A Patchwork Quilt is the autobiography of Sai Paranjpye, whose name is synonymous with wholesome entertainment, whether on the idiot box or on the silver screen. The book starts from her early life in Pune, the force that was her mother and Sai’s relationship with her mother and grandfather. The first few chapters show how the foundations for her creative life were laid. The rest of the book is firmly focused on her professional work. The book is broken into periods, from the days working for Poona Radio to NSD to FTII to Doordarshan to CFSI, and finally delving into the details of plays and movies, written and directed by her. The year that Sai Paranjpe spent in Paris on scholarship learning more about television and direction, has also been written in detail. This part of the book also shows the tender relationship she had with her Russian father. Sai Paranjpye also gives fascinating insights about Natyadwayi, the theatre troupe she started with her husband Arun Joglekar. The book doesn’t follow any particular chronological order, especially when she goes into the individual details of her plays and movies. So the reader should not expect a linear timeline. She, however, totally skips talking about the serials which she directed for Doordarshan.
Sai Paranjpye has a penchant for finding amusing quirks and idiosyncrasies of people and weaving them brilliantly into the narrative, creating timeless characters. These characters were immortalised in the memories of the spectators as Omi, Bashu, Jai, Siddharth, Neha, etc. Chashme Budoor and Katha are my all-time favourites. Reading this book gave me an insight as to how these movies were created for the silver screen. The truth about the production of Sparsh was especially shocking, and yet, the reader cannot help but marvel at the indomitable spirit of Sai Paranjpye for making such a brilliant movie despite the problems she faced. The book also reminded me of the movie Papeeha, which I had seen (and loved) on Doordarshan in the pre-cable TV days. I was, totally unaware of the contribution made by Sai Paranjpye in the field of theatre, especially Marathi theatre. I only knew about her serials on Doordarshan and movies she had directed. This book made me aware of the vast repertoire of plays that Sai Paranjpye has under her belt.
What really stood out for me was the honesty in the book. Sai Paranjpye appraises her work critically and honestly tells which play/movie, in her opinion, is worthy. She talks about her triumphs on the awards circuits without much chest-thumping. There also seems to be no rancour or bitterness towards people who took advantage of Sai Paranjpye’s naivety, just a matter of fact acceptance. She honestly describes her interactions with Tanuja and Smita Patil, taking the blame when she felt she was in the wrong.
A Patchwork Quilt is a book for people who want to know more about how the classics of theatre and the movie world came alive. The story behind the story, so to speak. There are not many details of Sai Paranjpye’s personal life but rather, the book focuses only on her body of work ( which is timeless). So if the reader is expecting juicy, tabloid-style gossip, then the reader is bound to be disappointed. The book is also a tad too long as it talks about the plays and movies in detail. Though for me, the whole process of creating a movie and the insights were very fascinating.
Like all Sai Paranjpye movies, the book The Patchwork Quilt is clean wholesome fun.