play that proved to be a turning point for you?
Lok Katha in 1978, directed by Ratnakar Matkari. For seven-eight days, I was under the influence of that play. It was based on a real rape case. The narrative was about landlords using women from “outcast sections” of the society. It was such a powerful play. I tried my hand at college and street plays and realised I was comfortable with the idiom. I also realised that if I have to make theatre my profession, I must learn it. My training had to be sound. I went to Dr Balasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University for a year and after that, I was selected for a three-year course at NSD. Then I got a fellowship to research on the ritualistic and folk theatre of Kerala for two years. I had decided that I would not stay in Delhi, I would go to my native state.
You became famous for Zulva, and your theatre has always focussed on people on the fringes.
My concern is the man, the person, the life that is not even considered and respected as the life of a human being. I am pulled towards them. Zulva was based on a girl from a community called the Zoktins. She wants to be a teacher. These girls were offered to the goddess Yellama. Their work is to serve men, whoever comes to their door, they cannot refuse. Woh dulhan hai bhagwan ki, lekin dasi hai saari duniya ki (She’s wife to the gods, but servant to men). The story was how this girl struggles but her own community, even the whole society is against her. This was based on a real story. The girl is still there. She couldn’t become a teacher but she became an ayah at a hospital, assisting nurses. PL Deshpande (noted Marathi writer, actor and composer) told me the play disturbed him. It used to disturb everyone.
You don’t believe in theatre as entertainment?
I have not done a single play that is “entertainment”. I prefer that the audience questions and probes. Serious theatre does have an entertainment value, but only in a larger context.
Zulva, in a way, paved the path for Janeman, your play on the eunuch community, considered a milestone in contemporary Indian theatre.
There was a character in Zulva, the guru of all these girls. He is also offered to the gods, he has to wear a sari throughout