Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Mission Junoon: Sanjna Kapoor talks of her latest passion

She is what dreams are made of: beautiful looks, elegant, mysterious with a mind that has inherited the best of both worlds, where east meets west and blends perfectly, creativity flows from theatre and cinema, and a vibrant intellect pursues what only passion, perseverance, imagination, rigor and discipline can achieve. Yes, her name is Sanjna Kapoor, India’s most loved diva of the world of theatre.

Recently, her resignation as Director of the very elite and intellectual Prithvi Theatre in Mumbai, caused a flutter in the industry, but as she says, she needed to move on to do something more, to add more fuel to her already existing passion, to impact the environment in more ways and to begin her own trist with destiny, Junoon Theatre. For more than 22 years she had carried the challenge of Prithvi Theatre, started by her parents, Shashi Kapoor and Jennifer Kendal. It was both her passion and her learning grounds. When she put the sceptre down, she felt it needed other eminent people to carry the work forward, while she took the experience of Prithvi Theatre, to hoards of Indians out there that wanted and dreamed of making theatre an integral part of their daily lives, as natural as taking a walk in the park.

Contemporary theatre, which is all of 200 years, exists mainly in urban and semi-urban areas. Inaugurated on February 29, 2012, Junoon Theatre, with a core team of four, wants to break that trend. It desires to create multiple platforms of creativity by using the large network of people in the field and make theatre accessible, welcome and engaging to a wider mass of youth, children and adults across India, through workshops, Plays, interaction, discussion and going beyond that space. Like what exists in many countries abroad, Junoon Theatre hopes to increase the total theatre ‘experience’ from booking to finale, and raise it to another level, never experienced in India before. It envisages involvement of masses by building capacity, through its network, so that the experience becomes a social movement, a junoon, as it were. She dreams of an India, where theatre is woven into the very fabric of society in a manner that it becomes a way of life.

This creative unrest to affect the total experience of theatre has its root in her grandfather, the late Geoffrey Kendal, whose Shakespeareana Company brought the bard, William Shakespeare to Indian schools, who had never heard of him before. For thirty years, the extraordinary theatre personality along with his wife Laura and daughters, Filicity Kendal, and Sanjna’s own mother, Jennifer Kendal, toured the country taking Shakespeare to schools, public halls, places of maharajas and every nook and corner of the country. It can be said quite accurately, that Junoon Theatre is not only a transition as Sanjna calls it from Prithvi Theatre, but an urgent compulsion of her genealogy to spread the fire of imagination across the country, widely.  

Sanjna Kappor, the theatre and film personality is an able administrator; she may have the fire of her grandfather and the history of Indian cinema in her DNA, but she is careful, diligent, patient, slow, but sure. Her footsteps are small and gradual, and while she has big dreams for Junoon Theatre, she is careful not to go, so fast that she can trip on her own ghagra skirt. Through the India Theatre Forum, of which she is a founding member along with six others from the same field, she undertakes, legal, copyright issues, food and nutrition, insurance, Policy decisions affecting theatre personalities.  
Going out to the theatre has become as lucrative as going for a movie, because nothing comes close to a stage performance, for both audience and dramatist - so intimate, so engaging and responsive, such a fulfilling experience is live performance. As buying power of the people increases, Universities, parents, children are looking seriously at making a profession of Management in Arts and Theatre.

Finance is always a concern though. Sanjna is working on a Sustainable Economic Model, which will cater to premium pricing, and go to make the 25% reserved for the masses, possible. While there will be ongoing smaller shows and workshops in schools, and Plays, the yearly major event will bring in the best talent from across the globe and India, and tour India in true Shakespeareana Company style.

Sanjna Kapoor admits she has no life outside theatre. Perhaps she means what Sheakespeare had said  - all the world’s a stage – for there is her 10 year old son Hamir, who is the apple of his mother’s eye, presently passionately engaged with Sports cars, a far cry from his mother’s passion for theatre or his father’s passion for tigers! Her husband Valmik Thapar, is a prolific well-known writer and tiger enthusiast, with many books to his credit.
In a way, both Sanjna Kapoor and her husband are engaged with the eco-system around them, the former with the world inside, the power of imagination of the human mind to create, sustain and evolve newer ways of evolving itself, while the latter with the preservation of India’s national animal, the tiger. And their little one is on a fast track, but loves drama and must approve all stories his mother tells the world outside.

