On 15 January 1944, Prithviraj Kapoor, already a film star, realized a long-cherished dream, and Prithvi Theatres was born. Over the next 16 years, Prithviraj Kapoor’s repertory toured the country, giving one remarkable performance after another: Shakuntala (1945), Pathan (1947) and Paisa (1953) among them—a total of 2662 performances over 5982 days in 112 places! This was theatre history in the making, as stars were born and legends created. Uzra Mumtaz, her sister, Zohra Segal, Prithviraj’s cousins, Premnath, Rajindernath, Sajjan and Mohan Saigal, L.V. Prasad, and the young Kapoors—Raj, Shammi and Shashi, made sterling appearances on the Prithvi stage.
It remained for Shashi, his wife Jennifer and their children, Kunal and Sanjna, to fulfil Prithviraj’s last dream and give Prithvi Theatres a home of its own. On 5 November 1978, the curtain rose on G.P. Deshpande’s Uddhwasta Dharmashala, directed by Om Puri, and Prithvi Theatres, the travelling theatre company, was reborn as Prithvi Theatre, the building that has become a landmark in Mumbai. The passion that drove Prithviraj continues to inspire one hallmark performance after another from actors and directors like Naseeruddin Shah, Nadira Zaheer Babbar, Feroz Khan, Dinesh Thakur, Makarand Deshpande and a host of others who form the galaxy of stars in the world of theatre. This book is the story of a theatre that has become a living legend, and the men and women who made it happen.
About the Author
Shashi Kapoor gave his first performance on stage in 1945, in Prithvi Theatres’ first production, Shakuntala. He was then aged seven, and had a bit part in a crowd scene. From then on, acting became a passion, and he toured the country through his schooldays and beyond, with Prithvi Theatres and later, with Shakespeareana, the company run by Geoffrey and Laura Kendal (whose daughter, Jennifer, he married in 1958).
In 1960, Shashi Kapoor started his film career with Char Diwari, and has appeared in more than 250 films since then, including such memorable ones as The Householder (1962), The Shakespearewallahs (1965), Jab Jab Phool Khile (1965), Siddhartha (1972) and Heat and Dust (1982). In 1978 he turned producer with Junoon, followed by Kalyug. His third production was 36 Chowringhee Lane, with Jennifer Kapoor in the lead role. The film won the Best Film Award at the Manila Festival in 1981. Shashi Kapoor also won the Filmfare Best Producer Award for each of these three films. He has twice won the President’s Award for Best Actor, in 1962 for Dharam Putra, and in 1986 for New Delhi Times. He was given the Lifetime Achievement Award at Cairo International Film Festival in 2002.