“There is a big difference between those who dream and those who make their dreams come true”.
From being just an actor to becoming a producer in your own production house is a long, steep climb. Bottoms Up was the peak of that journey which we talked about last time. Where that journey began and how it moved forward is what I shall talk about today.
In 1954 I joined Adi Marzban’s theatre group as an actor. During my 12 years with Adi, I observed the nitty gritties of staging a play — from the script to casting to direction to rehearsals to technicalities of sets, lights, music, costumes, everything that is the responsibility of the producer. Adi’s producer was a young enthusiast, Pesi Khandalawala and they called their production house Co-operative Players.
I left Adi in 1966 and after a two-year sabbatical from theatre due to my new job, I joined the Indian National Theatre(INT) to launch a Parsi Theatre wing adding to their already existing theatre activities. I took on the mantle of both the actor and the executive producer. Scanning Mumbai’s British and US libraries I came across an English comedy called Boeing Boeing. It was originally a French play translated into English. The story was about a young playboy who thought he could easily cope with his three air-hostess fiancées. It was all a question of time-tables and a reliable, down-to-earth domestic help who never forgot to change the photographs in the bedroom. I felt that this one, adapted to Parsi lifestyle would work at the box-office. The next task was to find a writer. I was introduced to Dorab Mehta who used to stage his own plays during the Parsi festivals. I gave him the script to adapt to Parsi Gujarati.
Then, we had to find actors. Three of Adi’s popular actors joined us. The play was directed by INT’s ace director Pravin Joshi. The technical aspects of sets etc were looked after by INT’s highly skilled technical team and the play was a huge success at the box office. INT management was happy and I felt I had passed the test in my dual role of actor and producer. More plays followed and INT Parsi wing became a household word amongst Gujarati-speaking audiences.
The year 1978. After 10 successful years with INT I decided to launch my own production company — Burjor Patel Production. This was a true test since now I was not only a producer but I had to put in my own funds to stage the plays. Unlike today, there were no corporate sponsors in those days. With only my salary to back me and with a household to run with three growing children I wonder today how I could have made this choice. But I was young and my passion and love for theatre scored over reasoning.
Slowly, I built up my own team of set designers, technicians, backstage crew, rehearsal spaces, storage facilities etc. Along with Gujarati plays I moved into English theatre. The family pitched in. My wife and elder daughter were actresses, while my son, my younger daughter and my daughter-in-law took on production responsibilities.
I was successful in launching new writers, directors, technicians. My greatest satisfaction was my wife Ruby getting recognition as one of the finest actresses ever to hit both the Gujarati and English stages. We performed our shows not only all over India but abroad. And Burjor Patel Productions was all set to make history.
The author is a well-known stage personality