5 Questions with Sapna Bhavnani and Faezeh Jalali

Sapna Bhavnani

Faezeh Jalali: If you were a book which one would you be and why?
Sapna Bhavnani: A few years ago my god daughter handed me a book and said “look Sapna, this is you.” On the cover was an illustration of an inked woman and her 2 daughters. The book was The Illustrated Mum by Jacqueline Wilson. I read that book in half an hour and cried through most of it. More than the mom, I related to the stories of the daughters. And as cliché as it sounds, being an inked woman myself, I cannot think of another book I would rather be. And maybe, just maybe, because I haven’t read any other book since Nancy Drew and Famous Five. Don’t you judge me!

What gives you great joy and what is your greatest frustration?
Yoga. In my recent years of practice, I have started journeying inwards more that outwards. It’s one of the most challenging things I have ever done. The process of being true to yourself at every moment and working towards the ability to witness joy and pain equally, with the same level of non-enthusiasm is my new high. The process of stepping out of my body and witnessing myself as a third party in the room is my new theatre.

You created the character of the old woman in the play Jatinga. What inspired you to write her and what about you is similar to the old woman?
We are all born old. We carry with us stories and burdens from previous lives. We carry guilt and shame from current lives. We carry ambitions and hopes to the future lives. And the circle continues. Age does not have a gender or an age. So yes, Sapna is similar to the old woman. But so is Faezeh, and Suzanne, and every member of the cast regardless of the burden of gender or nationality.

How many tattoos do you have? Tell the story of one of them.
Only an amateur counts the number of drinks consumed. I am an alcoholic.

Sapna means dream- what is/are yours? (I’ll make this hard by asking you to describe it as a fairytale)
I’m constantly in a lucid dream space. I have 7 imaginary friends, all called Alice and 5 mannequins also all called Alice. It’s the way I call their names that distinguishes one Alice from the other. We all live happily ever after in a one-bedroom apartment in Bandra, Bombay with 3 cats and 45 plants. Our most favourite thing to do is take a road trip to our farmhouse 3 hours outside Bomaby to visit the 3 other Alice’s that live there with 4 cats and 89 trees and a gazillion flowers. As you can see it’s an ongoing fairytale and keeps on getting more magical with each passing moment or should I say with each passing Alice.

Faezeh Jalali

Sapna Bhavnani: What keeps you ticking in the theatre world after so many years?
Faezeh Jalali: Experimentation and the desire to take risks and tell stories that are important to me. I won’t take on a play that doesn’t excite me because I won’t be able to create it truthfully. I enjoy the creative process and making theatre that pushes boundaries comfort zones, physical and intellectual limits. Theatre that is socio-political, that is relevant to our current times. I wouldn’t be happy doing living room dramas and probably would do a shoddy job of those.

How did you prepare for Manda?
I think the process is organic. I think the character is in the writing and in the work done with other actors right from the first development/audition. For me the character comes alive on the floor in the body, not from writing notes or thinking too deeply about it. The playwright gives you the most information and I take that and fly…

What is the next project seeding in that wonderful brain of yours?
Several. I’m writing a new play, I guess you could say some sort of a musical satire about religion, godmen/godwomen/religious heads. I want to do one physical piece based on Mumbai life. I have written small sections of action but would need to string those together. I want it to be a circus piece actually. And a couple of others, that other writers will write or have written.

If there is another profession you could be in, what would that be?
As a teenager I wanted to take revenge on my dentist so I did take pre-medical with theatre, in undergrad. But then I imagined myself doing that and it bored me. So it didn’t work out. There was a phase when I thought I’d be a physicist. That fizzled out. Currently I think some sort of chef.

Are you sure you’re not Kashmiri?
No, I’m sure I’m not Kashmiri or should I say yes I’m sure I’m not Kashmiri. I’m a citizen of the planet (she said cheesily).

Sapna Bhavnani and Faezeh Jalali can be seen in Jatinga by Purva Naresh.
Dates: 9 – 24 June, 2017
Venue: Kings Cross Theatre