The first time I heard about IPTA was from my father, Madhavji Mavji Somaaya. Father was madly attracted to theatre and was an active patron of Gujarati rangbhoomi.
In the late 70s when I became a film journalist, he often asked me why I only interviewed cinema artists and never theatre personalities. In the 80s when I became friends with Shabana Azmi, father’s first question was, “Is she as actively involved with IPTA as her parents?”
As I spent more time in the Azmi household, I found my answers. Through recurrent plays and seminars I attended with the family, I discovered that IPTA is like a fountainhead which enriched its members unconsciously. There is a fatal attraction about the group that once you are a part of it you cannot live away from it.
For the young members growing up in a stimulating atmosphere of poetry and songs, IPTA has assured a smooth transition where in they have transformed from passive recipients to active participants. It is said that in the olden days when Pt. Nehru was busy fighting for the independence of
, he asked little Indira to initiate a vanar sena and assist senior party members. The exercise proved a great training ground for the young leader. Senior members at IPTA follow a similar philosophy. They inspire young members to come forward and charge and the juniors have almost never let them down. India
Be it- the premiere of a play, a garden party to celebrate a successful event, or a regular festival the juniors were in time to come seen forming a choir, participating in plays and organizing festivals. They cheerfully assumed responsibilities and the seniors supported them wholeheartedly, taking them into the fold of the creative wave.
Every year IPTA hosts an Inter Collegiate Drama Competition (ICDC) put together by the junior members. In the monsoon of 2008 I had the privilege of participating in the competition as jury and spent an entire day at Tejpal Auditorium. It was my first exposure to such a festival and proud to watch Shaily Sathu lead her vanar sena with affection and focus. From 11a.m to 11p.m the team went about their chores which included receiving guests from the entrance to monitoring the Green Room.
When it was time for grand finale and prize distribution, the ambience was eclectic! The auditorium reverberated with loud cheering and clapping. Some played the drums and others blew trumpets very similar to a World Cup celebration. It’s the kind of excitement only young people can trigger. Nobody cared who won or lost and the losers were as much a part of the revelry as were the winners.
At midnight when the show ended and the senior members got together to relish a drink, the juniors were still packing backstage; tired yet high in their own spirits.
Over the decades I have watched these young members grow from adolescents and adults to parents, I have interacted with them on different occasions and different moods and marveled at how they have balanced their studies, careers, home, children yet always made time for IPTA...
I guess they were able to do it because for most of them IPTA is more than a movement; it is a way of life… Just as ICDC is more than a festival; it is a celebration of that way of life.