Theatre

Wrapped in glory

Stage and film actor Juhi Babbar in New Delhi. Photo: V. Sudershan   | Photo Credit: V_Sudershan.

Legacy, at times, is taken for granted. It takes us time to wake up to the worth of something that has seamlessly merged with one's life. Juhi Babbar too can't pick out the point in time when theatre drew her, for it always existed on the sidelines, each day of her life.

She flirted with films, strayed into television but came home to theatre. Not that she has closed the doors on any of the other mediums. “I would love to work in a film, but I don't get good work,” she says candidly. “After my first two films failed, I thought I was wasting my time by waiting for something. I opted out, and in theatre there was appreciation,” she adds.

The appreciation has now culminated in the Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar for her achievements in allied theatre arts, specifically costume designing. Juhi is among the 32 young artistes recognised by the Sangeet Natak Akademi for their achievements in different fields of art this year.

A day after receiving the award in New Delhi, Juhi looks at her theatre stint — a costume designer for about 40 plays, an actor in 15 and director of four plays. She is now a vibrant face of the Mumbai-based Ekjute theatre, founded by her mother. The daughter of theatre veteran Nadira and actor Raj Babbar, Juhi says the stage was never severed from their lives. “I didn't even realise when theatre became important to me. We (she and her brother Arya) used to get back from school and rehearsals would be happening in the hall, and sometimes rehearsal will be on and our homework on the side. It was a way of life,” she says.

Yet when it came to making a choice, Juhi went in for the National Institute of Fashion Technology rather than the National School of Drama, the alma mater of her parents. “I anyway had two NSD alumni at home,” she jests.

Juhi agrees there was a time she took theatre for granted. But before too late, she knew she should put to better use what she had “inherited.” “Even when we were children, my mother used to sit us down and talk about Shakespearean and Brecht's theatre.”

She plunged into Ekjute by putting her training in costume designing to use with “Yahudi Ki Ladki” which dwelt on the 1950s. She also ended up doing a small role in the play.

With Ekjute poised on its 30th year, Juhi envisions for herself a bigger role in the group. One is going to be “The Performers” — a departure from signature Ekjute. “‘The Performers' will do plays in English, as well as is open to other languages, and focuses on the young. It will have a lot of experiments,” says Juhi.

Meanwhile, she also wants to reach out to a greater number of people and this is at the root of Icchha (I can create hope, help and awareness), which she formed with her cousin Kajri. Under Icchha, they visit schools, orphanages and old age homes and aim to engage with children and senior citizens creatively through theatre.

At Ekjute, Juhi waits to write and direct more plays.

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Printable version | Jan 16, 2021 4:46:23 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/theatre/Wrapped-in-glory/article16137710.ece

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