50 years young and raring to go!

Unbridled Fervour

It is not unusual for theatre buffs and stalwarts to call Delhi the ‘theatre-city’.

 It has been discussed many a times how theatre flourished in Delhi like films in Mumbai, yet it came as a surprise to learn that there is actually a theatre group in the Capital which has completed its 50 years and is celebrating its golden journey by staging its productions for the young and the old. 

Most Delhizens are familiar with Yatrik Theatre Group but few know about its history, its beginnings and its arrival on the city’s theatre scene. 

“We were a travelling company from the beginning and even took our plays to smaller towns,” says veteran Kusum Haidar, one of the founding members of the group who is still associated with it. She recollects how educationist Joy Michael (who was once the principal of St Thomas School) got the idea of making it a travelling theatre group and her theatre companions Rati Bartholomew, Sneih Dass, Sushma Seth, Nigam Prakash, Roshan Seth and Kusum Haidar became the first members of the group. 

The group got registered as a repertory in August 1964. And their aim was to promote theatre in education by holding workshops in schools and colleges and, staging performances in educational institutions. Haidar points that children’s theatre formed an important part of their performances. 

“Plays such as Dancing Donkey and The Land of Cards (by Sai Paranjape) were also performed by Yatrik,” Haidar adds, remembering Barry John who “has worked a lot with Yatrik”.

“We were happy doing theatre full time,” says Sushma Seth reminiscing about the rehearsals with her contemporaries at the theatre in Mahadev Road near Gol Dak Khana. “We were on stage every weekend and even before one play was performed we started rehearsing for the other. It is also interesting how we were able to manage the audience and get them into the habit of watching our plays which we performed in various languages,” adds Seth. 

In the very first year Yatrik produced seven plays, but the group always endeavoured to propagate the idea that theatre doesn’t mean just taking a starring role on stage. It is, however, another matter that the group has created many a star who have diversified their roles in various mediums. From Kulbhushan Kharbanda to Sunit Tondon, you name it and they have a connection with Yatrik!

Tondon who is also the director of the group at present, remembers how he joined the group in 1980. “I was already a part of St Stephen College’s Shakespeare Society. Joy Michael was doing a play Cause Célèbre (A Woman of Principle) by the English author Terence Rattigan and asked if I would like to come on board and I joined in,” he says. It is difficult for him to name one play as his favourite but confesses that his direction of “the play 9 Jakhoo Hill” is still dear to him. “We performed it for 10 years and even took it to Dubai.”

Another senior actor Avijit Dutt, who recently staged his play The Virtuous Burglar for Yatrik’s celebration, reminisces how he was introduced to Bhaskar Ghose and he became a part of the group in 1984. Dutt points, “Post 80s a change was required in theatre. I remember we did a street play Mahatma Mar Gaya in 1985 and how performing it everywhere was a remarkably exciting experience.” 

The group has sailed through all and still stands strong. Hope it completes its centenary too!  

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