Ramesh Talwar Interview
Ramesh Talwar has directed popular theatre productions such as KAIFI AUR MAIN with Javed Akhtar and Shabana Azmi. After the pandemic, he is directing three plays written by Sagar Sarhadi. He has also produced and directed movies apart from being active in theatre for half a century, associated with the group IPTA.

 By Tarun Agarwal

How much vacuum has the demise of Sagar Sarhadi left in your life, considering that he was at the fulcrum of community leadership, and he is also your uncle?

I have not left Sagar Sarhadi. I am immersed in him. After the pandemic, I am directing plays written by him, publishing books authored by him and organising his work. The three plays that I decided to do are all based on his writings. The response has been great. BHOOKE BHAJAN NA HOYE GOPALA, which he wrote so many decades ago, is relevant in 2022.

You have been a film producer and a theatre director. How did this prolific career start?

I worked as a child artiste and acted in some good films. Later, I got a chance to do big roles in theatre. In fact, the play that I am performing today - BHOOKE BHAJAN NA HOYE GOPALA, I performed in it fifty years ago also! Later, Yash Chopra took me on as an assistant director when I wanted to join the film industry.

The first film I did was Ittefaq. It taught me the tricks of the film business. Though Yash Chopra had already finalized his team of assistants, he agreed to take me as well. I continued to work with Yash Chopra. I also directed films which were produced by him. This is how films became commercially rewarding for me. I continued to be active in theatre all through. Movie stars would readily agree to be part of my plays.

Is it possible to make money in the theatre? Have you made money in theatre?

The theatre that we do in India is not rewarding financially. We barely pay anyone anything more than a token of appreciation in such theatre productions. But the theatre I do abroad is creatively and commercially rewarding. With stars like Javed Akhtar, Shabana Azmi, Jaya Bachchan, Shatrughan Sinha, Zeenat Aman, Pooja Bhatt, I have done plays in America before the pandemic. They are popular and tickets sell very easily. It is a win-win situation for the theatre producers, stars and the audience. I can say that theatre has been financially rewarding too because of these tours. However, plays done in India have other rewards. It helps to polish one's craft. It lets you follow your profession at all times.

Coming back to Sagar Sarhadi, how can his works be explored more deeply, apart from his famous films. He has left behind a body of very popular plays, films, books, screenplays and other writings. As someone who was always close to him, please tell us something about him.

Sagar Sarhadi and Gulzar studied together. They even wrote a film together in their early days. The film did not see the light of the day. Gulzar also suggested the title of the book which is being released soon - Sagar Yaara. The book is a collection of stories written by him. Sagar Sarhadi has written a volume of plays which have been performed for decades. He made meaningful and commercially successful films by raising finance the difficult way. He was closely associated with Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA) throughout his life. A library is being created in GN Khalsa College in Matunga based on his works and collections, which will serve as a place to know more about him. He has also left behind 4-5 movie scripts which will be made by those who are familiar with his work.

Why is there a preference for people that one already knows in theatre?

It is a practical and reliable way of conducting theatre plays. When we select someone to work for us, we already know their talent as well as their commitment. It has so happened that we have taken people without knowing them well and they have left the production midway.

*(Tarun Agarwal is the author of Hope Factory: Business Ideas For Everyone, and has directed a short film, Honesty Weds Dishonesty)

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