Seema Pahwa recalls being a part of ‘ashleel theatre’ in younger days: ‘Sab double meaning dialogues the’

Seema Pahwa regained popularity in the recent past with films like Ankhon Dekhi, Dum Laga Ke Haisha, Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, among others. But did you know that Seema was the first star that Indian television ever saw. Playing the lead role in India’s first soap Hum Log, Seema tasted fame back in the 1980s. But before she made it big, Seema worked extensively in various Delhi theater groups from a young age. In a recent interview, Seema recalled that it was during those days that she worked in the kind of theater that was dubbed as ‘ashleel’ (vulgar) at the time.

In a chat with Rekhta Foundation, Seema shared that she worked with various theater groups at that time and was constantly looking for work that could pay her more money. That’s when she stumbled upon a theater group that paid the most out of the lot but Seema had no idea what she was even performing on stage. She said,Punjabi theater hota tha Sapru House mein, use ashleel theater kaha jata tha uss waqt pe kyunki voh sab double meaning ke dialogues the. (There was a Punjabi theater group that performed at Sapru House, which was dubbed as vulgar theater because all their dialogues were double meaning).”

Seema recalled that she did not know Punjabi and was quite young to even realize what double meaning dialogues meant. She shared,Mujhe na toh Punjabi aati thi aur na main uss umar mein thi ki koi double meaning main samajh saku. Mere liye voh natak the bas. Toh main jaake kar leti thi ki yaad karna hai aur kisi se puch lena hai ki galat bol rahi hun ya nahi. Aetha aa, uthe aa, voh sab seekh liya tha. Aur mujhe laga sabse zyada paise toh yahi dete hain. (Neither did I know Punjabi, nor was I at that age to understand double meaning dialogues. Those were just plays for me. So I would just mug up the dialogues, check with them if I was speaking correctly. I had learned basic phrases. And I thought they paid the maximum money.”

After a while, the Bareilly Ki Barfi actor realized that something was missing when she felt that the audience was laughing at everything. “Jab main voh naatak karti rahi toh mujhe achanak realize hone laga ki yeh kisi bhi baat pe kyu haste hain? Isme kya baat hai? Fir maine voh puchna shuru kia ki maine jo yeh bola hai, isme kya hasne ki baat hai? Tab kisine ne mujhe jab batana shuru kia toh mujhe laga ‘oh, yeh toh main galat theater kar rahi hun. Yeh theater toh mujhe nahi karna. Iski toh meaning galat hai. Toh fir vahan se bhaagi. (When I kept on doing those plays, I was starting to grow suspicious as to why they are laughing at everything. What is it? Then I started asking what the dialogues meant and when I found out, I felt, ‘Oh, I am doing the wrong theater. I don’t want to do this.’ Then I ran from there.” Seema recalled this anecdote with a laugh and said that she was too young and innocent at the time.

It was after working in theater for a few years that she finally landed the role of Hum Log’s Badhki that gave her national fame.

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