Prithviraj Kapoor

Prithviraj Kapoor performed plays in Hindustani across the country with his repertory company - Prithvi Theatres for 16 years, still that at the height of his career as an actor in cinema.

When he was forced to close down his due to his ill health, he continued to give enthusiastic support to any theatrical ventures by ex-members of his company.

After his death, a Trust was formed by his son, Shashi Kapoor, to continue his work, with the object of encouraging interest in the theatre. This Trust constructed a small theatre in Juhu - Prithvi Theatre - on the original site Prithviraj Kapoor built a theatre that was to be his company's "Home".

History6history

Prithviraj Kapoor began Prithvi Theatres in 1944, while he was at the height of his film career. While his first play was 'Shakuntala', his subsequent plays were all topical, addressing concerns of the times, and were written especially for his company.

The company visited 112 towns all over notching up an astonishing 2,662 shows in 5,982 days. Prithviraj Kapoor played the lead in every single show, which meant an average of a show every third day. The company travelled third class and this included Prithviraj himself, even during the years when he was entitled to air or first class travel as a nominated Member of Parliament. Performance venues were mostly cinema halls, though some theatre halls did exist, as they were cheaper to rent. Electric fans were not allowed; instead each audience member was given a hand fan.

The acting style was very different from the high-emotion exaggerated melodrama of the commercial theatre. Though often declamatory, the dialogue delivery and overall production design aimed at being as realistic as possible. Prithviraj Kapoor strove for authenticity and realness. His idea of acting was based on minute observation and concerted training.

"A fresh new tradition of acting stemming from personal understanding and experiences is developing there. When one listens to the actors one feels that the lines are being thought of and spoken there and then, not that they are a part of a pre-written script. That is why everything seems alive."
- Shombhu Mitra, 'Prithviraj o Natyamanch'

  • Deewar (1946) used the metaphor of a joint family to celebrate the idea of undivided . The play was a warning to a nation under the looming threat of partition.
  • Pathan (1947) clarified the common misconception of Pathans as either darwans (gatekeepers) or soodkhors (loan sharks), and simultaneously, underlines Hindu-Muslim harmony
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  • Ghaddar (1948) underlined the bitter irony faced by Indian Muslims in the post-partition era, who were called Pakistanis in and traitors in.
  • Ahooti (1949), set in refugee camps, set out to address the enormity of the human tragedy that the Partition spawned.
  • Kalakar (1951) pitted the fast developing urban against idyllic rural life in a subtle plea against destructive development.
  • Paisa (1953) responded to the rampant commercialisation of the times.
  • Kisaan (1956) focused on the feudal hierarchy still prevalent in Indian villages even after independence.

Prithvi Theatres ran for 16 years, till 1960, when the company was forced to close down, due to Prithviraj Kapoor's ill health.