Juuhi Babbar Sonii Interview
She is to the manor born. The daughter of Nadira and Raj Babbar, Juuhi has acting in her genes. It's no surprise that both she and her brother, Arya chose to follow in their parent's footsteps.With many landmark plays, films and TV shows tucked under her belt Juuhi has a lot to be proud of. BEGUM JAAN, PENCIL SE BRUSH TAK, JASMA ODHAN, are some of her notable plays. Having had the privilege of acting in her mother's plays since she was a young girl she has been groomed at an early age in the craft. Now Juuhi not only acts but also directs plays and trains raw talent in the art of acting. She has also acted in Punjabi, Hindi and Malayalam films. In between her acting assignments, Juuhi takes time out to conduct workshops for children and even adults. She is actively involved in her mother's theatre group Ekjute which has launched several actors one of them being the late Sushant Singh Rajput.

 By Jahnavi Pal

Photo courtesy : Gauhar Abbas

Juuhi is currently busy shooting for her next film but what really excites her is her passion for theatre. Her latest offering, WITH LOVE, AAP KI SAIYAARA has been recently launched and received enthusiastically by theatre lovers.

On her earliest recollection of being on stage:
I am told by my parents that I actually went on stage when I was barely a few months old. My dad was performing for a play in Delhi and for the curtain call and it was the last dance when he picked me up and put me on his shoulders and went on stage! But what I definitely remember was in 1983 my mum was doing a play called CHANDANPUR KI CHAMPABAI with Kirron Kher in the main role where she has an imaginary child and she imagines that the child is singing back to her. During these rehearsals they were trying to mime the kid from one of the chorus guys when Kirron maasi suggested to my mum that I should play the child's role. I was always present in the rehearsal halls as we would be sitting in a corner and doing our homework. That's how I did my first role by playing that imaginary child and yes, that was an amazing beginning. By the way this was the play when Kirron maasi and Anupam uncle met!

On the privileges of being born to actor parents:
Well, well, was a bit difficult as my dad was not too happy with the idea of me wanting to become an actor. I don't blame him as as parents we all want to protect our children when we know that a certain area is all about uncertainties, insecurities. We don't want to subject our kids to this. And who knows this profession more than my dad? But when he did see me perform he was convinced and felt that I should be given an opportunity. In those times when men only launched their sons my dad made a film for me!

On her most satisfying roles on stage:
For me the more you play a character, how you do it over time is for what becomes a turning point. In fact one grows with the number of shows one does. My first big role was in YEHUDI KI LADKI where I don't play the lead, but a third or fourth important role which was of a princess. I didn't bag the role because I was Nadira Babbar's daughter, but because they saw some talent in me. I was also handling the costumes for this play which had about 45 actors in it. This was my first play and it's very close to my heart. One of our plays, called JI JAISE AAPKI MARZI, premiered in 2004, and which we still run and I play the same character of Babli Tandon. This is a monologue and a role that I am extremely fond of as it's a comment on women belonging to different strata of society. Of course, BEGUM JAAN has been a huge learning curve for me. Later Anuup (Sonii) too joined my mum and me in this play and I have thoroughly enjoyed performing this one. More so it's been written by Javed Siddiqui and acting with my mum helped me grow with each passing year. I didn't understand the complexities of Zarina way back in 1999, but as I matured in 2005 I evolved as an actor and therefore this is one role that I am proud of. BOLLYWOOD KA SALAAM 1950s KE NAAM was a play I enjoyed very much as well. It's a tribute to the cinema of the fifties where we used the songs of then too. Bhanu Athaiya did the costumes and the entire production was amazing. Another play I want to mention is ITIHAS TUMHE LE GAYA KANHAIYA, which is an amalgamation of Dharamveer Bharti's two writings. For me to perform in this one was very challenging as it helped me mould myself as a performer.

On acting with her mother:
My mother is not a selfish actor where she will 'eat me up raw' on stage. I know a lot of actors do this but theatre is all about giving each other space. Because she is a very good director she makes it a point to give every character their justified space. We acted together in BEGUM JAAN and JASMA ODHAN but for me BEGUM JAAN is the ultimate as I really grew with this one. In fact when we did this a few years ago my mum told me that there is a marked difference in the way I now perform Zarina. When she pays me such a compliment it's the biggest award for me.

On training raw talent:
A lot many young debutants come to me for training but unfortunately they are from the fraternity so I don't talk about it as their parents don't wish to reveal it. And I being a star child understand the sensitivities of this and hence refrain from speaking about it. I am currently training the son of a very big star, the daughter of a very big heroine and the niece of a big star. Until they are ready to talk I cannot mention names. I actually started this when I had my son Imaan. It was a conscious decision not to do any work when he was little. After he was born I had done no work. In fact the only play I did was KISKE ROKE RUKA HAI SAVERA and that too because it was already running. I had chosen not to do any new work as I wanted to be home with him. I was only involved in curating the Kala Ghoda Festival which was a work from home job and that's the time this training for debutants happened.

On being on stage with her mum, dad, brother and husband:
Mum and I have shared the stage and Anuup, me and mum too have done so. I don't know when all of us will do a play together but I really want my dad to do a play. Unfortunately though my father loves theatre he has done no theatre after coming back to Mumbai because of various reasons. He had his sisters to get married off and needed the money so he had to compromise on his aspirations. But now I am happy he is doing a show for Hotstar called Bekarar Dil and he is thrilled that he is acting with young people and the show also has Padmini Kolhapure and Poonam Dhillon in it. OTT is opening up for so many people. Prateik and Arya are both doing shows on OTT and I am so thankful to God that during the lockdown I too did some good work. I too just finished a web series for Endemol and also did a short film which I shot for in Goa. God has been kind.

On her latest offering, WITH LOVE ,AAP KI SAIYAARA:
This is part of another play called KISKE ROKE RUKA HAI SAVERA where Saiyaara was a 42-minute performance in that play which too was a monologue. This was a huge jump for me as initially I did a monologue for about 20 minutes which now doubled to 42! The play didn't do well but the character stayed with me. I had done only about four or five shows but people remember me for it. In the recent lockdown Ravi Mishra asked me to do a monologue online for Mumbai Theatre Guide and we decided to do the Saiyaara one. I did a lot of re-writing for this and till date it's the most well watched performance on MTG.

Then once again Ravi Mishra asked me to recreate this and transform it into a full length play. I did it and I am so happy that audiences are loving it.

*Jahnavi Pal is a journalist, writer and theatre buff

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