Ekjute celebrated their 40th birthday in 2021 by handing over the baton to the next generation. Juhi Babbar Soni wrote, directed and enacted the bilingual With Love, Āp ki Saiyāra, presented by Sanskriti Sagar after over 50 performances across India. A near-solo act, she takes the audience into confidence about the life so far of Saiyaara (a character created by Juhi’s mother Nadira Babbar), from a well-off background and successful at running her business, who suffered marital misfortunes. Infatuated by her already-married professor, she wedded him but he eventually chickened out in favour of the safety net of his first marriage. Then she fell for a dashing doctor, who turned out to not only toe his conservative family’s line about her behaviour, but also began to womanize. Now free from both, she relates from her own experience how divorcees become favoured prey for the weirdest speci(men)s.
Of course such unpleasant and traumatic incidents happen all the time and should not happen. So what else is new? Saiyaara’s story is so pedestrian that it comes across as cliched. And since she has the resources and parental support to bounce back, it does not strike us as particularly courageous or challenging either. Juhi’s easy acting, not her writing, is her strong point; but she needs a deeper, denser text to manifest it fully. As for her direction, my readers know that I downgrade self-directing soloists because they simply cannot observe themselves from a distance objectively. Therefore, of the three departments that she contributes in this production, only one clicks.