Prithvi Theatre's Kunal Kapoor to restore father Shashi's films

Kunal Kapoor talks about Prithvi Theatre's efforts to involve children in performing arts, his attempt to restore his father Shashi Kapoor's films and his plans to take theatre to greener pastures

While Prithvi theatre is getting all decked up for Summertime@Prithvi, their annual workshops dedicated to children which will be held this year between April 25 and June 7, we decide to catch up with Kunal Kapoor on a sweltering Monday afternoon.

Kunal Kapoor at Prithvi Theatre. Pic/Sayed Sameer AbediKunal Kapoor at Prithvi Theatre. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi

With the rehearsals in full swing, the theatre is buzzing with activities and amid the cacophony, we manage to find a comparatively quiet corner, which will not remain quiet for too long! “We started the Summertime workshops almost 24 years ago. It was my sister Sanjana’s idea to include children in theatre.

Children are creative and have a vivid imagination. Through these workshops we aim to channelise the their creativity while having fun. It is non competitive. Not every kid is going to be great in everything. The idea is to just provide them platforms so that they can explore their talents,” Kapoor explains.

However, he adds that the main aim of Prithvi is to promote theatre and says, “All over the world, an older gneration makes the theatre-going crowd. At Prithvi, it is heartening to see more and more youngsters join theatre as performers and as part of the audience.

Just as there are people who had been Prithvi regulars maybe 10/15 years back, and get nostalgic talking about those days, these youngsters are creating their own memories today to reminisce and share with their next generation.

With these workshops we want to get the children acquainted to theatre and build a future generation of theatre goers. So, three generations of audiences the past, present at the future converge here at Prithvi.” This year, Prithvi has introduced dance theatre to teach children poise and grace.

But like all their workshops, having fun is mandatory. Apart from the workshops, Prithvi has also scheduled 89-odd plays, which the children can watch after the workshops. Prithvi also hosts children's play all year round.

In a country where we hardly have any good movies made for children today, why come up with new plays for them on such regular intervals? “It is not just about movies. India is not a child-friendly country and there is very little infrastructure dedicated for them.

In the West, you have child-friendly restaurants, malls, theatres, and museums. In India, all we encourage our kids to do is study — go to school, tuition classes, and come home and do homework. For the holistic growth of the child, one needs to indulge their creativity,” he says.

However, while the theatre is 80 per cent housefull on any given day of the week, it incurs heavy losses each month. Kapoor had been categorical that it is a non-profit organisation and will remain that way. “We might increase the ticket prices at some point but the basic idea of creating Prithvi was to keep theatre affordable, for the audiences as well as the performing groups.

And it remains the same till date. The struggle is to get sponsorship. People who are willing to sponsor are only interested in selling their product. We can’t spoil the sanctity of the place. I will not let it out for a corporate event or wedding or some nautanki for money. Of course we want to break even, but also we don’t want to sell out.

My parents (Shashi Kapoor and Jennifer Kapoor) established this theatre in 1978. Till date, it is bustling with activities, so much so that it is difficult to find a quiet corner to even give an interview! People feel at home here and that is what makes this place unique. Prithvi has its own character, its own aim and we won’t let anything change that,” Kapoor is categorical.

Apart from Prithvi and Summer time, Kapoor is also busy these days restoring his father Shashi Kapoor’s films. “It is a mammoth and torturous task. I intend to restore all the films my dad had made Junoon (1979), 36 Chowringhee Lane (1981), Vijeta (1982), Kalyug (1981) and Utsav (1984). We are trying to restore the negatives. Film restoration is another area that is under-developed in this country.

There is no proper preservation of films, the quality of restoration is inferior and to make matters worse, the weather here makes the negatives deteriorate faster,” he rues adding that although he had hoped to wrap up the project in a year and a half, so far he has only managed to get Junoon out of the way. He intends to release the films once they are restored, “provided there is a market for it,” he adds.

On that note, we call it a day and he gets up and walks out asking me to wait a while. When he returns, he has a mischievous smile peeking from behind his well-manicured salt-and-pepper beard and says, “We are planning to take theatre out of Prithvi to a more open space.How about an open-air theatre experience at the race course?”

Now, the theatre crazy Kapoor boy’s passion for horse riding is not unknown. Spending a leisurely evening at the racecourse watching the lush green pastures blush under the setting sun is enough to give goose bumps, and to watch a theatre in that ambiance would be a sequence straight out of a dream.

“We have tied up with the Royal Western India Turf Club and will be hosting a weeklong theatre festival at the race course. Titled Prithvi@ theTURF it will have performances by Naseeruddin Shah, Rakesh Bedi and Makrand Deshpande among others,” he reveals with a broad smile before calling it a day.

Our pick:

Observation, Story creation and Mind Games
By Om Katare
Acting is said to be the study of human behavior. So, in addition to their own memories and imaginations, actors must depend on their powers of observation. The workshop teaches the children how to observe other people and use it to build believable characters. Mind Games help in developing spontaneity, while story telling helps in creative and imaginative growth. This session will encourage children to learn how to dramatise, visualise and create stories. The programme is designed to motivate children to express themselves, build creativity and confidence.

By Lovleen Mishra and Chatura Rao
An actor and an author come together to explore a story from various points of view, mainly plot, character and setting through paper puppets, wildly colourful scrap settings and crazy props in this bilingual workshop in Hindi and English. Lovleen and Chatura’s skills merge at the point where children bring the written word to performance, and impro-visation, in turn, yields the written word.

Fun-damental Research!
By TIFR Chai and Why? team
It is will be a week of hands-on experiments exploring the world of maths and science. It will include simple but instructive experiments using things commonly found in every home, and move over to exploring the world of waves, sound, and music. If the weather permits, a telescope will also be set up to take a look at sunspots and learn about the Sun. There will be some colourful chemistry experiments, and of course the ever-popular liquid nitrogen show.

For the full schedule and more details on the Summertime@Prithvi workshops log on to:

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