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   Watching Jimmy Pocha in Anything Goes... (November 19, 1991)

Watching Jimmy Pocha in Anything Goes on the Sophia-Bhabha stage, my mind went back a half-century, give or take a few years. He was as much on stage then as now, living through his roles, not acting, as say James Stewart does on the screen, or Ashok Kumar on the Hindi screen and TV.

When I joined the school in Panchgani, Jimmy Pocha was in his senior year. He was already a man; in those days, or so it seemed to me then, boys grew into men very fast. By the time they were in their last few years in shool, they were full grown men; these days little boys in baggy trousers go to college.

In any case, since he was up there and I was down here, there was not much-contact between us in school. I used to admire him and other seniors from a distance. Pocha was the star of the annual school concert, not a star in the sense of a romantic lead, but the star comic, and since the main item on the programmer was a face, he has the pivotal role.

The school used to hold its concerts in May, when Panchgani would be filled with tourists, and tickes were sold for the concert, at quite a high price, at Pnachgani Stores and Mandroina's and other centers in the bazar. There was a great demand, and several repeat shows were held during the season.

Before the concert, there were rehearsals every afternoon, which meant that we had only morning school during the summe. After lunch, those boys who were participating in the concert would begin rehearsals, the remaining boys, with no histrionic talents, or histrionic talents yet to be discovered, would go down into the valley or in the shadows of the tableland's ridge, picking raw mangoes and jambuls.

The sets would be prepared by Mr. Kalekar, the drawing teacher. I recall he had once created an entire forest for Snow White and her Seven Dwaarfs. The boys who played the seven dwarfs were for ever after known by their dwarf names. The music would be handled by Professor Athaide and his violin students. His sister, who lived in the bazar, and was once a well-known concert painist, would help out on the piano.

The two joint principals were very interested in dram and would direct, and sometimes act, in the plays. One of their relations, R.C. Billimoria (known to everybody as R.C.), had done a course at the Pasadena Play-house and worked with some Off-Broadway productions, he would come for the summer and select scripts, rewrite them, direct plays, design costumes.

It was a boy's school, exclusive. So the women's roles were played by the more fair-complexioned boys, dressed as girls. One of them, by the name of Sanjana, played the heroine, and he was made to look so much like an attractive woman that the more arduous males among the audience had to be kept away with some difficulty from coming backstage after the concert and meeting him. I understand Sanjana ended up as a lieutenant-general or something in the army, with a distinguished service record.

But the star of the concert was Jimmy Pocha. He was an actor then and he is an actor now. See him in Anything Goes, the lines come out so effortlessly, one joke after another.

 
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