Living Legend with Ms. Sai Paranjpye
Renowned film and theatre director and screenwriter Ms. Sai Paranjpye graced the ‘Living Legend’ series held at Bahumukh, NSD campus today in conversation with Ms. Kusum Haidar, a well-known theatre director and actress. An alumnus of National School of Drama, Padma Bhushan Ms. Paranjpye has directed Marathi plays such as Jaswandi, Sakkhe Shejari, and Albel. She served as the Chairperson of Children’s Film Society of India (CFSI) twice.
Over the years, Ms. Paranjpye has written and directed plays in Marathi, Hindi, and English for adults and children. She has written and directed six feature films, two children’s films, and five documentaries. She has written many books for children, and six of them have won national or state level awards.
Ms. Sai Paranjpye’s first children’s book was published when she was just 8 years old. Reminiscing about that experience, Ms. Paranjpye says, “My mother used to read stories to me before I went to sleep and one fine day she asked me to read a story to her as she was too tired and wanted to sleep. I read a story to her which I had made and she was pleasantly surprised. She couldn’t believe that I had made a story on my own and since that day she instructed me to pen down two stories each day. I hated it at first but within few days I had an extensive collection of stories and that is how my first book got published.” “I believe there are many children that possess some talent since childhood but they don’t have a doting mother like me”, adds Ms. Paranjpye jokingly.
Ms. Paranjpye worked for many years as a director or a producer with Doordarshan Television in New Delhi. Ms. Paranjpye’s first feature film ‘Sparsh’ won five awards, including the National Film Award. Sparsh was followed by the comedies Chashme Buddoor and Katha. Talking about her inspiration for Sparsh, Ms. Paranjpye says, “I have deep empathy for blinds and so much so that I can’t even bear to look at them as it is too painful. Quite ironically, I was forced to go to a blind school as part of my job with Doordarshan and as soon as I entered the school, I realised that the blinds do not actually pity themselves or consider themselves to be handicapped. They in fact live a very normal life. It was my time at that blind school that inspired me to make Sparsh.”
On being at the National School of Drama for the Living Legend series, Ms. Paranjpye says, “It feels really good to be back at NSD after so many years. It is where I learnt the nuances of acting, directing and scriptwriting during my early years, under the tutelage of then director Mr. Ebrahim Alkazi. I was never very much interested in acting as my interest lied in scriptwriting and direction but he pushed me beyond my limits and moulded me into a refined personality. I thank him for everything he taught me.”
Ms. Sai Paranjpye is a multimedia personality and made her own way, creating entertainment that obliterated previous material and created an indelible line between mainstream and parallel cinema. She has directed several documentary movies, including Helping Hand (London), Talking Books, Capt. Laxmi, Warna Orchestra, and Pankaj Mullick. Ms. Paranjpye’s 1993 documentary Choodiyan, on the anti-liquor agitation in a small Maharashtra village for the Films Division, received the National Film Award for Best Film on Social Issues.