For over four decades, Shanta Gokhale has entertained, informed and challenged us with her insightful, witty and forthright writing in both English and Marathi. With rare objectivity and consistency, Gokhale has tried to decode our unique social etiquette while subtly exposing our hypocrisies, and celebrated tradition-defying women while forcefully criticizing the patriarchal and misogynistic structures of society. Her essays on theatre not only illustrate its evolution in India, but also provide arresting portraits of theatre personalities such as Satyadev Dubey, Vijay Tendulkar and Veenapani Chawla. And her detailed yet accessible articles on Indian classical music are a delight to read.
In her short stories, she shapeshifts effortlessly from old men to teenage boys and college students. And finally, her two takes on Shakespeare show us how the Bard’s ideas continue to remain relevant and, more importantly, how little attention he paid to his women characters.
Candid, intense and often humorous, The Engaged Observer is also an invaluable record of the social, political and cultural changes that have taken place in Bombay, Mumbai and beyond.
Mumbai’s theatre scene is a dynamic and creative space that has continuously inspired young theatre practitioners from the 1960s to the present day. It is filled with lessons learned and unlearned, techniques invented and reinvented. It is a space in which experimentation constantly takes place—where, as Shanta Gokhale says in her preface, ‘the new’ consciously opposes ‘the old’ and results in the kind of theatre that forces people to reconsider their definitions of ‘good’ theatre.
The Scenes We Made gives us a compelling account of the ideas and people that drove theatre in Mumbai for over five decades. Three spaces—Bhulabhai Desai Memorial Institute, Walchand Terrace and Chhabildas School Hall—provided the necessary impetus for theatre in Mumbai to flourish. These places saw influential visionary personalities like Ebrahim Alkazi, Vijaya Mehta, Satyadev Dubey and Sulabha Deshpande mould young theatre people, from playwrights, directors and actors to lighting and set designers. Plays like Band Darwaze, Aadhe Adhure, Hayavadana and Uddhwasta Dharmashala, amongst countless others performed in these spaces, broke new ground and continue to inspire the present generation.
This book, the first to document the significant work carried out in these places, transports us back to a time of fearless experimentation in theatre. People, places and plays come alive through the memories of eminent theatre personalities. Full of fascinating information, insights and anecdotes, The Scenes We Made is a testimony to the never- say-die spirit of the theatrewalas, a spirit they share with cosmopolitan Mumbai.