Deshpande (noted Marathi writer, actor and composer) told me the play disturbed him. It used to disturb everyone.
You don’t believe in theatre as entertainment?
I have not done a single play that is “entertainment”. I prefer that the audience questions and probes. Serious theatre does have an entertainment value, but only in a larger context.
Zulva, in a way, paved the path for Janeman, your play on the eunuch community, considered a milestone in contemporary Indian theatre.
There was a character in Zulva, the guru of all these girls. He is also offered to the gods, he has to wear a sari throughout his life, have long hair, and cultivate feminine behaviour. Those like him are protectors of the tradition, but they exploit the girls and they are also exploited by society on many levels, including physically. So, several people started calling this character a hijra (eunuch) and I would say that he is not a hijra. Then, I’d be asked, ‘Who is a hijra?’ I had to find the answer for myself, I had to be clear about the eunuch community and that took 15 years of my life —reading about them, meeting them, fieldwork. It was written over and over again at least 10 times. Finally, it became a play that would not only educate the audience, but offer serious entertainment.
Did you believe a play on eunuchs would manage to draw such a huge audience?
I deliberately titled it Janeman, so that people would come to see a ‘play’. After that, it would be the job of the content and the performers to hold the audience. Fortunately, that happened.
Since when have you been into music, because it is almost always a character in your plays?
Many of my plays do not have music, but the popular ones do. I belong to a farming community and was surrounded by folk music since my childhood. All our folk culture is agriculture-related and connected with the agricultural cycles. Folk artistes depend on farmers for their livelihood. Early in the morning, they would come to farmers’ houses for dakshina or alms. My father was also a folk