"Papa was always there"

Sanjna Kapoor, daughter of actor Shashi Kapoor has been known to keep her famous family’s first love — theatre, alive. But apart from being the name behind several theatre productions, Sanjna has also been responsible for inculcating the love for theatre among children with her Summertime workshops. Beginning May 1, theatre group Junoon, which is headed by her and Sameera Iyengar will begin their summer edition of Arts at Play Summertime, a series of theatre workshops for kids.

Shashi Kapoor at a previous workshop of Summertime

My father’s daughter
Sanjna admits that her vision would have been impossible if not for the mentorship of her father. “As a kid, right after his school, my father would always get busy with the work for his family’s theatre productions. Though he is known as a film star, when younger, he served as the third assistant in theatre and would do everything from carrying luggage, making lights out of Dalda cans, etc. I don’t know much about lights but all that I do is because of him,” recalls Sanjna. Sanjna tells us how her father would inspire her with stories of Raj Kapoor’s enthusiasm for theatre, and the knowledge of being innovative with the barest of means. “Rajji, who would design the lights, made the stage come alive at the start of one of their productions with the most beautiful light effect using jugnus (fireflies). They also created lightening effects by placing two wires in a bucket of water. Lack of resources did not keep them from being ingenious,” she says. Over 22 years of Summertime workshops, her father would attend the last day of every workshop and hand out certificates to participants, and speak to them for a few moments. In fact, the only time he would ever address an audience at Prithvi was on his wife’s birthday, February 28, before Ustad Zakir Hussain would begin his annual concert in her memory, and at the end of each workshop at Summertime.

Sanjna and Shashi Kapoor during the preparations of a previous edition of Prithvi festival. File Pic

Theatre in the genes
Sanjna feels that Kapoor’s love for children’s theatre developed because he performed at various schools throughout the country, as a part of her maternal grandfather, Geoffrey Kendal’s theatre group, Shakespeareana. “Their group performed at so many English schools, that till today, I still meet someone every 10 days who’s seen a play by them.

My grandfather said that his best audience ever, was an Indian school girl who heard every dialogue of Shakespeare on stage with rapt attention,” recollects Sanjna. Apart from guiding Sanjna’s quest in theatre, Kapoor has also been her critic, “Once, he was present at a newly introduced workshop — with Arvind Gupta on Science Toys — where we taught children to make scientific toys from waste.

Papa looked at me and asked about its connect with theatre. My heart skipped a beat; all I could say is ‘please watch and let’s talk later.’ I believed this workshop was very relevant to theatre. After the presentation, Papa saw the many amazing things made by these children and conceded that I was right. It was one of my greatest joys!”

Theatre for today
When we ask her how she has managed to grab the attention of kids in today’s digital age, she says, “We have had kids dragged to the workshops by their mothers and grandmothers. But all I would do was ask them to watch (usually, no one does just that in our workshops) and if they don’t like it, they can leave. But within minutes, we would have them jumping with the rest of the group.” She admits that having professionals from the field conduct the workshops has helped immensely.

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