Change of scene

Sanjna Kapoor Photo:S.Gopakumar.   | Photo Credit: S. Gopakumar

S anjna Kapoor created a stir towards the end of 2011 when she announced that she would quit her post of director of Prithvi Theatre to promote her new project called ‘Junoon.' On a one-day trip to the city to meet up with friends and actors of Footsbarn Travelling Theatre and Abhinaya, Sanjna speaks about her new project and her dreams for it during a car journey to Plathara, where Abhinaya has its theatre village. Dressed in a black and red outfit, with silver rings on her fingers and an assortment of bangles on her wrists, Sanjna makes a pretty picture as she effortlessly poses for the photographer.

Her grey eyes twinkle and her hands make eloquent gestures in the air as she talks about the magic of theatre with a faint anglicised accent. Married to wildlife conservationist Valmiki Thapar, she shuttles between Delhi and Mumbai but theatre is where her heart is, she says. Excerpts from the interview…

Junoon's four areas of work

Junoon is a dream project that I have conceptualised with my friend Sameera Iyengar. It is still being worked out and so I can only tell you what we have visualised as of now. There are four streams we are working on now, all of which hope to inculcate the theatre habit among people, especially the youth. The 21-year-old summer time programme (an annual schedule of workshops and theatre for children), which used to be conducted by Prithvi, will now be run by Junoon. It will begin in Bombay [Mumbai] and, eventually, we hope to conduct such programmes all over the country.

We hope to bring plays to schools and build up a network of schools that will have shows and workshops all through the year. Secondly, instead of producing plays ourselves, we want to work with travelling groups to popularise theatre in two-tier small towns and villages instead of concentrating on the metros or places that already have access to theatre . (A concept that is not alien to Sanjna considering that both her paternal grandfather (Prithviraj Kapoor) and maternal grandfather (Geoffrey Kendal) were both ardent theatre persons who had their own travelling theatre troupes – Prithvi Theatre and Shakespeareana.)

Thirdly, we hope to create spaces or revitalise spaces that already exist for theatre. We are planning for a space that will be an oasis for people to connect; it could be a grove of trees, under a banyan tree or a beach-side venue.

I think theatre is a wonderful means to entertain, to provoke, to question, to connect and to engage with people from different walks of life. Fourthly, we want to engage with emerging theatre groups on an advisory or consultancy basis. Junoon should be functional by March.


Actually, the name was Sameera's idea. That fact that it was the first film that my father produced is only secondary. But, yes, you need the junoon (the literal meaning of which is passion) to do something like this. I feel the arts has a very important place in a person's life. It should have been part of our education system in schools. Sadly, that is not happening. So the onus is on individuals who have that passion for theatre! (laughs)

My space is in ….

Theatre undoubtedly! I had these doubts when I was growing up. Should it be theatre of films? Should I be in India or the United Kingdom? I had grown up amidst theatre and films and had watched the best of both. I acted in one movie [ Hero Hiralal opposite Naseeruddin Shah] and I knew that movies were not for me. It was after I acted in the film that I went to New York to the Herbert Berghof Studio to learn acting. But the stint there convinced me that theatre is my passion. In the same way, I now know for sure, that it is India for me.

Bringing up son Hamir

Like most children, his initial response is to rebel. Initially, we would see a leopard and he would turn his head to look at something else. He would come with me for plays and stay far away from me. But, recently, on his small camera he took snaps of our Kenyan safari and even brought out his own book called My Kenyan Safari. His latest passion is racing cars, something both his parents are not interested in… I hope he grows out of it…

Prithvi Theatre

The concert on February 28, on my mother's (Jennifer) birth anniversary, should be the last show I do for Prithvi. But, it has always been my brother Kunal's baby [Kapoor]. My mother had always wanted to have Zakir Hussain to play at Prithvi. Somehow, that never happened. So, after she passed away, every year, on her birth anniversary, we have a show by Zakir.

He designs the entire show and comes up with something magical every time. Last year, Zakir was unable to be in Mumbai for the show. So he put in an appearance via Skype and it was magical! He played and the other musicians tuned in so neatly to sync with the small discrepancy in time.

India Theatre Forum

This is another of the many hats I wear. I am one of the core members of the Forum. The idea is to create a space for theatre and a meeting ground for all those (scholars, theatre activist, managers, enthusiasts…) who are into theatre. Every three years, 100 to 150 theatre persons meet in a city to discuss and share our views on theatre.

This year the five-day meet from March 14 to 18 is at Ninasam at Heggodu in Karnataka. The theme this year is on ‘Spaces of Theatre, spaces for theatre.'

Tryst in the city

“I am in the city to discuss our plans with theatre persons of the Footsbarn Travelling Theatre and to participate in Abhinaya's 20th birthday celebrations. What I like about Footsbarn is that if they have taken a great deal of creative concepts from India, they have also given back to India, unlike many big-time theatre directors who have only taken and never given anything back to the country. I have been here before, many years ago when I visited Loyola School for a workshop in theatre. It was Sivan Uncle (film director Sivan) who invited me to the city. The last time I visited Abhinaya's theatre village, all it had was a shed. Things have changed so much,” she says as Paddy Hayer, artistic director of Footsbarne and D. Reghoothaman (one of the founders of Abhinaya) and others welcome her to the rehearsals that are in full swing at Plathara.

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Printable version | Jun 16, 2021 7:46:05 PM |

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