WHEN TEHELKA caught up with MS Sathyu, he had just driven 800 km on a road trip to Hampi. Best known for his film Garam Hawa (arguably Indian cinema’s most poignant take on Partition), Sathyu lives in Bengaluru with his daughter and granddaughter, directing plays, writing scripts and whizzing around the country doing theatre workshops. He still wakes at 6 am and walks down the road to buy milk and the newspaper. After breakfast, he drives to work. “I used to stay in office till six. Now I’m back by two,” he muses. “But when there is work, I’m just at it.”
More often than not, Sathyu is touring the country as chairman of the Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA). “Even if your body is crumbling, you shouldn’t worry too much. Keep yourself active, mentally and physically,” he says. He certainly does. In September, he’s releasing a new film. Ijjoudu, based on two Kannada stories by Masti Venkatesha Iyengar and Ananda, explores the relationship between belief and unbelief. (As an aside, he thinks Kaminey was good “in its genre”, but disapproves of “this gimmicky new style of filmmaking” with no room for “long shots that give you time to brood”.) In October, he’s off to Agartala to direct an IPTA cast in Girija ke Sapne, after which it’s Delhi, with a play on Amrita Pritam. He’s also excited about a new novel by Musharraf Ali Farooqui called The Story of a Widow. “I’ve given it to Shabana [Azmi] to read,” he says. At 79, Sathyu doesn’t need to be told to take care. He still calls the shots.