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This profile was last updated on 5/25/15  and contains information from public web pages.

Artistic Director

Company Description: Junoon is the brainchild of Sanjna Kapoor and Sameera Iyengar who have been working together for the past 10 years. The Junoon team is a strong mix of people from...   more

Employment History

Board Memberships and Affiliations

  • Founder
  • Board Member


  • degree , Education
    Mumbai University
55 Total References
Web References
Sunil Shanbag Theatre ..., 25 May 2015 [cached]
Sunil Shanbag Theatre Director, Arpana, Mumbai
Sunil Shanbag Facilitator
Junoon A Stage for Theatre, 25 May 2015 [cached]
Sunil Shanbag
Sunil Shanbag is a Mumbai-based theatre director and producer, and the artistic director of the Arpana theatre company. He uses strong original texts, innovative staging techniques and powerful performances to make his theatre exciting and meaningful in today's times.
Sunil is also an award winning documentary filmmaker with several independent films to his credit. His interest in history has seen him work closely with museum designers towards a contemporary approach to historical narratives.
Sunil Shanbag | Underscore Records, 28 May 2012 [cached]
Sunil Shanbag
Sunil Shanbag, theatre producer/director and television writer/producer, worked as an actor/designer/ assistant director with Satyadev Dubey from 1974 to 1984 on about twenty-five productions. In 1985, Shanbag was one of the founding members and the artistic director of Arpana, a repertory company that has been working consistently till date doing an average of fifty performances a year. Plays directed by him have received wide acclaim.
Shanbag has also been involved in training actors for many years as part of Arpana's regular activity. He conducted workshops for children and for students working towards a degree in Education at the Mumbai University, and at SNDT University.
Sunil Shanbag has worked closely with contemporary dancer Astad Deboo in creating dance and design concepts for several of his major projects including his work with other creative performers like master puppeteer Dadi Pudumjee, dhrupad singers Ramakant and Umakant Gundecha, and more recently with Thang-ta martial arts performers from Manipur.
Shanbag has worked extensively for television from 1985, developing programme concepts, researching, writing fiction and non-fiction material, and producing programmes, films, and series.
Maihar Raag, a film produced by him, won the National Award in 1994 for Best Non-Fiction Film.
He set up Chrysalis Films as an independent film company in 2000.
An active member for the last three years of Vikalp Films for Freedom, a platform of 300 documentary film makers across India, Sunil Shanbag had been General Secretary of the Indian Documentary Producers' Association for the period 2005-06.
FILMMAKERS � Finding Carlton [cached]
SUNIL SHANBAG Sunil's creative input, production guidance and overall mentoring is an integral part of the final film. We collaborated with his company Chrysalis Films to design and coordinate the India production of Finding Carlton. Sunil is an Indian theatre director, screen-writer and film-maker. Sunil's first love is the stage, and although he didn't have any formal training in theatre or cinema, his work in both these media have earned him accolades and profound respect, both in India and overseas. In his early years, Sunil worked extensively with the late Satyadev Dubey, a pioneering director,actor and playright, who considered him one of his foremost protegés. In 1985, he founded the theatre company Arpana. Its work is characterized by "contemporary and original texts by Indian and international playwrights (in translation), strong performances, minimalist staging, and innovative use of music and design. Sunil has also won national awards for his documentary filmmaking and television writing.
Man's World India - Indian Theatre’s Little Master, 15 Feb 2014 [cached]
In India, where Bollywood and television dominate entertainment, Sunil Shanbag is the only theatre director who can claim to have a distinct and recognisable style. His use of regional music, dance and other art forms in plays has helped him keep Hindi theatre alive.
I remember the first time I saw Sunil Shanbag. It was at the Experimental theatre at the National Centre for the Performing Arts, in Mumbai, after the first Sunday-evening performance of his play S*x, M*rality, and Cens*rship, in 2010. When he took the stage for the final bow, I applauded boisterously, like a fan boy. I was completely enamoured of the energy and passion his work exuded. Three years on, in October 2013, Shanbag's Club Desire, based on the French opera Carmen, opened at the Tata theatre at the NCPA. Almost half the 1010 seats were already booked a week before opening night, with tickets being sold at between Rs 300 and Rs 1000. Advance bookings are rare for an Indian play; most struggle to fill much smaller venues despite tickets being much cheaper. Shanbag, who Satyadev Dubey, the famous writer and director, termed one of his foremost protégés, occupies a unique place in Indian theatre. Firstly, he is the only Indian-language theatre director (most of his plays are in Hindi) to have had consistent success in India's metros, where English theatre is dominant. S*x, M*rality, and Cens*rship (SMC), which was about the battle to stage famous Marathi playwright Vijay Tendulkar's Sakharam Binder, won awards and is still performed in theatres today; Stories in a Song, Shanbag's 2011 musical, has been performed in several Indian cities over the past two years; and Maro Piyu Gayo Rangoon, a Gujarati adaptation of Shakespeare's All's Well that Ends Well, was performed at the Globe to Globe Shakespeare festival in London, in 2012.
Secondly, Shanbag is the only modern director who has eschewed the minimalist route and continued to include music, dance and other art forms in his plays despite budgets for stage productions being tight.
