Born in an accomplished family, Sai Paranjpye spent her first few years in Australia where her grandfather, Sir R.P. Paranjpye, the renowned educationist and mathematician was the Indian High Commissioner. Her parents, Shakuntala Paranjpye, a Marathi and Hindi film actress and Youra Sleptzoff, a water-colour artist were divorced shortly after Sai’s birth, as a result of which she was raised in her grandfather’s home.
Sai did her schooling in Pune and Canberra and was not inclined towards academics. She was an intelligent, precocious child and drawn towards writing, theatre and debates. She wrote and published her first book of fairy tales with her mother’s help when she was only eight years old.
After completing her BA from Fergusson College, Sai went on to become an announcer and then a compere on a children’s show on AIR. From compering shows on AIR, Pune, she moved to theatre, starting the Children’s Theatre along with Arun Joglekar, where she would write and produce plays.
A two year diploma in National School of Drama followed which led to a short stint at the Film and Television Institute of India, where Sai Paranjpye taught speech and acting. She later worked with Delhi Doordarshan as a producer of television programmes for eight years, where she wrote many teleplays and serials besides working on regular programmes.
While working at Doordarshan, Sai Paranjpye started dabbling in making films. Her telefilm, The Little Tea Shop (1972) won the Asian Broadcasting Union Award at Tehran, Iran. Owing to her vast experience with theatre as well as with Doordarshan, she was selected to be the Chairperson of the Children’s Film Society of India twice in the 1970s. For CFSI, Sai Paranjpye made four children’s films including Jadoo ka Shankh (1974) and Sikandar (1976).
In 1980, Sai Paranjpye made the Hindi feature film Sparsh, which won 5 film awards that year, including the prestigious National Awards for Best Hindi film, Best Screenplay and Best Actor for Naseeruddin Shah. With her next film, she changed tracks and made the popular comedy Chashme Buddoor (1981), starring Farooque Sheikh and Deepti Naval. She continued her streak with her next, Katha (1983), a satirical take on the Hare and Rabbit fable.
Her other movies include Angootha Chhap (1987), Disha (1990) and Saaz (1998). Venturing into television, she made serials like Ados Pados (1984) and Chhote Bade (1985). For her stellar contribution in varying mediums such as theatre, television, documentary films, feature films, writing and media, Sai Paranjpye was awarded the prestigious Padma Bhushan in 2006. She has two children. Her son, Gautam Joglekar, is also a theatre personality himself.