New space for theatre

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INTERVIEW Sanjna Kapoor’s new venture Junoon aims to ring in changes that will make Indian theatre a more vibrant entity

Setting the stageSanjna KapoorPhoto: K.K. Mustafah
Setting the stageSanjna KapoorPhoto: K.K. Mustafah

The Kerala sari flatters her charming looks. But theatre personality Sanjna Kapoor’s relationship to the state goes beyond her attire. Her introduction to Kerala and its arts began 11 years ago and since then she has been keenly following its dance, drama, theatre and fine arts.

In Kochi recently to inaugurate the cultural and theatre segment of the Biennale, Sanjna was brimming with excitement, “I can see theatre everywhere.”

Coming from one who has espoused the cause of the stage, spearheading Prithvi Theatre in Mumbai for the past 22 years, Sanjna’s insight into the world of theatre is deep. Last year she moved on to start a theatre venture, Junoon.

“We are a team of five and I’m a co-founder along with Sameera Iyengar. I had done all I could do with Prithvi. It needed a new director to take it forward,” she says on her exit from Prithvi that was founded by her parents, renowned actors Shashi Kapoor and Jennifer Kendal.

Set for change

Sanjna believes that theatre is on the brink of change in the country. “It is in a cusp. It can flip this way or that”, she says and with Junoon hopes to give it the direction and fillip it needs. “The biggest problem that theatre faces in the country is a lack of infrastructure. Junoon will be about that, about joining the dots — to create more rehearsal space, create access to talent, organise group tours, about social security for theatre actors. We have no systems in place for theatre.” She terms her efforts at Junoon as “baby steps to create a platform of accessibility.”

These baby steps translate into working with children outside school, curating work but not producing plays and holding summer school programmes. Currently Junoon is Mumbai-centred but will move to towns in Maharashtra and then to other places such as Jabalpur and Patna.

Her work will also be in the form of organising theatre circuits and travel shows that foster local partnerships. “Theatre is human intensive. It is something where we can build relationships It is not about event marketing but about impacting the audience,” she says elucidating that Junoon is not just a business venture.

Sanjna is optimistic about the commercial viability of theatre in the country now. “How much does a ticket for a theatre show cost?” she asks disclosing that for the very first time in Mumbai theatre tickets have exceeded the rates of cinema. This gives her the hope that theatre can be now taken up as a full fledged career, a possibility that did not exist before. “The time is right for practitioners to take themselves seriously and make it a profession.”

She being in the vanguard realises the need of the hour, the opportunity to guide and steer the new generation to theatre. “I can say this with confidence that the younger generation wish to make theatre their bread and butter now. They are taking time off and getting trained as in other fields. We need audiences to challenge them more.”

Of her own star-studded Kapoor and Kendal lineage she is proud. Being Shashi Kapoor’s daughter is “a blessing” and Jennifer Kendal her mother, a doyenne in the field, thrives “within her”. But it is her maternal grandfather Geoffrey Kendal who is her all-time hero. “For me theatre is his inspiration. The Kendals were known for their travelling theatre, Shakespearana, taking it to schools, inculcating the beauty of the form in children.”

Sanjna remembers that. In a strange way she carries forward that particular legacy. “The way my grandparents impacted society with theatre was never done after their time and with such regularity.”

With Junoon she is hoping to live their dream.





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