How does it feel to come back as director to the place where you were a student in the early 1980s?
It’s a pleasure but I am also nostalgic. The institute has expanded. In my time, it was a training programme. There was only one course for 60-65 students and one repertory. BV Karanthji was director when I entered NSD, and in my third year, it was BN Shah. I am nostalgic about every inch of space here because saara sanskar hua hai yahan (my cultural awakening took place here). I could work outside, do theatre in three languages, Hindi, English and Marathi, run training programmes — my vision was born here.
Take us back to your first day at NSD.
I was a very shy boy from a poor family. My father was a farmer, with a small piece of land in a very remote area of Maharashtra. Even now, there is no approach road to my village, Daradwadi in Beed district, and in the rainy season, my village is inaccessible. I had only a pair of trousers and one pyjama. Dilli pehli baar dekha (I saw Delhi for the first time). My interview had taken place in Baroda, I had been selected from there. When I came to NSD, I looked around and my first thought was, “Such a beautiful place to learn something”.
A shy boy from a poor family, why did you want to do theatre? It is not a very paying profession even today...
I have taken part in progressive movements since my early days. We fought for rural and student issues. Since childhood, I had a leadership streak. In college, especially, I got involved with many progressive movements. We would meet the tehsildar, collector, nagaradhyaksha (mayor) to sort out problems; akaal para hua tha (there was a famine), there was no food and all the students were going back to their homes. They did not have jobs, their parents were poor. We would collect money and run a mess for them. Tackling these problems of farmers and rickshawalas sort of prepared me. It gave me an insight into the