'Theatre is my first and only love'

Says Om Katare, the director of Yatri that has staged 65 full-length plays and has had 5,000 shows across the country since its inception in 1979. The group is now celebrating its 35th anniversary with a 45-day festival across the city

When did you set up Yatri?
We set it up in 1979. We performed the play Ek Tha Gadha, penned by acclaimed Hindi writer Sharad Joshi at Prithvi Theatre. It was a political satire. We went on to have 100 shows of that play. At that time Prithvi Theatre hadn’t received a licence yet. So we didn’t sell any tickets. After the show, we went out to the audience dressed in our costumes and collected whatever money they were willing to dole out. We had collected R240 (smiles).

How did theatre interest you?
I hail from Datiya, a small town in Gwalior. By profession, we are jewellers. But my father was actively involved in the cultural events of the town. He loved literature so since childhood I was exposed to the works of acclaimed writers such as William Shakespeare and Vijay Tendulkar. Reading their works encouraged me to become an actor. When I was 22, I came to Mumbai and did an acting course from the Filmalaya Academy of Filmalaya Studio. One day, I saw a play, Vyaktigat starring Arvind Deshpande and Sulabha Deshpande at Prithvi Theatre. I was so moved by it that I couldn’t sleep the entire night. The next day I went to Prithvi Theatre, met the manager and asked him to allot me a date so that I could stage a play, Ek Tha Gadha. Today, theatre is my first and
only love.

What have been the greatest productions of Yatri?
Since our inception, we have produced 65 full-length plays and have had 5,000 shows across the country. All of them have premiered at Prithvi Theatre. Junglee Kabootar, an adaptation of a Marathi play, in 1981, Vijay Tendulkar’s Sakharam Binder in 1985, Abhi Toh Main Jawan Hoon in 1992, Kaalchakra in 1994, Hadh Kar Di Aapne in 1997, Chinta Chhod Chintamani in 2008 and Raavanleela in 2010 have been our biggest productions. Each of these plays has a social message. Kaalchakra addresses the issue of how senior citizens in our society are ignored by their children. Hadh Kar Di Aapne is a clean comedy about a man who is a father of two adults and whose wife is expecting a third child. Chinta Chhod Chintamani focuses on the importance of joint families.

Why does your company produce only Hindi plays?
We got recognition from our first play which was in Hindi. So I felt that we should continue the legacy. We are the only theatre group in the country to have adapted 30
Marathi plays into Hindi. We
have successfully staged the works of renowned Marathi playwrights
such as Jaywant Dalvi and
Ratnakar Matkari.

What have been the biggest hurdles that you have faced?
The biggest challenge has been to raise funds. In 1991, we decided to address it by doing corporate product launches where we stage plays of one-hour duration that tell people what is the product about. These kinds of activities have given a huge financial boost.

What are the biggest highlights of the Yatri festival that is being held across the city from January 12 to February 23?
As part of this festival, we will be staging six of our most famous plays namely Kaalchakra, Hadh Kar Di Aapne, Chinta Chhod Chintamani, Raavanleela, Yeh Jo Dil Hai Na and Teri Meri Prem Kahaani. At Prithvi Theatre, we will also stage five new platform performances (nukkad natak) before each show. These performances include social
satires, comedies and live musical renditions.

What are your future plans?
We are planning to work with Shekhar Suman for a new play. He had earlier acted in one of our plays Woh Tum Hi Ho in 2000 that went on to have 50 shows. In March, we will launch a new initiative called Khula Manch where we will give new theatre groups a chance to stage their short plays at an alternative space at Andheri East.
when: January 12- February 23
where: Prithvi Theatre (Juhu), Mysore Association (King’s Circle), Horniman Circle (Fort), Veer Savarkar Smarak (Dadar) and Tata Theatre, NCPA. Log on to for ticket bookings and show timings


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