Paranjpye has directed films like Katha, Chashme Buddoor, Sparsh
Paranjpye has directed films like Katha, Chashme Buddoor, Sparsh

Never had a moment when I said, now what shall I do: Sai Paranjpye

The legendary director and screenwriter remains an enigma among filmmakers and theatre practitioners. In A Patchwork Quilt, her memoir, she deciphers her eventful life bit by bit
By Navneet Vyasan
UPDATED ON DEC 05, 2020 07:38 PM IST

Sai Paranjpye is a legend, there’s no two ways about it. The 82-year-old director is responsible for pioneering numerous changes in the film industry and the theatre circuit. With her memoir A Patchwork Quilt, Paranjpye charts her journey that saw her stints at All India Radio in Pune, Film and Television Institute of India, a delightful realisation in Paris to creating some of the most memorable movies known to people in the Hindi film industry.

“I used to have a very vivid imagination. I guess I was born with it,” says Paranjpye, who credits her mother for bringing her up with a love for storytelling. Born to a Russian émigré father and an Indian mother, her grandfather was R. P. Paranjpe, the first Indian senior wrangler at the University of Cambridge. “My mother used to tell bed time stories to put me to sleep. One night, she ran out of them and said, ‘you tell me a story’, so I did and she said ‘that’s not so bad, who told them to you?’ I said no one, I made it up. Then she didn’t believe me and I told her another and another.”

I used to have a very vivid imagination. I guess I was born with it.

Thanks to that nightly tête-à-tête between mother and daughter, what transpired was a collection of stories published under Paranjpye’s name when she was all of eight years old. Although, she says, “I had to write every day, three to four pages before I was allowed to play. That bit I hated.”

A memoir for a reader may be a medium to get a peek into a writer’s world, but for the writer, it becomes a portal for revisiting past memories. Pleasant and unpleasant in varying degrees, the director swears by her skill for storytelling and absolutely enjoys writing. “I always say, and I’ve repeated it in my book, and pardon me if I am being immodest, but I am a first rate writer and a second rate director,” she quips.

French review captivated me. It was quite like our tamasha. It had the same vibrancy and avant-garde feel to it.

As has been the case with numerous artistes, Paris holds a special place in the National Award-winner’s life. “When I went to Paris and saw the French review, and that captivated me. It was quite like our tamasha. It had the same vibrancy and avant-garde feel to it. I felt it was a really sophisticated kind of tamasha. I thought of them as twins separated at birth. That’s how I introduced Marathi tamasha form in Hindi theatre,” she says.

One look at her filmography and even those who’re unaccustomed can point out films like Sparsh (1980), Chashme Buddoor (1981) and Katha (1982) for the importance attached to them and the legacy they left behind inadvertently. But selecting what to write and what not to, for her, was not as hard.

I have mentioned some unpleasant memories, too, how I was taken for a ride by the producers, how I was left with peanuts and the producers made king size profits out of the films.

“Selecting what to say was not terribly difficult because I began with radio, and I am passionately fond of radio. That’s my first love. I never had a moment when I had to sit and scratch my head and say, now what shall I do,” she says, adding, “I have mentioned some unpleasant memories, too, how I was taken for a ride by the producers, how I was left with peanuts and the producers made king size profits out of the films. Now when I look back, I do not think I will change anything because I enjoyed the making of these films and the writing their stories and putting it all together. I loved doing it. So, that in a sense, was the reward.”

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