Jaimini Pathak: Theatre provides kids a safe zone
"When I visit schools, I notice that children enjoy being a part of theatre productions. It provides them a safe zone, an activity that will not be graded," admits Jaimini Pathak who will be discussing his journey in theatre and his so-called failures in other pursuits this week.
"I came to Mumbai from Ajmer in the 1990s after Class 12. Back then, the biggest dream of a small town boy was to become a cricketer. When here, I realised soon enough that cricket was not for me. There were 14-year-olds playing better than me, and I was 18 already," the 45-year-old director reminisces.
His other failure was an MBA, which he points out was not really a dream. "MBA was a way to get my worried parents off my back. I joined the course to also prove to them that I was capable of it and then later quit it for theatre," shares Pathak, who points out that he has never held a full-time job.
Mumbai to the rescue
But despite overwhelming him, Mumbai also gave him confidence and direction in something he wanted to pursue. St Xavier’s College with its well-stocked library, reading and theatre culture drove him more and more towards this performing art. "While in college, I was already working with the likes of Satyadev Dubey," he says.
A moment from The Boy Who Stopped Smilin
And after college his journey with professional theater started in full swing with work in television on the side to keep the money coming. He agrees that it is indeed difficult for one to make a living by only doing theatre. "We do not have government or corporate patronage like in say Europe, which is known for its generous funding of theatre," he says.
The actor-director says that the first time he realised the potential and power of theatre was when he worked on the children’s play, The Boy Who Stopped Smiling in 1998. The play written by Ramu Ramanathan has since been one of the most successful children’s plays in the city and has been performed several times over the years.
No child’s play
"It was not the usual children’s play, say, involving rabbits. It was a serious real life issue dealt with in a manner that is engaging to children. And it worked," Pathak explains. He adds that he had, in fact, never had difficulty in holding the attention of children. "For that, it is important never to talk down to them. Definitely because they have not experienced a lot of things, one needs to make ones message accessible but then it is important to keep in mind that the audience is a very alert and impressionable one,"
He says that sometimes, people who watched The Boy Who Stopped Smiling continue to tell him how much they loved it. Once Upon A Tiger too has been a success and part of his 15-year-long journey with children has been fruitful. But what keeps him driven? "It is basically a selfish need, I like children," he says.
On: May 20, 5.30 pm
At: Kitab Khana, Fort.
Email: mumbailocal @junoontheatre.org