Three decades ago, at the age of 22, Om Katare had resolved that he would work towards spreading the movement of quality Hindi theatre — along with his colleagues Damini Kanwal, Vikas Prasad, Paromita Chatterjee, Ashok Sharma, Chotu Poonawala and Surendra Pal.
They formed a theatre group. On a friend’s suggestion, it was named Yatri. Incidentally, Yatri began staging plays a year after Juhu’s Prithvi Theatre was established. “Prithvi has inspired and motivated us to pursue theatre.. I owe Yatri to Jenniferji (Kapoor),” says Katare emotionally.
Over the decades, Yatri has staged as many as 60 plays. The ones which remain extra-special to the group are the landmark productions of Sharad Joshi’s political satire Ek Tha Gadha, followed by performances Junglee Kabootar, Purush and Sakharam Binder.
Now Yatri has organised a theatre festival, which kicks off tomorrow with the revival of Katare’s 1979 play Ek Tha Gadha and concludes on January 11 with Chinta Chhod Chintamani.
The other plays which will be staged are Kaal Chakra, Sakharam Binder and Hadh Kar-di Aapne. Vis-a-vis Ek Tha Gadha, Katare beams, “It was a runaway hit.We didn’t expect to stage more than 10 shows but we ended up staging 90!”
Because of a shoestring budget, the production was restricted to a minimalist set and a limited cast. This time around, Katare is aiming for a grand production with music and dance. “Once we had plenty of actors but couldn’t even afford to buy a cup of tea. Today, it’s the other way round,” he chuckles.
Katare believes that theatre has to struggle today because of the severe competition from television and cinema: “Most people prefer plays which have social undertones plus a humorous element.. so, theatre as a medium of expression, has become more limited. Also, most theatre actors are moving over to the more paying mediums.”
This year, Yatri will also stage Dadaji Kahni, written by Katare, for Prithvi’s annual summertime theatre festival,
followed by a September premiere of Shankar Shesh’s Ek Aur Dronacharya.
Also on the cards are platform performances, play and poetry reading sessions and intensive month long theatre workshops. Since three years, the theatre repertoire has been conducting workshops bi-annually at Andheri’s Western Railway Colony.