of Chashme Buddoor fame is back with her latest work Birwa

Film and theatre personality Sai Paranjpye has penned a family-oriented play titled Birwa, which has the old-fashioned humour and values epitomised by Indian television’s first soap opera Hum Log in the 1980s.

Born of a Russian father and an Indian mother, Paranjpye is synonymous with films like Chashme Buddoor and the sensitive Sparsh.

She is concerned that movies these days are beyond the reach of low-income families.

“In India, a poor man has so little to celebrate. At the end of a hectic week, he wants entertainment. But he cannot even see a film for Rs.10.”

Perhaps that is why Paranjpye has channelled all her creative energies into Birwa.

To popularise it in the Capital, Paranjpye and Delhi’s noted theatre personality Banwari Taneja read excerpts from the play, translated into Hindi from the original Marathi, at the Sahitya Akademi this past week.

Creative satisfaction

But the film-maker is convinced she is not the right person to produce the play, which revolves around an elderly couple who derive joy from the simplest of things in life. They spend their last years engaging in conversation and humorous banter punctuated by silence.

“A producer might like to alter the age of the protagonists, who are senior citizens, so the characters appeal to the younger generation. It has been proved beyond doubt that I am a hopeless producer. I hope the play is staged at the earliest.”

Asked whether theatre gives her more creative satisfaction than films, Paranjpye, known for her inimitable storytelling abilities, says: “It is like asking a mother who is her favourite child…But I am against remakes as they manifest a bankruptcy of ideas.”

The film-maker began her career as an announcer with All-India Radio in Pune. She started with anchoring children’s programmes, but later drifted towards films.

NSD years

“I spent eight creative and productive years of my life in Delhi. My student days at the National School of Drama [NSD] were extremely useful in channelising my creative energies into something productive. Frankly speaking, my first year at the NSD was not useful. Thankfully, Ebrahim Alkazi was my teacher in second year. He was extremely valuable and his commitment to theatre is immeasurable. He opened my eyes to so many diverse cultures.”

As far as films are concerned, Paranjpye has five scripts right now.

“But it is difficult to get a financier. Even the great Satyajit Ray could not get distributors for his films. His films were not picked up for the market.”

Among the new crop of film-maker, Paranjpye gives full marks to the makers of The Lunchbox.

“I am impressed with the work of the new women film-makers, who have captured the imagination of the public. Zoya Akhtar, whose fun-filled film Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara was enjoyed by people across all age groups and professions, is one of my favourites. Similarly, I also appreciate the work of Farah Khan.”

Even then, Paranjpye concedes that Bollywood, by and large, continues to churn out films which have not gone beyond male-dominated regressive stories.