A three-decade journey will be celebrated over 10 days as Nadira Babbar’s theatre group Ekjute turns 30. The festival, 30 Years Caravan 2011, which opened on Thursday, features some of the biggest names in theatre, such as Shabana Azmi, Lillete Dubey, Anupam Kher, Kirron Kher and Raj and Nadira Babbar.
Nadira, who began the group in 1981 in Delhi as a lesser-known theatre person, worked with some of these actors when they were not as well-known either. “Actors like Raj Babbar, Satish Kaushik and Kirron Kher. I’ve always worked with actors that aren’t well known to begin with but absolutely brilliant and go on to achieve flying success,” says Nadira, who moved to Mumbai in 1988. She recounts one of her earlier experiences directing Maxim Gorky’s Lower Depths, which had Kaushik in the cast. “We had a particularly bad rehearsal and I scolded the cast saying there was no energy or tempo in the performance. After rehearsal, we were all in the same van at the Mahim red light and right next to us stood a tempo. Satish solemnly looked at it and said Arre tempo you are here, why weren’t you at the rehearsal today, we all got such a scolding. Immediately, all of us, who had been in a foul mood, burst out laughing,” says Nadira.
Her experience staging Bhaas’ Sanskrit play Vasavdutta (which was adapted into the Rekha-starrer Utsav too) in 1983 was another memorable experience. “I got brilliant reviews for that and because I was particularly scared about this play, I had worked the hardest on it,” she recalls.
The festival will headline with the play Bollywood ka Salaam 1950s ke Naam, which celebrates an era of Bollywood that was “all about India and Indianness”, as opposed to the globalized, homogenous world in most Bollywood films today, says Nadira. Some of the other plays at the fest include Begum Jaan, Court Martial and Footnotes of Life.
Till 24 April, 7.30pm. Prithvi Theatre, Janki Kutir, Juhu, Mumbai. Tickets, Rs500, available at the venue. The festival will also travel to Bangalore, Delhi, Lucknow and Jaipur in the course of the year. For details, call 9819997761.