HEER RANJHA: After Loona… it was very refreshing to play “Heer”, as it was entirely of a different genre. The beauty is…when I had gone to Chandigarh; I was not aware or familiar with the culture n literature of Punjab. I hailed from Calcutta, was familiar with the Bengali culture & language. I knew “Rabindranath Tagore”, “Rabindra sangeet”. Once in Punjab, I was acquainted with “Shiv Batalvi”, “Heer”, “gidda”, “tappe” etc. In spite of a being a Punjabi, I did not follow the language much, so really had to work on it & cut down on my English & Bengali accent. Punjab & its people are so infectious, that one starts enjoying the learning process & in no time becomes one of them.

                                                                                                           Heer Ranjha         

The ballet Heer-Ranjha, was expected to do well & it did so. I remember…one of our shows, was held in Mumbai (Bombay then). It was on the “vaisakhi” day; many famous personalities of Punjab were to perform in different acts & there was a prize for the best performer too.  Mr. Gurdas Mann was a rage then & he was to perform also. I too was a fan of his. Once the function got over; the organisers had to announce the winner. As expected, they announced the name of Gurdas Maanji.

                                                                            Heer Ranjha

I was back-stage then, when all of a sudden I heard a lot of shouting in the audience. I assumed that the uproar was for our Punjabi idol Gurdas Maanji. I too rushed towards the wings to catch a glimpse of him & to witness his aura. When I reached there, I saw him calming down the audience & saying he will just do the needful. I held my breath when he turned towards the wings. I could not move an inch; I thought I was lucky enough to have a closer look at him. I realised that he was giving instructions to look for someone & the organizers were going helter-skelter for so as it was quite dark over there. Before I could grasp the situation, I spotted one of them pointing at me & dashing towards me. Gurdas Mannji too turned towards me, came closer, flashed his most charming smile, held my hand affectionately, & I heard the sweetest voice telling me that I performed so wonderfully. He took me to the stage with him & I kept looking at him amazed. Then, once again I heard the frenzy shouts & realised that all this while people had been shouting…”Heer…Heer”, as they had loved my performance. They were finally satisfied when the prize was shared between Gurdas Mannji & me. I could not stop my tears.

Mirza-Sahibaan: Rani Balbir Kaur, a famous personality of the punjabi theatre… wanted to revive her play…Mirza- Sahibaan. When she was young, she had played the role of Sahibaan. She was also a professor in the Indian Theatre of the Punjab University. Many of her students wanted her to cast them as Sahibaan. She was not willing to as she had her own concept of Sahibaan; & no one around seemed to match it. When she described her concept of a Sahibaan to her daughter Komal, Komal jumped & told her that there is such a girl in her collage, named…Seema Kapoor.

                                                                                                                  Mirza Sahibaan

As destiny would play its part, that same evening, Dad had taken me to watch a play…&…Rani Balbirji along with Komal was there. The minute Raniji spotted me, she kept staring at me; she pointed at me & murmured to Komal…”there is my Sahibaan”. When Komal turned to look at me, she was pleasantly surprised that her mom had approved of the same girl, whom she had earlier suggested. In no time, they walked up to me & fixed a meeting. You bet…in a couple of days, I was rehearsing as Sahibaan. It was again a very challenging role; I loved every bit of it & performed to the hilt. All the papers paid such compliments that I was ecstatic. It was also my last play of Chandigarh…as I shifted to Bombay.

                                                                                      Mirza Sahibaan

       EK GHORA TEEN SAWAAR, &, MAIN ZINDA HOON: The 2 plays, that I worked in, at Mumbai, with Nadira Babbarji. Ek ghora… was a light comedy, nothing great but just fun. Main zinda Hoon was close to my heart. It was an adaptation of “Look back in anger”. I loved doing this experiment theatre.

                                        Ek Ghoda Teen Sawaar            Ek Ghoda Teen Sawaar   

                 Main Zinda Hoon             Main Zinda Hoon

SIX IN A FIX: An English play, commercial, comedy…good, but nothing awesome about it. I just loved the idea that I was casted opposite Benjamin Gilani…from whom I further learnt that what professional ethics were all about.

