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Jayati Godhawat

JWB Blogger

Playwright, Sudeep Sohni Gives Us A Sneak-Peek Into His International Art Festival

  • JWB Post
  •  January 2, 2017


An Engineer by education and a multi-faceted Artist by passion, is a man who dons many hats. Sudeep who started out his career in Advertising, had his heart in Art, Drama, poetry, and writing.

Born in a culturally rich town, Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh, Sudeep was always exposed to various forms of art at home.

I was mostly alone at home as my parents were both working and I used to listen to Jagjit Singh on our tape recorder. My uncle was fond of reading newspapers and a dozen of them including Economic Times used to be there on the shelf. My family has been a socially active one, and so in the evening there would be long sessions of chat over tea in the living room,” confided Sudeep in an interview with us.

He left his town in search of something that would give him satisfaction and this search led him to the Film and Television Institute of India where he studied Cinema.

Sudeep also worked with creative advertising agencies in Mumbai for some years before relocating to Bhopal to pursue his passion for Art.

“I used to sing in a Choir group in Pandit Omprakash Chaurasiya’s Madhukali, and there was a musical show, Mukti Ka Mahayagya, where we sang and performed simultaneously. So, yes I started out as a singer and actor,” said Sudeep.

It was just a beginning of his journey in the theater. Together with likeminded people, Sudeep started with , a platform to showcase and learn multiple art forms.

“Sourabh Anant, VIFA co-founder and I were together in Mumbai. While in Mumbai itself, we were thinking of forming a group that would focus on Multiple Arts. So, when we came to Bhopal, we met Shweta Ketkar and  Hemant Deolekar who had similar interests, and we all worked together to establish Vihaan,” explained Sudeep.

“What’s the story behind the name Vihaan?” I asked, curiously.

Sudeep laughed, “BTW, it took us a year to come up with a name. One fine day, I remembered a poem by Shri Gopalprasad Nepali which had this line, ‘Yeh Nisheeth ka dia vihaan hai,’ and that was it. I messaged Saurabh about it and hence, the name,” he said.

“Interestingly, a lot of parents in Bhopal have come up to us and said that they have named their child Vihaan after our organization,” he added.

This is how the journey of Vihaan started in 2011, with an acclaimed play, Kanupriya and soon, Sudeep started writing plays for the group. He also tried his hand at direction, and his first work as a director was Amrita, a play on the famous Indian poet Amrita Pritam.

Sudeep also told me how through Vihaan, he wants to establish a space where everyone can learn from each other and express themselves through their art.

We have Vihaan Drama Works, Design works, and Picture works and we work 365 days a week, literally. We also have a separate wing for kids between 3-15 years, Swapna Yaan where we give training to kids in multiple art forms. Also, it’s totally free of cost because we want more and more children to join and realize their potential,” said Sudeep, “Vihaan organizes multiple workshops, theatrics (theater-basics), informal lectures,” he added.

Last year, i.e. in 2015, Vihaan also organized one-of-its-kind art festival,  (VIFA) in collaboration with Art Cop 21 to create awareness on climate change concerns through art.

“We are coming up with the 2nd Edition of VIFA which will start from December 29th, 2016,” Sudeep announced.

“Oh wow! That’s great. Tell us more about the festival,” I insisted.

VIFA ek mela hai kalaaon ka jaha sab ek dusre se milege aur apni kala ko pradarshit karege,” he said, “People from five different continents will be joining us in this 11-day festival which shall showcase all forms of arts like Regional and International films, theatre, youth poetry, etc.,” he concluded.

Ahhh! Doesn’t it sound like a wonderland?*imagining*

To probe deeper into his multiple personalities, I fired him some fun questions:

Me: Share with us some memorable theater backstage moments.

Sudeep: *laughs* Theater ka majja hi backstage me hai. The rehearsals, the nervousness before the play, the chaos, and the rush just a few moments before the play, etc., all of them make theater experience so beautiful and enriching.

Me: Tell us about the poet in you.

Sudeep: I feel I live two different lives when I write and when I read my poems. I don’t feel that I have written it. Maybe, this is the reason I don’t use my name while writing poems. I always write poems under the name, Neehso.

Here’s one of Neehso’s poem I fell in love with:


Me:  What’s your favorite childhood poem?

Sudeep: Ummmmm… Jhansi ki Rani by Subhadra Kumari Chauhan.

Ohhh! I, too, remember reciting it with others in our class, “बुंदेले हरबोलों के मुँह हमने सुनी कहानी थी, खूब लड़ी मर्दानी वह तो झाँसी वाली रानी थी।।“ *nostalgic*

Me: As theater is a live medium of expression, there are glitches which cannot be edited. How do you all cover them up?

Sudeep: Of course, mistakes are bound to happen, and no play can be perfect. Every play is different every time, and you cannot preserve it, and that’s the beauty of it. Also, theater is a very dependent art. If one makes a mistake than other will have to cover it up and manage. It’s all about teamwork.

Me: What do you think is the most challenging thing for a theater director?

Sudeep: Every bit of it is challenging. The struggle starts from the very first day you decide to organize a play. Managing the finance, actors, halls to practice, costumes, and other things take a lot of time. And, it takes a lot of effort by each and every person associated with the play to get it on the stage. However, the satisfaction to see that everything that you imagined is now on the stage, makes it all worthwhile.

Me: What do you think about theater in India?

Sudeep: In the Indian context, I am delighted to see that nowadays, many schools have introduced theater as a part of their syllabus. Also, now parents and students are not considering theater as just an extra-curricular activity but as a medium for personality grooming and development. Also, one of the biggest reasons for setting up Vihaan was to create a space where young people have freedom to express themselves through art. I remember that when I was 17-18, there was no one to guide us how to start, what to do, etc. And, so I think we are in a growing phase right now where we all are realizing the importance of Art in our lives and in our society as a whole.

Me: So, what’s the next project you are working on?

Sudeep: *laughs* Oh, there are so many! I am a writer more, and I feel more connected to literature. Like Amrita, I would like to write more biographical plays on people like Shri Harivansh Rai Bacchhan. Also, I am working on another play which revolves around the life of a dwarf man.

Talking to Sudeep, I realized that truly, it’s artists’ undying passion and commitment which drive them to build their own wonders every day.

P.S.:  The Vihaan International Festival of Arts (VIFA) is being  held in Bhopal, M.P. from December 29, 2016, to January 8, 2017. To know more about the festival visit their Facebook page, .

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