Such a cute drama queen!

The article written by Julia Dutta was first published in the January 2013 issue of Atelier  Magazine. To buy  write to: Creative Nest Media Pvt. Ltd, M-66, Punj House, Outer Circle, Connaught Place, New Delhi - 110 001 Email:


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Rule of dynasty, never mind!

Cartoon from DiNNamani Newpaper January 23, 2013

It is often cited that in many countries and of course in India, the rule of dynasty is played to the hilt. So, why is only the Nehru-Gandhi family targeted when across states of India, the rule dynasty is prevalent? The answer is of course quite simple: except for a very short spell, they seem to be leading our country ever since independence.
The Nehrus are originally Kashmiri Brahmins, but their genealogy is now a pot pouri of many caste and communities from India and abroad. Hence, there is no reason to believe that the ‘purity’ of the original genes has remained, which the others may claim, in other dynastic families in India. Yet, the striking resemblance of the dynastic rule of the Nehru-Gandhi family, urges us to believe that it is similar to the Mughal period in India.

If we believe that the young, often compared to the Amul baby, Rahul Gandhi is pitched to be a Prime Ministerial candidate in the 2014 elections. If this is the case, we must look at one factor, that has gone unnoticed so far, in Indian politics, that being, the Prime Minister of the country, from the Nehru-Gandhi lineage have mostly been undergraduates, if not Metric pass only. In many cases, there is a controversy on the matter and even the RTI (Right to Information) body fails to do justice to questions about the academic qualifications of a few in the family.

Let us look at the qualifications of the esteemed PMs of the family. Nehru had been to Cambridge but did not finally get the degree, although his father, Motilal Nehru was a Barrister who was much favoured by the British. His only daughter, Indira Gandhi, too went to Cambridge and joined the Trinity College, but was a miserable failure there and had to return empty handed, making her then, only a Metric pass. Her son, Rajiv Gandhi, studied Engineering at Cambridge, but it is doubtful whether he finally came home with a Degree. He joined the airline services and flew aircrafts until his mother’s assignation in the hands of her own bodyguards. His wife, Sonia Gandhi, who took up the sceptre after the assignation of her husband, Rajiv Gandhi, is only a High School pass, although she went through some English learning course at Cambridge where she worked both as a salesperson and coffee shop waitress, until she caught Rajiv Gandhi’s eyes and a marriage with India’s so called first family, changed her life completely. It is a known fact that when she filed in her ticket for Ameethi, which was her mother-in-law’s captive ground of procuring votes without ever doing any work there for the people, Dr Subramaniam Swamy had challenged the candidature in Court. Please read below the links that lead to the facts on this case and others as well. Her children Rahul Gandhi though contested, appears to have a M.Phil from Cambridge, breaking the dreadful precedent of his ancestors of leading a country, without any education worth speaking about. Sonia Gandhi’s daughter, Priyanka Vadra (ne Gandhi) has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, in which she majored. Indeed, she has shown more promise in both emotional and spiritual quotient. She is the one, who finally made peace with her past with the jailed and convicted to be hanged assassin of her father, Rajiv Gandhi, by going to meet her and forgiving her, for her acts, thereby releasing herself from the burden of anger and guilt. She follows the path of Buddhism and Vipassana as taught by S N Goenka. In fact, it is worth mentioning here that it is after she met the jailed Nalini Sriharan, Sonia Gandhi intervened to convert the death sentence to life imprisonment, for the sake of Nalini’s 5 year old daughter (Readers are encouraged to look at links below for all data above).

So, this piece does try to look at facts, as they are – educational qualification has never been the forte of the Gandhi-Nehru family, until they came to the present generation. However, starting from the generation with Sonia Gandhi, the emotional quotient has shown an upswing and if Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is to be considered as someone who might finally followed in her grandmother’s footsteps, India would have gained by spiritual quotient too in Prime Ministers in India, although her grandmother too was in the habit of keeping the company of spiritual leaders, for reasons entirely different. She liked them as crowd pullers for which she paid with her life, finally.

