‘Our aim is to create a culture of reading’

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Actor Gitanjali Kulkarni.

I was in Kochi, shooting for a Netflix film, and realised that I was feeling very happy. I was enjoying the work and compliments were flowing in about my performance in another web series Tajmahal 1989. It was an exciting time for me, before we were told that shooting would be stopped due to the coronavirus.

Some things are more important than your work. We should do our duty which, in this case, means staying at home and not participating in social activities. I thought my village, Sonala, would be the right place to live out this time of isolation.

Sonala is in Wada taluka in Palghar district. We started our NGO’s work here and then seven years back built a house. It’s a typical north Konkan village with a lot of paddy fields during the rainy season. Now, it’s barren, hot and little humid too. Mornings are pleasant but, from April, it will also become hot.

As a child I never had a village. So for me it was fascinating to be in a village. I grow natural, local rice, work for children through Goshtarangal and spend time with my pets.

As an actor, I have experienced many empty hours when I did not have a job. There were times when all my friends were working and I was sitting at home in Mumbai. I look upon this time as creatively rich. The world I create within myself when I am alone enriches my performances when I get work. I believe that, when nothing is happening, it is time when you can think, observe and introspect. A turmoil goes on within you, which helps you. You want to explore everything. I have spent years and years not having work. I think about what I want to do as an actor and where I saw myself as a theatre person. I write down my thoughts.

Social distancing means that my husband (actor Atul Kulkarni) and I wake up early and go on walks. We have breakfast and read newspapers on our phones as there are no newspapers in our village. Currently, I don’t meet people in the village. Atul and I make sure there isn’t a crowd or a large number of people mingling. This is a different kind of experience for me as I am a very outgoing person. I love being surrounded by friends. At other times, even in my village, I would usually call my friends over, or have a lot of children around doing some theatre activities. All that has stopped.

I like talking over the phone. Whenever I get time and my friends are free, I talk to them. My village, too, has prepared me to fill empty hours with activity. I am doing my admin work for Goshtarang, a programme that takes books to children through theatrical performances of children’s stories, by trained artists. Our aim is to create a culture of reading. I spend time with my pet or going on long walks by myself.

In the present case of social distancing, when nothing is happening, I am reading a lot of scripts and books. A Marathi book on Greta Thunberg has made a great impact on me. I read a few paragraphs from the book to two or three of my village children. They wrote a letter to Greta and two of them drew a picture in which Greta is standing and, behind her, is an army of children.
I fear that the future isn’t looking good in terms of economy. Theatre will continue but films need a lot of financing. This period of isolation can be used to strengthen our minds so that we can help one another tide through the crisis.

As told to Dipanita Nath