Shadyantra: A play in which I played the role of an active lesbian; who is a doctor by profession. It was a thrilling murder mystery. The funniest part was that in the climax, the scene was lengthy…between my co-worker & me; & each dialogue was a page n a half. Now my co-worker would invariably forget her lines during the show.  As a result, after finishing my dialogue, I had to say,” I know Puja what’s in your mind, U want to say”…. & there, I had to say her complete dialogue, then get back to  my lines, & back to her lines…mine, hers, mine, hers & mine…. God…It was crazy…Ultimately the whole climax used to be enacted by me as I didn’t want the play to fall apart; whereas all that my co-worker did was…miserably & thankfully kept nodding at me. Gosh! I had some guts to do that & she had some nerve to go on like that!

All the plays that I did in Mumbai were no match at all to what I had done earlier in life at Chandigarh… it was intensely a serious business there with such depth & projection…. that spirit was amiss here, in spite of being highly paid here. After a point, my heart- beats stopped beating for theatre…until…

A SUITABLE BRIDE: Came in my stride. It is my most favourite play. All about it is mentioned in my post…The Suitable Bride. Do have a look.

MADE FOR EACH OTHER: Another play, with the same team of… A suitable bride…BUT, after A Suitable Bride, I did not wish to pick up any other play…as nothing was beyond it. People who have watched the play…would surely understand…only God’s power enabled me to the 12 roles in one play… live… with different get-ups & body language…. oh so dear to me…THE STAGE & THE THIRD BELL!!!




        KI DOSH SI LOONA DA: The subject “Loona” is a folk lore of Punjab… a story of a beautiful young girl, who lives in impoverished conditions with her old father. One fine day, she participates in the beauty contest held in her town, in the presence of the king, & the other neighbouring kings too. She is declared the beauty queen & is crowned for so by a guest king named Salwaan , who is spell-bound by her beauty & falls for her; but he is a married man n twice her age. Yet he forcibly marries her, taking advantage of her poverty. Loona is betrothed to him against her wishes. Salwaan has a son who is very good-looking, yet very saintly, named Puran. Loona in turn falls in love with Puran as he is ideally like her dream man. The day she declares her love to him, Puran gets upset, as he always thought of her as a mother & swears never to come in front of her so that she does not feel drawn to him. Loona is upset and complains to the king of Puran’s high- handedness.  Salwaan the king gets angry & passes a sentence against his own son & gets him killed.

Ki Dosh Si Loona Da       

          SHIV BATALVI… a very famous poet of Punjab… for whom I could die for…but unfortunately was no more on earth, when I got to know of him. Yes I am crazy about him & his works & fondly refer him as the “Indian Shakespeare”!!! Anyway, he was totally in favour of the character Loona & had always claimed that Loona was a positive being. Look up at the story, can anyone claim that! Nobody could, many people picked up the subject & made a play on it but failed miserably to hold the claim of Shiv Batalvi; rather they ridiculed her character even further.

            During the phase when I was very depressed due to the set-back of someone’s mis-doing, (read part 1), Dad had taken me to watch a play… another play on Loona. The entire play was a shabby depiction & received hootings, than any kind of appreciation. We too came home criticizing the play. Next morning…”The Tribune” was equally critical… it said, “They have turned Shiv’s heroine Loona into a vamp”…but a particular line captivated Dad’s attention…it said, “one needs another Shiv Batalvi to justify Loona”. It hit Dad to realize, that along with Loona, another person needed to be justified…yes… his own daughter. He charged towards me & announced, “Prepare your-self…YOU are LOONA…& the justified one…the Heroine!

               Ki Dosh Si Loona Da

  Rest was history…as I mentioned in my earlier post…that I witnessed my “dynamite heavenly father” & my “dynamic earthly father” working in unison. Dad indeed altered the fate of Loona…if Shiv would have been alive, he surely would have hugged Dad. Dad also had promised me that he would make such a brilliant script that Sangeeta Mehta would beg for it. Each day Dad would pen down endless papers, & towards the eve, he would give me a copy to memorise & the other copy… he would carry to sangeeta’s home to narrate.      

