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11 of India’s best-known theatre families

brunch Updated: May 02, 2017 11:16 IST
Ananya Ghosh
Theatre runs in the family for these talented bunch
Theatre runs in the family for these talented bunch(Hindustan Times)

“In our world of theatre romances blossom easily and often end up in beautiful marriages,” says Alyque Padamasee, and one look at the Mumbai theatre circuit is enough to prove him right. Sabitri and Late Heisnam Kanhailal, Divya Jagdale and Shiv Subramaniam, Arundhati and Jagdish Raja, Preeta Mathur and Late Dinesh Thakur, the instances are many. But then there are some who pass on their love for theatre to the next generation, and to the next.

Rage Theatre’s Shernaz Patel hails from the first family of Parsi-Gujarati theatre. Her parents Ruby and Burjor Patel are still remembered for their rollicking Gujarati comedies of the ’60s. Lillete Dubey’s two daughters, Neha and Ira, have followed in their mother’s footsteps and are today balancing a career between movies and theatre. Most of the theatre production companies of the city are today run by families. Ekjute is helmed by the mother-daughter duo of Nadira and Juhi Babbar, Poor-Box Productions is co-owned by Mahabanoo Mody-Kotwal and her son Kaizaad Kotwal. Manoj and Seema Pahwa have just launched their own theatre company Kopal, along with their two kids, Manukriti and Mayank. Paresh Rawal and Swaroop Sampat’s son Aditya recently made his debut as a playwright. His grandfather Bachu Sampat was Chief Producer at Indian National Theatre. We look at some such families whose dinner table conversations involve Brecht and Beckett and who eat, drink and sleep theatre.

The torchbearer Kapoors

Sanjana and Kunal with their father Shashi Kapoor

Kunal Kapoor, trustee of Prithvi Theatre and Sanjna Kapoor, co-founder of Junoon, are the third generation in theatre. Their parents, actors Jennifer and Shashi Kapoor, were the masterminds behind Prithvi Theatre. While the Kapoor family is the first family of Hindi cinema, not many are aware that Prithviraj Kapoor had his travelling theatre company and Kunal and Sanjna’s maternal grandparents, Geoffrey Kendal and Laura Liddell, were doyens of English theatre in India and had a travelling theatre company called Shakespearana.

The inimitable Alkazis

Ebrahim Alkazi

Trained at Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London, Padma Vibhushan awardee Ebrahim Alkazi is one of the most influential theatre artistes of the country. He was associated with the Bombay Progressive Artists’ Group, and had artists like MF Husain, FN Souza, S H Raza, Akbar Padamsee and Tyeb Mehta design his sets. As the director of National School of Drama (NSD), he has taught the likes of Om Puri, Naseeruddin Shah and Rohini Hattangadi, and is credited for revolutionising Hindi theatre. His wife, Roshan Alkazi was a renowned costume designer who had worked with him in many plays. Their two children Amal Allana and Feisal Alkazi are theatre directors and Amal was also associated with NSD as its chairperson.

The Padamsee Pack

Raell and Alyque Padamsee

The Padamsees are a big happy family. Alyque Padamsee’s three wives (late) Pearl Padamsee, Dolly Thakore and Sharon Prabhakar and their three kids, Raell, Quasar and Shazahn are all bound by their one true love: theatre. As Dolly Thakore puts it, “The Padamsees breathe theatre.” But each has his/her own brand of it. While Shazahn just made her theatre debut last year under his father’s direction, Raell and Quasar have been helming their own theatre companies, Ace Productions and QTP (Q Theatre Productions) respectively.

The pioneering Patels

Burjor Patel with wife Rudy and daughter Shernaz

Actor-producer Shernaz Patel, one of the three co-founders of Rage Productions, is theatre royalty. Although she hers is one of the most prolific English theatre groups, her parents, actor-producers Ruby and Burjor Patel, were among the pioneers of Parsi-Gujarati theatre and are still remembered for their roles in Adi Marzban’s rollicking comedies of the 1960s. Later they started their own group, Burjor Patel Productions which even travelled to Africa and the US with its plays.

The Babbar bastion

Nadira Babbar with daughter Juhi

Sangeet Natak Akademi Awardee Nadira Babbar started her own theatre group, Ekjute, after relocating to Bombay. “When I came to Bombay, it didn’t work out as most established groups had their own of set of regular actors. Hume koi poochta nahi tha,” says the matriarch. The group, which turned 35 last year, has come a long way since it’s humble Prithvi days and a few years back her daughter Juhi has joined force with her.

The gutsy Kotwals

Mahabanoo (second from left) and Kaizaad Kotwal (first from right)

It was their sheer passion for theatre that made Mahabanoo Mody Kotwal and her Emmy-award winning son, Kaizaad Kotwal, form their own company, Poor-Box Productions, in 1999. Its most famous play, The Vagina Monologues, has been running to packed houses since 2003. More recently, the duo kicked the hornet’s nest with their bold adaptation of Agnes of God.

The prolific Senguptas

Rudraprasd (second from left) and Swatilekha shares the stage

Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee actor-director Rudraprasad Sengupta helms one of Kolkata’s oldest and most prolific groups, Nandikar. He married Swatilekha, actor and his colleague at Nandikar who apart from her plays is best known for playing the lead in Satyajit Ray’s Ghare Baire. Their daughter Sohini has also taken after them and is today a force to reckon with at Nandikar. She also won National Film Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Aparna Sen’s Paromitar Ek Din.

The dynamic da Cunhas

Gerson da Cunha

The da Cunha family has too many claims to fame. Dr J Gerson da Cunha wrote the first book on Mumbai’s history, while his brother AM da Cunha started Goa’s first newspaper. But their theatre connect began with Gerson and Sylvester—the brothers who were both into advertising and made Dalda and Amul the brand that they are today, have several plays to their credit. And today, Sylvester’s son Rahul is continuing with the family legacy dividing his time between advertising and theatre. He is another founding members of Rage Productions.

The versatile Khuranas

Akash Khurrana and family

Akash Khurana and his two sons, Akarsh and Adhaar are AKvarious. But they are not the only theatre people in the family. Akash’s wife Meera, who has already directed four plays under the banner and Akarsh’s wife Dilshad Edibam Khurana has been working in theatre for more than a decade. Today the family has five directors, who double up as actors and they have worked in almost every permutation and combination possible.

The dashing Dubeys

Lillette and Ira Dubey

While Lillete is best known for her turns in movies like Kal Ho Naa Ho and Monsoon Wedding, last year belonged to her daughter Ira, who grabbed eyeballs with her short but affable role in Dear Zindegi. But the first love of this mother-daughter duo remains theatre. Lillete’s Primetime Theatre Company, which turned 25 last year, is one of the biggest names in Mumbai’s English theatre scene with hit plays like Adhe Adhure, Dance like a Man and 9 Parts of Desire. Lillete’s sister Lushin is also into theatre and is known for her solo acts.

The Husain hegemony

Aamir Raza Husain and Virat Talwar with their kids

Pamasree Aamir Raza Husain, the creative director of Stagedoor Production, is best known for his huge outdoor productions like Sare Jahan Se Acha, Shehanshahnama, Satyamev Jayate, The Fifty Day War and The Legend of Ram. He is married to actor Virat Talwar and theirs was another love story where theatre played cupid and it was but natural that their children will also eventually take baby steps into the world of theatre. Their latest production The Lion in Winter is codirected by the duo.

From HT Brunch, January 15, 2017

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