Actor, director, and writer Juhi Babbar wears several hats. Born to veteran theatre director Nadira Babbar and actor Raj Babbar, she has made her mark in Indian theatre with a small stint in films as well. The actor recently held 50th show of her popular play 'With Love, Aapki Saiyaara'. Written, directed and performed by Juhi, the play revolves around a character created by her mother Saiyaara who is a passionate and fearless modern Indian woman. Her sweet and spicy take on men, marketing, and mores is conveyed in a conversational approach between the character on stage and the audience.
“This is a very special play, as we premiered it during the pandemic. Despite all the hurdles during the pandemic, the play has received so much love, that in 15-16 months, we were able to make it to 50 shows,” says Juhi and adds that rehearsal process is much comfortable since it's a solo performance.
Juhi in With Love, Aapki Saiyaara |
Still from the play |
It has been little less than a decade that Juhi hasn't done a new play, which she says, demands a lot of resources and rehearsals. She says her priority is her home and the son. Meanwhile, she has been regularly acting in plays like Begum Jan, Jee Jaisi Aap ki Marzi, and Salaam 1950. “A new play means a lot of rehearsal and a lot of time out of the house. And I was choosing not to do that because I was busy with my son and I did not want to give too much time to any other things. So, when the pandemic came, I had a lot of time on my hands. That's when I developed this play,” she adds.
Being born in a family where both her parents are theatre stalwarts, Juhi shares most of her theatre training took place at home. “People always asked me why didn't you go to the National School of Drama? Or why didn't you train? I said I didn't go because I had both of them at home. Starting from my dialect, acting, and stage presence- all the things required for performing a play on stage come from my parents,” she say.
"I think some people in your life are more like role models and I think you have learned from their lives and they are your best examples of life. I'm not apologetic at all about how hardworking I am.My energy, enthusiasm, dedication, and whatever I think is good in me is coming from my parents," insists the actor.
Though, Juhi has done better in theatre, her cinema stints haven't been much fruitful. She made her debut in 'Kash Aap Hamare Hote' with singer Sonu Nigam. The film tanked at the box office and so her her other films like 'Yaaran Naal Baharaan', 'Unns', and It's My Life, and Reflections. Her last film was in 2022 'Faraaz'. The actor detached herself from the silver screen for a long time. “I detached from cinema because I was not getting good work. I was getting terrible roles. And I'm so thankful to God that even when I was much younger, I had the sensibilities that I do not want to associate myself with something that doesn't match my kind of art. I didn't want to work in a typical melodrama, hence I shifted my focus to the theatre,” she says.
Juhi will next be seen in a web series and a movie this year. “OTT has worked in favour of theatre because people started valuing theatre more. Earlier there used to be a very distinct line between movies, TV, and theatre and now, slowly that line is diminishing. I really give credit to the actors and the makers. Because you will see a certain actor on the big screen and then when you come back home you can see the same actor in a web series or on TV,” she says.
How do you see the digital evolution of theatre? We ask. “I do not like the digital evolution of theatre. I think the whole aspect of theatre being live should not be taken away. At times I feel that we need to record our plays to preserve them as an archive, that we can showcase to people after 10-15 years. It should be treated like an archive and not another medium,” she says adding that theatre once had respect in society which later became merely a stepping stone and as the poor cousin of cinema. “But lately I can feel the change. I can see positive things happen, as I see people coming back to watch theatre, appreciate good performances,” says the actor in conclusion.
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