 Now, the regular scene at Sangeeta’s home, during eves, was out of the world…her table usually laid elaborately with drinks n appetisers for all the famous personalities of the fraternity. All artistic discussions would take place, some singers would sing their latest numbers, musicians would happily play on their instruments; “shero-shayree’, poetries etc. making rounds in full swings…I too loved it all. Dad would narrate his work on Loona with utter pride. His each n every scene was to die-for, his dialogues made everyone dumbstruck, no one could imagine that Loona could go to such an awesome level of creativity. Each evening they all would wait for Dad to narrate further. Finally, Sangeeta begged Dad to allow her to do the role of Loona. Dad refused making it quite clear to her that she was older for the role. He could offer the role of  Salwaan’s wife…but… loona would only be enacted by Seema. No amount of her coaxing/ pleading worked on Dad. Ultimately, she took over to produce/direct, n act as “Ichchara”… Salwaan’s wife… & accept me as Loona.                                                                                                                                         

   Ki Dosh Si Loona Da        

           Dad was triumphant in his purpose!!! Imagine the person who tried to oust me from my first play, now signed me as the heroine of her own production & directorial venture!!! It was my “Jesus-Yahowa Nissi”, who fought my battle, avenged me & handed over the victory to me; & in the bargain, Dad came out with one of his brilliant work. I always believe that pain, hurt & zeal is always fruitful in the  end.

                    Ki Dosh Si Loona Da                                   

The pain, hurt n zeal was working on me too…I was so dedicated, engrossed n involved that I would breathe, eat, shower, sleep n awake on Loona. I usually worked on my lines at my terrace as the open space helped me to open up to Loona. I would go on & on delivering the great endless lines…only to realise later that the street below my terrace was full of spectators…no not for my talent but people were watching a mad girl who was screaming n shouting to herself…they probably thought I was mad & needed help or an asylum. I had to flee from there n hide!!! 

Sangeeta Mehta…was now my director & mentor. We developed an unsaid understanding. Seeing my obedience, hard-work n dedication, she too never got the chance to regret, rather, she was full of pride when the word of my performance spread all over Chandigarh; & people would invite them-selves in, just to see my rehearsals. I was thrilled when one day Balwant  Gargi…a famous n senior writer/director walked in to watch me rehearse, as he had heard so much of me, that he couldn’t stop himself from meeting me. He was so impressed to see me performing; he blessed me, also gave me a couple of tips, which I treasure until date.

        Ki Dosh Si Loona Da

The play “ki dosh si Loona da”(what was the fault of Loona) was power packed with high drama scenes, dialogues, music n songs. There was just no relief. In Punjab, people were used to watching light stuff but when they saw this play, they were spellbound, didn’t even shift in their seats watching a 14 year old me, mouthing such difficult lines with an ease of a maestro, performing the complex role of Loona with such finesse. The play got so popular that it staged from town to town, to city-to-city. All the ministers and dignitaries witnessed it. All had to admit that it was written superbly & Loona… is the claimed heroine & totally justified… as Dad had proved that Loona & Puran were innocent & the scapegoats of the villainous Salwaan, who moulded situations according to his benefits. The play was a  smashing hit!     

The best part of all was that on the Republic Day…the Chief Commissioner of Chandigarh, MR. B.S. Sarao, honoured me for my performance. Two rows of military men had marched on each side of me while taking me to the Chief Commissioner, to be honoured. Dad was thrilled, while my dilemma was whether I was to march with the military or walk straight!!! I chose to walk straight…thank God for that!

  Seema Kapoor recieving award from Mr. B.S. Sarao Chief Commissioner Chandigarh

Soon I was to be admitted in college for my Prep (11th & 12 STD.), the authorities acted tough on pretext of no vacancy. I was much hassled. Dad straight away walked into the Home Secretary “Sewa Singh ji’s” office. Now Mr. Sewa Singh had also come for my play & had rewarded me for my performance… the minute he saw Dad there, he recognised Dad & paid him the respect. Dad told him that, what was the point of so much appreciation & honour to Seema Kapoor, when she is being denied the admission in G C G College. Immediately a call was made for me.

