India Today - - COVER STORY - By Kookie De­sai

“When we talk of theatre, girls have al­ways been stereo­typed as be­ing just ac­tors. They can’t be any­thing be­yond that,” says di­rec­tor, ac­tor and play­wright Aditi De­sai. But she has bro­ken new grounds and has re­ceived rave re­views for two of her re­cent plays Kas­turba and Aku­paar. Un­like other women from the state, De­sai found a men­tor in her fa­ther Jash­want Thaker, who is an em­i­nent theatre per­son­al­ity. “There is not much scope for for­mal train­ing for girls in the fields of di­rec­tion, light and sound, set and cos­tume de­sign­ing, mu­sic and script writ­ing. Till 1982, I only re­ceived roles as an ac­tor,” she says, adding, “But then, for­mer founder mem­ber of Ahmed­abad Women’s Ac­tion Group, Ila Pathak, gave me an as­sign­ment. She gave me a huge file on women’s is­sues and vi­o­lence against them, and said that af­ter I read and un­der­stand it, she will de­cide whether I can di­rect a play based on it or not.” De­sai couldn’t sleep for two nights af­ter read­ing the file since she had al­ways lived a se­cured life and had never imag­ined the atroc­i­ties women were fac­ing. She, along with Pathak, gath­ered col­lege stu­dents as ac­tors and di­rected her first play. How­ever, her most pro­found learn­ing came from di­rect­ing Kas­turba and Aku­paar. “These two plays taught me all about the tech­ni­cal as­pects of run­ning a play. It has been tough but an en­dear­ing jour­ney so far. I wish girls who get into theatre don’t just cast them­selves as ac­tors. They must grow,” she con­cludes.

Pho­to­graph by SHAILESH RAWAL

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