Sanjay Goradia Interview with Jahnavi Pal
As a producer he is just two short of a hundred plays. As an actor he has about 28 plays to his credit. For a man who started his career as a backstage worker this is indeed a great innings. Few are aware that he has even directed a few plays. Profiling a man of his talent is not easy. Having traversed all aspects on stage Sanjay Goradia is a big name in both Hindi and Gujarati theatre.

 By Jahnavi Pal

It is believed that he is the man with the magic touch as he has several successful plays to his credit. BAA RETIRE THAY CHE,(Gujarati), MAA RETIRE HOTI HAI (Hindi), DR MUKTA, JALSA KARO JAYANTILAL, AME LAYI GAYA TAME RAHI GAYA, DERANI JETHANI, CHUPKAY CHUPKAY as producer and as an actor in CHHEL ANE CHHABO, BHAI, EKKO RAJA RANI, CHITKAR, CHOR CHOR PAKDO PAKDO, MR ADHIKARI, AA NAMO BAHU NADE CHE amongst several others catapulted him to the big league.

In a candid chat Goradia shares his life on stage, the secret behind his success and lots more."Way back in 1979 I started my career as a backstage worker for the play PAGLA GHODA directed by Latesh Shah that was performed in Elphinstone College. I wanted to become an actor but having no money I started to work backstage. Moreover I had no contacts in the film industry that would help me get a role so theatre was my best option. I had also realized that others who were better looking than me were yet struggling to get a foothold in the film industry. So I dropped the idea of becoming an actor."

Until then Goradia worked in a medical store but was soon bored with the mundane task."The atmosphere on stage was exciting and neither did people have the typical master and servant attitude that I had been exposed to in the medical store. I slowly worked my way up and became a production manager and then a producer."

Talking of how he went on to become an actor he says,"Over the years I had stopped thinking of being an actor. But destiny had other plans. I was producing my first play CHHEL AND CHHABO for director Latesh Shah and we were looking for actors. We thought of taking our favourite Dilip Joshi for the role of Chhabo but he was busy with other projects. So Latesh asked me to do the role. I refused as I wanted to concentrate on my first play as producer. But he insisted and I I ultimately agreed. The play was successful. Then came the iconic CHITKAR where I once again got to play a role without asking for it. We did over 210 shows and after this a lot of acting offers came to me. And I went with the flow. Parallelly when I got a financer I continued to produce plays. I have done many small roles in many plays and films as well. But now I was getting old and wanted to get married. That was the time Shafi Inamdar asked me to become his secretary. I agreed as it gave me work as well as money. Shafi saw a spark in me and offered that we do Gujarati plays together. It was during that time that once when I was at Bhakti Barve's house Ashok Patole had come to narrate the script of AAI RETIRE HOTEY to her. Shafi and myself bought the rights for all the adaptations except Marathi. We did MAA RETIRE HOTI HAI with Jaya Bachchan and this play became the turning point in my life. During this play I bought my house, got married and even had my son."

Goradia says he directs only those plays in which he acts. He has by now got the pulse of his audience and knows what works best for him as an actor." I know what the audience wants from me. I know that when I make an entry on stage my audience claps for me. But let me tell you that my good sense of comedy comes from boredom. After the initial 25 shows boredom begins to set in and I therefore start to improvise. Though I am only a matriculate I am a good reader and most of my inputs are because of my love for reading. About 19 of my plays are on OTT platforms and 75% of the humour therein has been improvised."

Goradia is known for his good comic timing and the reason, he says, is that when you constantly do plays you understand what kind of humour works with what kind of audience."I have often thought that how an uneducated person like me can go so far? Its because of my intellect. I remember that when I was going through a lull in my career I did a play called FATEH CHAND NU FULEKU. The play flopped but it stayed with me as I felt it had great potential. This was the time I launched Sanjay Goradia Productions with KARO KANKU NA. It was FATEH CHAND NU FULEKU with a lot many creative changes and the play did quite well. Then followed Jama UDHAR, EKKO RAJA RANI, DERANI JETHANI with Disha Vakani and we did 218 shows. But Dilip Joshi who did hit plays like JALSA KARO JAYANTILAL, CHANU NE CHAPNU KAI THAY NAHI with me now got busy with serials and we had to look for other actors. And that's how we did AME LAI GAYA TAME RAHI GAYA with Sharman Joshi. Though it was offered to Dilip first he refused and Sharman was in."

"As for me I started my career as a serious actor at the age of 45 in CHHAGAN MAGAN TARA CHHAPRE LAGAN. By now I was a successful producer so it was easy to cast myself in my plays. No other producer would have ever signed me. But I took this on as a responsibility not a privilege. The play was a super hit and we did over 200 shows."

Goradia was one of the early producers to start shooting his plays so that they could be released in DVD format. JALSA KARO JAYANTILAL was shot with three cameras and subsequently he shot all his plays and sold the rights." The idea was to do it for posterity. I wanted my grandchildren to know what I did for a living. YouTube came much later. This helped expand my base as well."

Goradia has done plays with some of Bollywood's biggest names like Shatrughan Sinha, Jaya Bachchan, Zeenat Aman, Sharman Joshi, Jaaved Jafferi."I have given breaks to many actors. But I never take credit for this. They made my fortune as well as theirs! My success is due to my emotional intelligence and this started with the medical shop I worked in. Every four hours a man gets hungry and needs to eat. I often thought deeply on this. I noticed that very few producers looked after their actors during rehearsals and would not spend on providing this basic necessity. I believe that a good producer is not one who saves money but who spends appropriately. I have imbibed this from my early days and ensure that I keep all my actors happy. Everyone should grow with me. And this is the reason I have never had an issue getting actors for my plays. Sadly Gujarati theatre is stagnating, because the language is dying."

*Jahnavi Pal is a journalist, writer and theatre buff

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