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Alkazi Theatre Archives


Remembering Surekha Sikri: Understanding the Dynamics of Theatre Profession in 1970s by Analysing the Role of Repertory Companies in the Trajectory of Theatre in India

Today, the Alkazi Theatre Archives remembers Surekha Sikri, an actress who dedicated herself to the art of acting and meticulously chose roles. In the Morning Echo, dated July 21, 1978, ‘In love with acting for what it’s worth’, Jyotsna Kapoor wrote a feature on Surekha Sikri.

The article throws light on Sikri’s association with the National School of Drama Repertory Company, alongside the roles she has played in ‘ Sandhya Chaya’, ‘Adhe Adhure’ and her debut film ‘Kissa Kursi Ka’. Reflecting on the role of government and the public in recognition and encouragement of theatre, the actor says, “For the amount of work one puts in, working for 12 hours or sometimes even more than that in a day, one is still underpaid. The Government doesn’t take this profession seriously. Moreover, the people of Delhi are not very theatre-minded…For me, personally, I love acting and I enjoy it. I find it very absorbing. It teaches me something new everyday.”

Jyotsana Kapoor explains that the NSD Repertory Company was the only professional theatre group in Delhi with artists working on salaried contracts. The dynamics of the theatre profession of the late 1970s at NSD – a crossroad of establishing a full-fledged unit of the repertory team (1976) reflecting on an actor-managerial system and decentralization (1977), paved the way towards a freelance system to which actors adapted to. The contemporary free-market theatre economy has its roots in the post-independence endeavour of creating a government-funded national theatre repertoire, which significantly failed in holding a self-sufficient structure, giving rise to an unorganized sector of theatre groups and artists. However, a repertory company’s regular staging of plays with designated roles to the actors and a professional quality to theatre, anchored a few actors to the system, leaving freelancing as an opposed practice, where a supposed lack of professionalism has often led to a dearth of the actor’s social commitment to theatre.

Remembering Surekha Sikri

Article Courtesy: Anand Gupt Collection/ Alkazi Theatre Archives
Image Courtesy: Alkazi Theatre Archives