'Rehearsal is like Baking a Cake'


Jhimma, Vijaya Mehta's autobiography illustrates her personal life alongside Marathi theatre.

It is not often that veteran actor Vikram Gokhale is at a loss for words. But on Tuesday evening, he had to read a pre-written speech at the book launch of his theatre guru, Vijaya Mehta. Explaining himself, Gokhale said with a chuckle, "Many times in one's life there comes a situation where there is too much, or too little that one can say. And as the 'pauses' in my speech are legendary, I will read out a speech that I have prepared already."

As a part of the event Vijayabai ani apan (Vijayabai and us), at the ongoing Pulotsav, Gokhale was in the city to attend the launch of Mehta's autobiography, Jhimma along with actors Nana Patekar, Nina Kulkarni, Mohan Agashe, Mangesh Kulkarni, Pradeep Velankar and Suhas Joshi, among others. Written by Mehta and noted Marathi writer Ambarish Mishra, the autobiography recounts her personal story which runs parallelly with the Marathi theatre, National television and films through the 60s and 70s.

"When I was looking back at my own life, I got a strange feeling of disembodiment and hence, at some points and chapters, I've written the book in third person," Mehta told the audience. With a number of commercial as well as theme-based plays like Barister, Purush, Hameedabai Chi Kothi, Wada Chirebandi and films like Rao Saheb and Pestonjee, to her credit, Mehta feels that it is her students or her "finds" that do her the credit. "I was lucky enough to receive guidance from legends like Ebrahim Alkazi, Adi Marzban, Plitz Dinovit and so on. I learnt the best from all of them," she says.

The launch, which was followed by a dramatised reading of the book, saw actors like Reema Lagoo, Bharati Achrekar and Ravindra Mankani reading out passages from her book. In one of the chapters, Mehta has compared acting in a play to the process of baking a cake. "All the ingredients, eggs, flour, sugar and flour are to be mixed and made into a batter. But it is the baking process that brings out the fluffy, light, tasty cake. A rehearsal for a play is something similar. One has to get baked to bring out one's talent." Scenes from Mehta's childhood, in a chapter named Baby age 5 and scenes from her rehearsals during various plays, the theatre group Rangayan, of which she was a founding member of, along with playwright Vijay Tendulkar, Arvind Deshpande and Shreeram Lagoo, form the core component of the chapter in the book.

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