How does it feel to come back as director to the place where you were a student in the early 1980s?
It’s a pleasure but I am also nostalgic. The institute has expanded. In my time, it was a training programme. There was only one course for 60-65 students and one repertory. BV Karanthji was director when I entered NSD, and in my third year, it was BN Shah. I am nostalgic about every inch of space here because saara sanskar hua hai yahan (my cultural awakening took place here). I could work outside, do theatre in three languages, Hindi, English and Marathi, run training programmes — my vision was born here.
Take us back to your first day at NSD.
I was a very shy boy from a poor family. My father was a farmer, with a small piece of land in a very remote area of Maharashtra. Even now, there is no approach road to my village, Daradwadi in Beed district, and in the rainy season, my village is inaccessible. I had only a pair of trousers and one pyjama. Dilli pehli baar dekha (I saw Delhi for the first time). My interview had taken place in Baroda, I had been selected from there. When I came to NSD, I looked around and my first thought was, “Such a beautiful place to learn something”.
A shy boy from a poor family, why did you want to do theatre? It is not a very paying profession even today...
I have taken part in progressive movements since my early days. We fought for rural and student issues. Since childhood, I had a leadership streak. In college, especially, I got involved with many progressive movements. We would meet the tehsildar, collector, nagaradhyaksha (mayor) to sort out problems; akaal para hua tha (there was a famine), there was no food and all the students were going back to their homes. They did not have jobs, their parents were poor. We would collect money and run a mess for them. Tackling these problems of farmers and rickshawalas sort of prepared me. It gave me an insight into the lives of people who are deprived and haven’t got their dues. All through this time, I wanted to have my own medium of expression. I had seen some plays and I realised that this could be my medium. If you create one play, it is equivalent to a thousand speeches.