 Seema Kapoor Miss Fresher GCG       Seema Kapoor Crowned as Miss Fresher GCG  

          Untitled 22         Seema Kapoor as Miss Fresher GCG     

 The whole scenario altered. I got a red-carpet entry in the G C G College, the authorities along with the principal were waiting to admit me in. Once admitted, no one regretted there too. They were proud of me as a student, as well as of my simultaneous professional endeavours.  My stage presence was looked forward to, in college; I was famous on the ramp. Also was the cultural head; & first… to make a record in GCG…I was crowned as “Miss Fresher” as well as the “Miss Graduate”.

         Untitled 26    Seema Kapoor as Miss Graduate GCG  

To be continued………

The Stage and the Third Bell…part 1

          The “stage & the third bell”… for me is akin to…A “heart & the heart beats”!!! Yes! My theatre life… so dear to me; I have always believed that if the celluloid has been my love, then the stage has been my passion.  As in the words of Shakespeare…world is a stage, where each one takes an entry & an exit, playing their respective parts… I too had my share of playing different roles, inexhaustibly making entries & taking exits… in the personal drama of life & the playacting of the theatre!

As an adolescent…(at Chandigarh)… when I had finally joined my creative Dad, after a prolonged, uncalled-for separation; least was I aware that I was being steered by the call of my destiny, and… the arena, the spotlight, the mask, the applause, the renown…was awaiting my arrival. Hence, my Jesus manoeuvred me & my Dad groomed me!

Dad made it quite apparent to me that an individual has two distinct sides of the personality…the personal aura & the professional enigma…like the two sides of a coin, which belong to the same physical structure, yet carry an unconnected substance. It was quite difficult for me to conform to it, as I was always a brutally straightforward person, die-hard candid in my approach, attitude n attribute. It took me years to imbibe! Partially I learnt…partially the ruthless world taught me!!!

Personally, Dad indulged in pampering me to the hilt, yielding to every demand of mine; yet, he also kept moulding me tactfully towards a standard of perfection. Nevertheless, on the professional front…he strictly imposed certain rules over me…over the years.

Rule 1:  Academic qualification was essential, to complete graduation, however busy with work…therefore; I have worked & studied simultaneously.

2: Never to mix the personal & professional aspects, they are entirely two different worlds, one should leave the problems at home, as it should not be visible on the countenance of an actor.

3:  Always to be punctual, dot on time… to give no one the place or space for any cross-question.

4: To be an utter professional & command the due respect, it would surely be apprehended by all.

5: To value and safeguard dignity, self-esteem and honour, always. Allow no one to take you for granted.

6: To give perfection-oriented performances & dialogue delivery, to be versatile, & to hold a command on language n diction.

7: Never to ask for work…as it lowers the charisma… It’s a fact, that having done so much work over the years, that too, all the lead n title roles; I have  only worked on offers that came my way,  have never asked for work. Rather, I have been famous for saying “No” to umpteenth offers, than a “Yes”!!!

8: Never “compromise” for success…it’s a wrong notion when people think that they can reach success by the unscrupulous short-cuts, rather they reach no-where, even if they manage to…its short-lived.

9: Never cry or get disheartened if someone else is considered or finalized in your place… since… it is not your loss…but the loss is theirs!!! As they know not what they have missed. Moreover, people who come with an offer do not come to favour you; they come according to their convenience… yes, I strongly believe in so!

10:” Do not cry over spilled milk”…learn from past mistakes & move ahead with double the energy n strength.

You see… along with the 10 commandments of my “Heavenly Father”… I also was groping to adhere to the 10 commandments of my “Earthly Father’.

Until then, the only experience of stage for me was some school dramas, wherein, the roles that I had enacted were highly appreciated by my teachers. They would compliment me by saying that I had acted it out so typically of the character! So much so, that my report cards were full of compliments for my acting skills, than my academic capabilities. Will you believe…I was too young then to realize the authenticity behind the adulations…I just grasped the emotion behind the appraisal & felt blushingly flattered…shot back my most famous dimpled n enchanting smiles, much to the awe of the others…though I remained quite unaware of its impact!!!

