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24 Aug 2017
Eminent theater producer, Dr. Sheela Butala, earns PhD degree from Mumbai University

Dr. Sheela Butala, esteemed co-producer of more than 60 critically acclaimed Gujarati plays, has recently earned a PhD degree from Mumbai University following the successful completion and defense of her thesis, entitled Gujarati Natya Sahitya ane Rangbhoomi na Kalakaron na Antar-samvedano, which explores the inner creative life and conflicts of stage artists and technicians for whom theatre is both a vocation and a calling. 

Born into the widely respected Manilal Virchand Mehta family, Sheelaben is the second child of Shri Shantibhai and Smt. Kalavatiben Mehta. After a 30 year career with Sampat and Mehta chartered accountants and raising two children, Dr. Butala returned to academia in 1998 to reconnect with her true and enduring passion for the Gujarati language. In 1998, she earned an M.A. in Gujarati literature and subsequently commenced her PhD research in 2010 under the guidance of Dr Dhanvant Shah and Dr Kalaben Shah at Mumbai University. 
Dr. Butala’s choice of subject for the thesis is a reflection of her deep association with Gujarati theatre and her desire to understand the creative process more thoroughly. In partnership with her husband, theatre doyen Rajendra Butala, Sheelaben has produced many of the most highly rated and commercially successful Gujarati plays in recent times including Kautilya, Gurubrahma, Gandhi Virudh Gandhi and Narsaiya No Nath. In addition, she was the costume director for these productions and has been credited with bringing complex characters to life using historically and culturally accurate costumes. 
Dr. Butala’s thesis builds upon her real-worldexperience of working with directors, actors, writers and technical artists and includes 32 in-depth interviews with luminaries like Sarita Joshi, Siddharth Randheria, Sachin Khedekar, Pravin Solanki and Manoj Joshi. These interviews reveal the artistic contradictions, conflicts and challenges that are faced by those who have devoted their life to theatre.

In addition to her intellectual pursuits, Dr. Butala is a devout Jain and has used theater as a medium to create awareness of Jainism’s rich philosophical legacy. Mrityunjay, Michhami Dukkadam and Mare Jaavu Pele Paar (for which Sheelaben also wrote the title song lyrics) were widely appreciated by both Jain and non-Jain audiences.


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