In the last words of the emotional speech made by Rahul Gandhi in Jaipur,(see link below) only recently, after he was selected Vice President of the Congress Party, he recounted that many people congratulated him, but his mother cried in the privacy of his room. She had indeed in her heart a burden of many memories, good and bad, attached to the role her son would play in the 2014 elections. If he passes the test, then the dynasty would go on with business as usual, although he will still fail miserably to compete with the qualifications and experience of our outgoing Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh. We can only hope that he will perform better in implementation. Dr Manmohan Singh sleeps on a peaceful, guiltless pillow each night, for lack of intent to act, on many issues based on the fact that his hands are securely tied by the dictates and the orders coming from ‘The Top’. The young Rahul will have to show more mettle by way of action, even if he continues to exercise his vocal cords.

To start with, he can push hard on a subject he has kept a deathlike silence on, the horrific rape and subsequent death of Jyoti, Nirbhaya on 16th December, 2012. He can work towards looking at the Justice Varma Report and recommendation made by him and his team and affect change in Laws ASAP. He could make the revolution he so easily talks of by putting protection of rights of women, first on his agenda for a new India.

Let us see if his discourse on positive politics has women in India, from all sections, in mind. Or is it baby blabber, goo-gooo, gaaa, gaaa et cetera.

Indira Gandhi passed her Matric from Pune University and then went to Shantiniketan, West Bengal. She received her college education at Somerville College, Oxford (

Rajiv Gandhi studied for Engineering but left without a Degree (

Rahul Gandhi M.Phil from Trinity College, Cambridge, (

Priyanka Gandhi holds BA (hons) degree in psychology and follows the Vipassana as taught by SN Goekna (

Friday, January 11, 2013

Up close: Another colour of the rainbow

The hurried exchange of addresses and stolen glances hid my destiny for the next sixteen years of my life - our lives.

In the first ever national three days conference held in Mumbai, 1996, in between, talking politics of love between same sex women, watching films, discussing, making new friends, I fell in love with a woman from Delhi. She was the sole reason why I left everything behind me in Mumbai, to start from scratch in Delhi.

Yet, it was not a fairy tale story right from the start.

Our letter crossed and in each, in indelible ink was written the same story in five words – I am attracted to you. Then onwards, our love was a journey fraught with difficulties, doubts and deliberations, in spite of over powering love for each other. At the end, having held the torch for over three years, in November, 1999, we met finally in Delhi. The physical sparks went off immediately and we were on the carpet, making love before the welcome lunch had time to settle in my stomach! After fifteen days of bliss, I went back to Mumbai, knowing I had to return, to the first major love with a woman in my life.

It’s now thirteen years that we have been together. There is no contract between us, no written or spoken document that says that we are in a committed relationship. I prefer, therefore, to acknowledge our same sex relationship as companionship; we are sakhis. We do have many things in common and lots where we are differ from each other.
A same sex relationship is different from a heterosexual one.

First things first, the sex is fantastic as long as the 18-months major invasion of hormones in your body is there and then you have to work at it. This is common to both. And sexual intimacy is not about penetration, but being there for each other, sharing, touching, loving, kissing, fondling and of course, the big ‘O’ which in the case of heterosexual sexual contact may just be one sided, or result in women faking it and men asking that dreadful question: how was it? However, I am told by some that many ‘hets’ do make it, to the orgasmic oneness, not one after another, but together. I must confess, I haven’t been able to match the ‘het’ claim to cosmic contractions, together in my same sex relationship. Nor have sexual encounters given rise to pregnancy, thank god!

In our relationship, the political power lies with Tamil Nadu, but if you ask her, she will say, that all Bengali Didis are dominating and hold the feudal sceptre as if they were born holding one. But I ascertain power politics in a relationship by the cuisine that dominates the kitchen. Ours is kapi in the morning, followed by sambhar, rasam, paparam.

Naturally we fight a lot! We suffer spouse deafness, malicious gossip sessions with our friends and family. It’s in fact just as ‘het’ as it can get! However,  the big difference is, there are no laws in the land that can save a drowning same sex partnership/relationship, and very little family intervention to save it too, in most cases. Thankfully, gender driven roles, don’t plague our partnership – cross dressing, emotionally and otherwise is highly appreciated.

