Shashi Kapoor kept theatre alive through Prithvi
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Shashi Kapoor kept theatre alive through Prithvi

Prithvi Theatre opened on November 5, 1978, with GP Deshpande’s Udhwastha Dharmashala

bollywood Updated: Dec 05, 2017 01:17 IST
Sneha Mahadevan
Sneha Mahadevan
Hindustan Times
Shashi Kapoor,Shashi Kapoor death,Prithvi theatre
Prithvi Theatre opened on November 5, 1978, with GP Deshpande’s Udhwastha Dharmashala.(Pramod Thakur/HT PHOTO)

Actor and film-maker Prithviraj Kapoor dreamt of a permanent home for his 150-member travelling theatre group, Prithvi Theatres. Sixteen years after his death, his youngest son, Shashi, and his wife, Jennifer Kendal, took it upon themselves to realise the dream, giving birth to the most iconic theatres in Mumbai – Prithvi.

Prithvi Theatre opened on November 5, 1978, with GP Deshpande’s Udhwastha Dharmashala. Prithvi Theatre offered Hindi theatre -- which at that point was at an all-time low, with very few venues to their name -- an affordable platform where new styles and forms could be experimented with.

“Prithvi Theatre is like a shrine, which has given an opportunity to so many struggling aspirants. His contribution to the alternate cinema movement is huge,” said veteran film-maker Mahesh Bhatt.

Actor Shernaz Patel called herself “a Jennifer Kendal child”. “I grew up observing her – may be from a distance, but observing her because I was a volunteer at the festivals in 1983, 1984 and 1985. I learnt so much from just watching her and her passion for theatre and of course by watching all incredible plays that were brought to Prithvi,” she said.

Actor Anant Mahadevan said his friendship with Kapoor started at Prithvi, “My association with him was because of the theatre. He used to make it a point to watch the first show of every new play that we performed. One day, he took me by surprise. After the performance, he came and told me that he was a fan. I was in a daze.”

The smooth sail for Prithvi came to a sudden halt when Jennifer passed away in 1984. Kapoor could never get over his wife’s demise, although he continued to be associated with the festivals. His eldest son Kunal took charge of the theatre and was soon joined by his daughter, Sanjana, who carried on the legacy through the 1990s.

Most actors feel Prithvi is the perfect place for theatre to thrive. “Whether it is a young struggler or an established person, everyone has a place at Prithvi. If theatre is alive today, it’s because of Prithvi,” said Shernaz.

(With inputs from Pooja Sharma)

First Published: Dec 05, 2017 01:17 IST