In Club Desire, Shanbag has, for the first time, used Electronic Dance Music. It is a big step out of his comfort zone. But, he is used to challenges. He has found a way to adapt and survive in a field that has been ambushed by Bollywood, technology and home entertainment. Shanbag does not have the imposing nature one associates with theatre personalities. He is a short, portly man with a big smile and a throaty laugh. While talking to you, he will ask you to address him by his first name, and, within minutes, you will have forgotten that you are chatting with one of India's most successful thespians. He tells me he has accepted that it is hard to make theatre economically viable, and that does mean having to create plays that will cater to a wide audience. However, that does not mean, he says, what he produces has to be devoid of intelligent matter. Through song and dance, he tells stories that reflect the pulse of modern society and communicate relevant social messages. His plays have dealt with issues such as censorship, women's rights and labour laws. His journey began in school. "I was in a residential school down south that gave a lot of importance to performing arts," he says. "I volunteered to act in a school play as I was new to the school and wanted to fit in." In his first performance on a stage, Shanbag played an evil magician, and, as he was climbing the makeshift staircase to his throne, it came crashing down. "It was the first scene. We had to draw the curtains, fix everything and start all over again." Despite that minor setback, Shanbag continued to take an interest in theatre.
Shanbag was then cast in a school play directed by Dina Pathak, the reputed Gujarati actor and director.
Shanbag started off as an actor and soon became Dubey's assistant director. His parents were reluctant to let him stop studying and pursue a career in the arts, but Dubey's reputation reassured them. "I overheard my Dad talking to Dubey once. He said, 'Dubeyji, I have surrendered my son to you.' That is the kind of faith my parents had in him."
In the early 1980s, Shanbag directed his first two plays, during one of which he directed a young Akash Khurana. "I remember Sunil, primarily, as a fantastic actor," Khurana, who went on to become one of India's best-known theatre actors, says.
It was Shanbag who introduced Khurana to Dubey.
"I owe my journey in theatre to Sunil," Khurana says.
Shanbag collaborated with Khurana, Utkarsh Mazumdar and Shishir Sharma, all students of Dubey, to found the theatre company Arpana.
"I honestly did not know what I was doing back then," Shanbag says and then laughs out loud.
"It is only in the last decade that Sunil has started working on original pieces," Khurana says.
Even though his pre-2000 works were mostly productions of published texts, Shanbag was continuously striving to connect with a modern audience. But, it was only after he took a sabbatical in 2001 that this attitude towards theatre translated into bold original work. While working with Dubey, Shanbag had started freelancing as a journalist and a television writer and he took a liking to writing for TV. Theatre did not pay enough, and research-based television writing became his source of income. He rose to prominence after writing the script for Ek Kahaani, one of the first private programmes on Doordarshan, in 1985. Shyam Benegal liked his work, and the two collaborated over the next decade. Shanbag wrote for Benegal's shows Yatra (1986) and Bharat Ek Khoj (1988), and the cultural magazine show Surabhi (1993). Benegal's shows required intense research, which Shanbag developed an affinity for. This love of history and the desire to make it relevant to a modern audience influenced a lot of Shanbag's later work in theatre. Just as Shanbag was beginning to flourish as a screenwriter, satellite television invaded India. "Suddenly, I did not connect with the work going on around me," Shanbag says. "A very different kind of writing was required, and I was not up for it. So, he shifted to making documentary films. He forged a partnership with Arunabh Bhattacharjee, the director of Surabhi, and the pair produced and directed their first documentary, Maihar Raag, in 1993. Maihar Raag was an exploration of the Maihar gharana of Hindustani classical music founded by Alauddin Khan Sahib. It won the National Award for best documentary film in 1994. Shanbag and Bhattacharjee made a string of documentaries over the next seven years. Shanbag also became a part of Vikalp, a network of documentary filmmakers, who, among other things, were putting together an archive of Indian documentary films. He took a special interest in this project, and the complete archive of over 300 documentaries has been sitting in his office for the past eight years. After India's economic liberalisation, the entertainment industry changed. Commercial cinema and television became increasingly popular while theatre and documentary films were left behind. Shanbag could no longer afford to rent stages for his plays and had to do fewer shows. Arpana lost many of its actors to television, which had become a more lucrative option, and shifted focus to teaching theatre in schools. "I was amazed by everything. Till then, the Indian media had had a socialist approach," Shanbag says.
In 2007, Shanbag partnered with young writer Ramu Ramanathan to create Cotton 56, Polyester 84, an honest commentary on the lives of mill workers in Mumbai.
Then, Shanbag achieved nationwide success with SMC, in 2010. Interestingly, Bollywood has never interested him. He speaks of the mainstream with disgust. "It is a world I never wanted to get involved with. I have gone through phases during which I watched a lot of world cinema, but these days, I rarely think it is worth the effort to go to the theatre for a film. Mention names of famous film directors such as Tim Burton, Rob Marshall, and Baz Luhrmann, and he smiles humbly. "I enjoy theatrical films, such as Black Swan, but my exposure is very limited." Since Cotton 56, Polyester 84, Shanbag has managed to create a distinct and recognisable style of theatre. His use of live music, the play-within-play style of storytelling and deliverance of social messages through dramatic stories has become his trademark. Few other Indian theatre directors can claim to have one. Arnesh Ghose | Sunil Shanbag | theatre | Satyadev Dubey | Maro Piyu Gayo Rangoon | music | arts | Club Desire | thespian | Roshan Seth | Dina Pathak | Akash Khurana | Doordarshan | Bharat Ek Khoj | Arunabh Bhattacharjee | Maihar Raag | Vikalp | Ramu Ramanathan |
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