> Dolly Thakore's 'Life in the Theatre'


For as long as I can remember, I was in awe of IPTA….and with legendary names like Kaifi Azmi, Shaukhat Kaifi, Manmohan Krisha, M S Sathyu, Shama Zaidi, Javed Siddiqi,  I was totally dumb-founded  just sitting in the same theatre as them.

I seldom missed an IPTA offering.

Then I graduated to being a reviewer and critic for numerous publications.  And of course, the attention one receives from theatre practitioners does give one a high!

Imagine my delight when I was approached to be on their jury panel for the Inter-College Dramatic Competition with Sagar Sarhadi and Sailesh Dave.  The year was 1988.

Some unforgettable memories linger. The Tejpal Auditorium is always cooled to freezing point. I have a special IPTA shawl that can wrap four bodies to comfort.  Imagine the thrill when I could envelop Kaifi Azmi in my shawl! And it almost became a ritual, year after year, when I would share this shawl with A K Hangal, Mrs Manmohan Krishna, amongst others.

The IPTA Competition has remained a high point in my annual Theatre calendar. The plays and productions were of the highest caliber, and deserved the Prithviraj Trophy for Best Production, the Balraj Sahni Trophy for Outstanding Performance, the R. M.  Singh Trophy for Best Director and the Kaifi Azmi Critics Award. No honour could be greater for a theatre enthusiast.

There was always a modest celebration after the awards which sometimes went beyond restaurant-closing hours.  And the organizers M S Sathyu, Ramesh Talwar, Sulabha Arya and a host of IPTA comrades would head for Sardar’s in Tardeo for his hot-off-the-tava maska-pao and aloo-bhaji…but not before stopping for a quick plebian rum and Thums up!! The camaraderie, the joie de vivre, the comfort, the sharing, sliced and spliced with ‘shairs,’ and ‘ghazals’, and popular songs sent everyone home with a special memory of that year.

And one such year I was privileged to invite some of them after the Awards to my home and carpet!!!

It was through ICDC that I became familiar with the talent of some of the leading colleges in Mumbai – not just Xavier’s and Elphinstone!

The joy I felt, year after year, when a play by Lala Lajpat Rai College, N.M. College, Ruparel College, Mithibai, P D Lions or Khalsa College were announced. For then you were assured of an exciting evening.

Suddenly Manibehn Nanavati Women’s College hit the boards. And its plays 'Katha Kalpita', 'Minipiyasi' and 'Sughandi'; Mithibai College’s 'Manusmriti', and P. D. Lion’s 'Bali' have left such an indelible impression.

Dimple Shah, Channa Ruparel, Anshumali Ruparel, J D Majithia, Anil Bandiwadekar, Jayesh Thakkar,  Shraddha Gaekwad, Veena Jamkar, Makarand Deshpande have all passed through the ICDC mill, and their names and performances I will never forget.

In the eighties, Doordarshan introduced sponsored programmes on its single B&W channel.  Film stars turned their noses up at appearing in serials.  But it opened up venues of opportunity for many IPTA-ICDC stalwarts as actors and script writers. A new economic stream had opened up.

Sudhir Pande, Anjan Srivastav, Kuldip Singh, Farooque Shaikh, Arun Bali, A K Hangal, Rakesh Bedi, Rita Pande, Rajeshwari Sachdev, Lubna Salim, Vrijesh Hirji, Utkarsh Mazumdar, Javed Khan were some of the regular faces one spotted at the Awards juggling between film and serial shoots.

I don’t know about others, but I always felt an air of propriety over their achievements and beamed with pride at their success.

Shabana Azmi too would squeeze in a few minutes from Juhu to Tejpal.  But none of this created a flurry among the young enthusiasts vying for the most sort-after awards in the theatre world. That day they were bigger and better than the best!!!

Time moves on.  The theatre fraternity has grown. A larger stable of young talent has emerged. Being on the Jury Panel for IPTA-ICDC four times over the years – 1988, 1996, 1998, 2004 – introduced one to many who are dominating the film and television screens today.

It is with pride that one can claim that fellow judges Waman Kendre, Vidyadhar Date, Dinyar Contractor, Sarita Joshi, Javed Khan, Parikshit Sahni and the late Jaydev Hattangady have marshaled their talent to make the products of the Inter-Collegiate Drama Competition head and shoulders above most.

I cannot end without paying tribute to the organizers each year.  There is such an air of solemnity, discipline and punctuality about this event. Timings and rules are strictly adhered to. Once the doors close no supporter or ‘star’ is allowed to enter. The few jarred emotions between competitors and colleges are smoothened out with firmness.

After almost 40 years of conducting this competition, it is amazing how it has succeeded in grooming younger and brighter enthusiasts.

Congratulations…and more power to you, inculcating and propagating the right social values amongst the young!!!

(This article was first published in the IPTA Mumbai Yearbook 2012, a special issue on the 40th year of the Inter Collegiate Drama Competition)