Sanjna Kapoor conferred “Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres” [fr]
French Minister of Culture, H.E. Mr Franck Riester conferred French distinction “Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres” on eminent theatre personality, Sanjna Kapoor.
New Delhi, 28 January 2020
Renowned theatre personality, Ms Sanjna Kapoor, received the prestigious French honour of ‘Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres’ (Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters) for her outstanding contribution to theatre.
The French Minister of Culture, H.E. Mr Franck Riester, was on an official India visit, conferred the insignia of the distinction on Ms Sanjna Kapoor in a special investiture ceremony on tuesday, 28th January 2020, at the Residence of France.
Sanjna Kapoor was born in an illustrious family of Indian and English theatre personalities, not the least of them her parents, Shashi Kapoor and Jennifer Kendal. Her film debut in Aparna Sen’s 36 Chowringhee Lane (1981) turned out to be a family affair, with her mother in the leading role and her father as the film’s producer. She was a leading actress in Hero Hiralal (1989) and also appeared in Mira Nair’s Salaam Bombay (1988). But she went on to dedicate herself fully to theatre, acting in plays and reviving the Prithvi Theatre in Mumbai, founded by her parents in tribute to Prithviraj Kapoor, and run, since 2012, by her brother, Kunal Kapoor. In 2012, she co-founded Junoon, an organisation dedicated to increasing the reach of theatre and the arts to wider audiences through innovative initiatives.
L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (the Order of Arts and Letters): This French government distinction, instituted on 2nd May, 1957 by the Ministry of Culture, is conferred, regardless of nationality, on persons who have distinguished themselves by their creativity in the fields of art or literature, or for their contribution to promoting the arts and literature in France and throughout the world. Some noted Indian recipients of this honour in the past include Bharti Kher, Shahrukh Khan, Pt Hariprasad Chaurasia, Aishwarya Rai, Raghu Rai, Ebrahim Alkazi, Habib Tanveer, Upamanyu Chatterjee, Wendell Rodricks and Aruna Vasudev.
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Conferral of the insignia of Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters on Sanjna KAPOOR
Ladies and gentlemen,
Dear Sanjna KAPOOR,
It is a great pleasure to be able to show France’s recognition of your outstanding artistic journey.
A passionate woman of theatre, you completely throw yourself into making artistic productions accessible to the greatest number.
Whether on stage, in front of the camera, or at the helm of the organization you run, you show the same infectious enthusiasm for championing the place of art in our societies.
For you, theatre is first and foremost a family affair. Your parents, Jennifer and Shashi, met in Calcutta, where the tours of their respective parents’ theatre companies had taken them.
Your maternal grandparents, Geoffrey and Laura Kendal, were touring with their company from Great Britain, “Shakespeareana”, crisscrossing India and falling in love with it.
Your paternal grandfather, the great actor Prithviraj Kapoor, had decided to travel across India with Prithvi Theatres, which he had established. It was at the intersection of these two theatrical universes that your family was founded.
Naturally, theatre has accompanied you since your very first steps.
As a child, your nights would begin – not infrequently – sleeping on a bench in the last rows of Prithvi Theatre, which your parents built in Mumbai as a tribute to your grandfather.
At 12 years, you set off on Ireland’s roads with your grandparents to play Olivia in Twelfth Night or Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
How would you not develop a true passion for the stage?
You made your debut in cinema playing the younger version of the character your mother was portraying in 36 Chowringhee Lane, produced by your father. Other roles followed.
But you wished to devote yourself to live performance.
So you studied acting in New York, then returned to India and went on to helm Prithvi Theatre.
Thanks to your energy and vision, thanks to the remarkable work by the entire theatre group, and thanks now to your brother Kunal, Prithvi Theatre continues to be a living space of encounters, a space for research, experimenting, and artistic production.
A lively space open to the city, Prithvi Theatre anchors art and culture in the daily lives of Mumbaïkars.
You have conducted pioneering programmes at Prithvi Theatre to win over new spectators.
I am referring to initiatives like “Prithvi Players”, and “Summertime” for children, among whom it is vital to raise awareness about art.
As part of the Prithvi Theatre Festival, you have given pride of place to the best of Indian drama and invited international theatre greats to Mumbai and other Indian cities.
Among the remarkable shows from France that the Indian public had the chance to watch thanks to you were Philippe Genty’s Ne m’oublie pas and Nada Théâtre troupe’s Ubu roi.
The choice of these productions illustrates the openness, curiosity and boldness that guide you.
I would also like to mention your long adventure with the Footsbarn Travelling Theatre, which, thanks to you, regularly tours India to present its creations inspired by French and British repertoires.
Thank you for infusing life in all these exchanges!
I also know that you are a regular at the Avignon Theatre Festival, to which you were invited in 2010 by the Embassy of France in India as part of its “300 Bonjours” programme. I’m not surprised that you appreciate this extraordinary festival during which the entire city lives at the pace of theatre!
And I would like to thank you for having made Prithvi Theatre an active partner of the Alliance française de Bombay, with which you have shared numerous adventures. Among these, I would like to mention the founding of an international puppet festival, which is very dear to you.
To foster the development and spread of theatre from your country, you also took the initiative of establishing the India Theatre Forum, which brings together theatre professionals.
In 2012, you moved on from being the Director of Prithvi Theatre to start your own theatre agency with your longstanding partner-in-crime, Sameera Iyengar.
Christened “Junoon” – a term that suits you so well that you seem to be its embodiment – this “stage for theatre” aims to bring the arts and culture within reach of the greatest number through innovative initiatives.
Thus, you continue to foster children’s discovery of the arts through the ambitious “Arts at Play with Schools” programme, which you have already conducted in many cities of India.
Dear Sanjna Kapoor,
Animated by the passion for theatre, you tirelessly seek to share the inspiration that you parents transmitted to you, both in your artistic ventures and your engagement with the people of India.
I would like to greet your loved ones who are here this evening, your spouse Valmik Thapar, and you son Hamir, and all those who bolster you and support you every day. All of them know how energetic you are, how talented and how exacting.
So, for all that you have already achieved and what remains ahead of you to accomplish, we confer on you the insignia of the Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters.
[And now, as required by protocol, I will proceed in French:]
Nous vous remettons les insignes de Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.