“A two-wheeler, 9-to-5 routine wasn’t for me”
For the longest time I believed that stars were from a different planet and I had to go there. My family had nothing to do with acting, cinema or theatre. But I was very sure that I did not want a typical two-wheeler family who live their 9-to-5 life happily. It just wasn’t for me. So I convinced my dad to let me go to the National School of Drama.
I told him that after a three-year degree from there – since it was a government recognised institution – I would be eligible to get a secure government job if I didn’t make it as an actor.
Sure enough, earning a livelihood after completing my course wasn’t easy. I started with teaching acting, voice and speech at Kishore Namit Kapoor’s school in Mumbai and doing small roles on TV until a show called Sea Hawks happened. After that offers from TV started pouring in, but I was stuck on films. But ‘good roles’ didn’t come my way… So it was back to TV. CID, Balika Vadhu and now Crime Patrol. Life is good.
But real happiness, I realised, was on stage. Being a part of Ekjute for over five years has brought me happiness in more ways than one. I only wish I got the damaad treatment on stage as well.
Anup Soni: Actor and TV host, Anup is married to Juhi Babbar. Wants to do a play with his wife and him in the lead roles
Nadira Babbar: Actor, director. Founded theatre group Ekjute 30 years ago
Juhi Babbar Soni: Actor. Raj and Nadira Babbar’s daughter tried her luck in films, but didn’t make much headway. Been doing theatre for over 13 years
“Theatre and its society were too ‘open’ for me”
Born and brought up in Lucknow, I was introduced to theatre at 19. My father and I had come to Delhi, and his friend Ebrahim Alkazi, director at the National School of Drama (NSD) at the time, told him to enroll me – and I signed up.
For a long time, I found theatre unnerving. I wasn’t really orthodox, but this world was more “open and fast” by my standards. But gradually I adjusted. And of course I started loving the stage. That love has stayed intact all these years. My other love, Raj Babbar, also happened during my years at NSD. Our passion for theatre brought us closer.
Life was happy but not exactly comfortable. Theatre gave us a lot of satisfaction creatively, but our financial situation got tougher with each passing year. It was after Juhi was born that Raj decided to try out films. He did well, and so did we. But theatre remained our passion.
Five years later, around the same time that our son Arya was born, we founded our theatre group, Ekjute.
It’s been 30 years now. The passion, intensity, the instant gratification and the high remain intact.
“I got two bit roles instead of the lead”
I believe I was born with acting in my genes. And though officially it has been about 13 years that I became a part of Ekjute, my association with it goes back much longer. Dad (Raj Babbar) never wanted me to act. A typical Punjabi father, he was rather stern about my not doing any “drama-shama”. But as they say in films, “ma ke doodh aur baap ke khoon mein theatre hai”, so how could I be far from it?
Of course it was only after I finished my formal education and got a degree from NIFT, Bombay in Costume and Fashion, that dad was finally convinced of my love for acting, and decided to produce my first film, Kaash Aap Hamare Hote. The film didn’t do too well and the roles I got didn’t impress me enough. And the stage, for me, held far more value.
But this wasn’t easy. My mother is perhaps the toughest taskmaster I know. I get no liberties whatsoever. Initially some people thought that I would hog the spotlight simply because I am Nadira Babbar’s daughter, but actually, I feel shortchanged most times. Especially when I’d be given a two bit role when I could play the lead! But all that training has helped me as an actress.
From HT Brunch, May 13
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