SHIRIN FARHAAD: My strikingly distinguished looks, personality, aura n beauty had fetched me the role of “shirin”. Much to the dismay of the graduating seniors, who had vied for the role! This had taken place at the private school, wherein I was admitted, for the boards of class 9 n 10. Their fury triggered due to the lead role handed over to a “teenybopper”. This “ballet” was an, inter-collegiate presentation, but performed on professional grounds, at “Tagore Theatre”… & witnessed by the elite & the dignitaries of Chandigarh.

Shirin FarhaadShirin Farhaad

     This was the beauty of Chandigarh…besides being a well-planned town & flaunting its scenic value…the students of the town dominated. All was a serious business…be it… the demands of students, their marches n strikes, etc. etc; the elected college n university candidates were as good as political representatives.  I received a trophy for the ballet, but what really mattered was that I managed to impress Dad. He discerned my capacity n range! 

           Seema Kapoor 

       AARAAM HARAAM HAI… the first professional play of my life that came knocking on my door! Colonel Gupte… was a sought-after director of theatre, he approached me for a young girl’s role; it was a major opportunity for me to begin in his guidance, hence I accepted the role…I was 13 years old then. It was a learning n training process for me. Being a convent student n hailing from Calcutta…my “hindi” was atrocious. I used to speak like…”Noodi pictude” (Noorie picture) me jo “hedo”(hero) tha , “Fadukh”(Farukh) sheikh, woh “bare- bare”(Bade-bade) pero(pedo) ke peeche bhaag raha tha….gosh …my R n D in hindi was totally haywire (Bengali-background).

                                       AARAAM HARAAM HAI         Untitled 9

    Mr. Gupte…fortunately/unfortunately… not once had to check me, as my Dad would already be on his toes to rectify my flaws. With practice, I started learning n improving. Was introduced to rehearsals, theatre discipline, make-up, movements, marks, cues etc. etc. & I was imbibing all very naturally n inherently.

       Finally shows arrived, my performance was highly appreciated in spite of the two blunders that I made…for “daal-chaaval” (my Bengali background showed up) & I said…”Chaal-daaval”, which I still say most of the times!!! The other mistake was…I had to cry n say in hindi… “It’s better to die than to live like this”. I cried to the hilt… but said… “It’s better to live than to die like this”. Nevertheless, my performance was so honest to the scene; the audience kept cheering, encouraging n applauding me. The response was so much in my favour during n after the show that a senior actor in that play got out rightly insecure of me. She was no other than my so-called second mother, future director & mentor…Ma’am Sangeeta Mehta. One of my forth-coming posts is going to be on her.

However, she was a very sought-after theatre actor, so right after a couple of shows; she tried to force Mr. Gupte to oust me from the play. Colonel Gupte was not a man to compromise on anyone’s demands n conditions, especially when it was wrongful, as he had witnessed the super response I had received. He refused to play dirty with an innocent soul, but due to her tantrums… he took a wise decision… he replaced us BOTH!!!

Such was my beginning…no sooner I laid my foot, I had to taste the “cup of poison”, which I guess is mandatory to sip, along with the “cup of success”. A first page, to a new chapter…  of another “lesson”… unfolded itself to me.

I was shocked n sank in my dad’s arms. The depth of my trauma didn’t escape him, yet he caught me n made me stand straight, looked deep in my  swollen red-eyes n said ..“ you trust me? Then do not cry, rather gather & gear yourself from now on, as I promise you that I will avenge your plight. I will write such a wonderful play for you that no one must have witnessed or heard of such work, & you have to prepare yourself for such a forth-coming challenge, rather than brood over someone’s mis-doing. You have to learn to stand strong right in the midst of your enemies.” I stared at him amazed…such a dynamic father!!!

I never saw him taking a breather after that… my “dynamite heavenly father” & my “dynamic earthly father”… moved in unison to write my success story, to offer me the “cup of fame” & revert the “cup of poison” to my detractors. I actually witnessed God’s glory working on Dad & his awesome work…my next play…”ki Dosh Si Loona Da” ( what  was the fault of Loona)….hence…banged into existence!!!

To be continued……