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!