Our relationship is governed by never sleeping on an augmentative pillow, talking things through, if possible, and if we don’t sound like all the utensils in the kitchen falling on the floor with a loud clatter, which is increasingly becoming a trend, by the way! No wonder then, we have taken recourse to yet another strategy, that being, maintaining silence on the subject of argument and making as many spiritual trips together.

For me, all relationships are part of a self actualisation process. We are constantly changing. In thirteen years, our needs have changed, our priorities keep changing. We have some commonalities which are timeless, but change is permanent and finally, even if we are like our bel tree rooted in one place and branching out in different directions, or do take our togetherness to another level, we will still say, we are sakhis, emotionally, physically and spiritually.

Julia Dutta
is author of this piece and author of Until death do us part and other books available on Kindle version from

The article was first published in December 2012 issue of Atelier Diva
To buy write to: Creative Nest Media Pvt. Ltd, M-66, Punj House, Outer Circle, 
Connaught Place, New Delhi - 110 001 Email:

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Why is India unsafe for tourists?

People are streaming in. The Kumbh mela is just around the corner. Delhi is still burning with the question of what will it do to the six rapists. Opinions are divided – should we hang them? Or should we find some other way to punish them? Should we use chemical castration? Time is passing by speedily.  India stands still, in the midst of a severe cold wave sweeping over north India and other parts of the country. This wind is chilling metaphorically too; it has frozen the hearts of many across the globe. Yes, the capitol of the country can ill afford to show its face to the world and it needs to now hang its head in shame.

75 million people visit China yearly; only 5 million visit India during the winter seasons from other countries. Incredible India, the Government’s Travel wing, travels abroad yearly and sells India as a destination for travel, what with the beach, the mountains, the spiritual/mystical side of India, marketable to the gullible and the ill informed, as of now.

Why not? Only on the 31st night, traveling on Tamilnad Express from Chennai to New Delhi, a Canadian woman, sleeping on the top berth, on the side, was woken up with a rude shock. A man, drunk inside the train, where neither alcohol nor smoking is allowed, had grabbed her private part and was rubbing her, as she slept. She woke up with a start and yelled STOP IT, where upon he disappeared into the toilet or some such place. Passengers and her Canadian companions asked the ticket collector to act; bring in the complaint book, but he refused to do either, asking them to go back to their berths!

This is not unnatural in India. The country touted to be spiritual is hardly one. It might be religious and bigoted, it is certainly not spiritual. Tens of thousands of people will descend on the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, which is now a multi-dollar Event and think they are coming to a country known for its spirituality.

Indeed, India is a palace of illusions! One can be deluded and lose one’s way here, forever!
Renowned writer and poet Abha Iyengar, states in her Facebook profile: “I remember many years ago when I visited Germany and experienced the freedom of being able to lie on the grass, a young woman alone with herself and nature and of course, other scattered foreigners also embracing the sun's winter warmth, how free and delightful it felt. The point is, I was alone and a woman and young and a foreigner and I could lie in the sun on the grass without being stared at or accosted. As a woman in India I have never experienced this freedom. I think even now were I to lie alone on the grass in Lodhi gardens with a book , minding my own business, I would be stared at or accosted. I know I would not be comfortable. When will we women in India have this freedom to just be?”

The answer is never! Unless you wish to take things in your hands!

If you are visiting India, remember, your safety is in your hands! You may travel with your boyfriend, or a group of friends, or even catch an Indian ‘chokda’- Boy guide – while in India, but the woman’s body is not respected at all and do not be surprised if a man thinks and feels that your body is his possession without your permission. After all, he is a man! He is God! He can and will do anything to you as a woman, and you are supposed to lie low and not scream.

Chemical castration cannot make a man impotent. Even a fool knows that! Sex and power trips originate in the mind. How, is India going to castrate its century’s old habit of trying to save the linga, the penis in the head which extends like a canon between his legs? Especially, when women too have been worshiping it?

Therefore, if you are visiting India, do so at your own risk. Also, have no illusions about how long the hideous organ may be (not an orgasmic joy for sure, this one), how much it can take you for granted and how unsafe you can be in a country, better known for arm-chair thinking and lack of will to act. A million reasons may be cited for inaction, lack of implementation, thinking things over, etc., etc, even if it be over someone’s dead body! Even yours!

Take care! Ensure your own safety! Take charge!

Delhi women only cab:
91 931 384 4015
Police across India: Dial 100

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