The family that acts together, stays together–this must hold true for this bunch of artistic geniuses that we’re talking about today. There are creative differences galore, yet they have peacefully co-existed and scaled great heights in the world of theatre. We bring to you the five most important theatre families in Mumbai, who have been entertaining the audiences since the ’60s.
They are inarguably the theatre counterpart of the Kapoors in cinema. They have been practising theatre since the ’60s. Alyque Padamsee, the big daddy of Indian advertising and one of the pioneering figures of Mumbai’s theatre scene, started work on his first play The Taming Of The Shrew in the 60s, and never looked back since. He collaborated with his wife Pearl Padamsee on multiple productions before her demise. Their daughter Raell Padamsee is actively involved in children’s theatre. Padamsee remarried Dolly Thakore, who is best known for being the casting director on the Oscar-winning Gandhi. Thakore and Padamsee were torchbearers of English theatre in India throughout the 80s and the 90s. Thakore’s famed adaptation of The Vagina Monologues is over 700 shows old and still opening to full houses. Their son Quasar Thakore Padamsee is synonymous with youth theatre in the city. His company QTP and his powerful effort Thespo is the much coveted platform for youth theatre. “Dad and I have a different approach to theatre, but we respect each other’s work. We watch our individual works and express what we feel. There’s no bitterness due to differences in opinions. It’s all harmonious,” says Quasar about the different schools of thought.
This is one family made in theatre. The couple – Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak Shah met on stage, and the association has blossomed well in personal life as well as in theatre. They formed their group Motley in 1979, and their first play – an adaptation of Samuel’s Beckett’s Waiting For Godot, was staged at the then-newly renovated Prithvi Theatre. The Shahs are now joined by their kids – Heeba Shah, Vivaan Shah and Imaad Shah, in their almost 40-year-long journey in theatre. Their repertoire includes numerous adaptations of popular texts, including those by Samuel Beckett, Anton Chekhov, Ismat Chughtai and GB Shaw. “We are together at home and on stage. Of course, we have our share of fights and arguments and a lot of creative differences, but we never take any of them back home,” says Ratna Pathak Shah.
This family is known for churning out quality work in English theatre for decades. Lillete Dubey’s company Primetime Theatre is a pioneer figure in original English writing. Her production, Dance Like A Man, is over 500 shows old and still going strong. Equally popular is her daughter Ira Dubey’s solo act performance in 9 Parts of Desire. Lillete’s sister Lushin Dubey, too, is actively involved in solo acts.
The theatre scene in Mumbai is incomplete without their mention, considering they are a theatrical institution in themselves. Prithviraj Kapoor, the grandfather of theatre in Mumbai, started the Prithvi Theatre in then Bombay. It was the only hub of theatre back then. However, after his demise, his son, Shashi Kapoor and wife Jennifer Kendal took it upon themselves to reestablish the venue. The intimate 200-seater Prithvi Theatre is an iconic landmark for every theatre lover across the country. Shashi Kapoor’s daughter Sanjna Kapoor helmed the reins until a few years back when she started her independent theatre company, Junoon. Prithvi is now in the safe hands of her brother, Kunal Kapoor. The mecca is still shining strong, and the family owning grows thicker and bigger.
Shernaz Patel is one of the co-founders of Rage. The theatre group turned 25 this year. It’s safe to say that theatre runs in her genes, albeit a different school of theatre. Her parents, Burjor Patel and Ruby Patel were the pioneering stalwarts of Parsi-Gujarati theatre in the city. In the ’60s, the couple was producing farcical, rib-splitting comedies – the flavour of the decade – consistently. However, Shernaz’s sensibilities belong to a different genre. Rage is one of the popular groups producing quality English theatre for over two decades, and she is perhaps the most affable and congenial theatre actor you will come across in the recent times.