As a student at the University of Rajasthan, Jaipur, I was actively involved in student politics and greatly influenced by the world views of writer Jean-Paul Sartre. But later I got disillusioned with politics
because I felt that it couldn’t make a significant change in the world. I was so enmeshed in student politics in Jaipur that the only way I could move away was to leave the city. In 1970, I decided to try my hand at dramatics and joined the National School of Drama (NSD), Delhi. It was here that I learned the nuances of direction. The seed for the over 70 plays that I have directed like Aks Tamasha, Chandrama Singh urf Chamku Das, Yamgatha, Tughlaq and Andha Yug was sown at the NSD.
My mother was a voracious reader and loved writers like Premchand, Amrita Pritam and Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay. She strongly influenced my reading habits, which led to my interest in writing.
As a child, I wrote a children’s column and later began writing radio programmes. This laid a foundation for my chosen profession.
My mother also introduced me to poetry. The poem, Sainani, based on Hadi Rani, who is believed to have had her head cut off and sent to her husband who was leaving for battle, was her favourite. When I was 12 or 13 years old, I met the poet, Meghraj Mukul, at a poetry recitation programme. Excited, I asked for his autograph. When I came back home and showed it to my mother, she told me something that has stayed with me ever since. She said that I should do something in my life that would have people ask me for my autograph rather than the other way round. This made me determined to make a mark in the world. That was the last time that I asked for anyone’s autograph.
(As told to Saimi Sattar)