Shernaz Patel is one of the most popular faces of the Indian theatre community. The daughter of Gujarati stage veterans Ruby and Burjor Patel, she was born and raised in a theatre-loving family. Her father, alongside being a successful theatre producer, was also the Bombay manager of The Statesman. “So you can say it’s in the genes! I started my acting journey in school, learnt from the fabulous Pearl Padamsee and continued throughout college. I did my first professional play immediately after I got out of college, The Diary Of Anne Frank, in which I enacted the role of Anne Frank. I owe everything I am today to my parents; they taught me to love and respect the theatre and its principles.
“I imbibed the work ethic to run a theatre company with honesty and professionalism. But most importantly, I learnt how to nurture relationships.
“I have a big theatre family today made up of joyful and talented theatre makers and artists; young and old. Having such a lovely family is a greater blessing than money can every buy,” said Patel. A Charles Wallace scholar, Patel holds a Master’s degree in acting from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and been part of English theatre in India for the last 35 years. Down the years she has played leading roles in many milestone plays, the most recent being Iron, The Siddhus of Upper Juhu,The Glass Menagerie, The God of Carnage, One On One, Class of 84, and Love Letters.
Patel said, “I have been performing Love Letterswith Rajit Kapur since 1992 and it is still a joy to perform. Melissa Gardner, the character I play, has become a part of my DNA, which is rare.”
Alongside her notable theatre performances, Patel had made her film debut with Mahesh Bhatt’s telefilm Janam, and later went on to act in numerous films, web series and soap operas. Also, an established voiceover artist, teacher and partner in one of Mumbai’s leading theatre groups, called Rage, she has mastered diverse roles in the creative field.
Currently, Patel has also taken up the role of an artistic director of Aditya Birla Group’s theatre initiative called Aadyam. She said, “I was a part of Aadyam as an actor and a producer for the first three seasons and was blown away by its impact. So it is a great honour for me to have been entrusted with it for season four and currently, season five. My life is the stage and everything revolves around it and it means everything to me.
“I feel highly privileged to be able to use my life’s knowledge and understanding of theatre to curate great shows. It is quite special to be able to provide opportunities for talented theatre makers, designers and artists.”
Patel’s contribution to the theatre of India has been exceptional to say the least and she continues to keep going strong.