Millennium Post (Kolkata)

Lost in love for the stage

On World Theatre Day, veteran actors share their lifelong passion for the stage


Veteran actor Raghubir Yadav discovered his passion for theatre at the young age of 15 when he joined a travelling Parsi theatre. While he’s known for his roles in films like ‘Salaam Bombay!’, ‘Water’ and ‘Lagaan’ and TV shows like ‘Mungerilal Ke Haseen Sapne’, theatre remains his first love. He went on to spend over 13 years at the National School of Drama and worked extensivel­y in the NSD repertory in classic production­s like Girish Karnad’s ‘Tughlaq’ and Dharamvir Bharati’s ‘Andha Yug’. He doesn’t mince his words when he says that whatever he is today is because of ‘theatre’.

“Theatre has given me everything that I have today. Cinema has not given me much and my talent and craft are recognised today only because of theatre. Every minute that you spend immersed in theatre teaches you something new. It not only refines you as an actor but as a human being too. When I am on stage, everything pales in comparison to the magic that envelopes me during a performanc­e. Theatre offers an actor the endless opportunit­y to learn, grow and become complete in every sense,” said Yadav, who is part of the teleplay ‘Bagiya Bancharam Ki’, an adaptation of Bengali thespian Manoj Mitra’s celebrated stage play ‘Sajano Bagan’.

Many actors who have made the transition to the big screen have expressed their love for the stage and have frequently returned to it. Bollywood has always welcomed actors from the world of theatre and they have left an indelible mark on both stage and screen. From stalwarts like Dr Shriram Lagoo, Om Puri, Seema Biswas, Pankaj Kapoor and Saurabh Shukla to icons such as Shabana Azmi, Rohini Hattangadi and Amol Palekar, the list is extensive. Also, talents like Supriya Pathak, Anupam Kher, Manoj Bajpayee, Pankaj Tripathi, Rajkummar Rao, Jaideep Ahlawat, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Manav Kaul, Radhika Apte, Jim Sarbh, Mita Vashisht and Paresh Rawal have all honed their craft on the stage before gracing the silver screen. Celebrity couple Naseeruddi­n Shah and Ratna Pathak Shah are prime examples of actors who cherish the stage. Ratna, known for her role in ‘Sarabhai Vs Sarabhai’, has credited Naseeruddi­n for teaching her about theatre.

Ratna, an alumnus of the National School of Drama, said in several interviews that she keeps coming back to theatre because it gives her the chance to play parts that she can’t in films. Also, the experience of working with a live audience excites her.

Actor Himani Shivpuri, having been part of some of Bollywood’s biggest family dramas like ‘Hum Aapke Hain Koun’, ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’, ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’, ‘Hum Saath-Saath Hain’ and ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhie

Gham’, echoes similar sentiments to Ratna’s about returning to the stage.

“I started my acting career with theatre and even after passing out of the National School of Drama, I worked with the NSD Repertory. Theatre gave me the opportunit­y to play characters that cinema and television could not. That is one of the reasons why I still continue to do theatre, despite my involvemen­t in different projects on the big and small screens. I’ve done some amazing roles drawn from literature, like Krishna Sobti’s ‘Mitro Marjaani’. I played characters on stage that is very strong and beautifull­y written,” said Shivpuri, who is also part of the teleplay ‘Hamidabai Ki Kothi’, which was written by

Anil Barve in 1978 but adapted on stage and OTT by Vijaya Mehta.

Today, Shivpuri is also known for her role in the popular TV show ‘Happu Ki Ultan Paltan’. However, she reflected on her early days in the film industry during the 1990s and rued how actors of her age were often confined to playing mothers. But she found solace in theatre, where strong female protagonis­ts have always been celebrated. “I wasn’t cast as a heroine and even the lead roles were very one-dimensiona­l. Heroines were more or less just expected to dance around the trees, fall in love and sing songs. Theatre, I would say, has always made space for strong female protagonis­ts and this is why I have continued to stay connected with the stage,” she said.

Actor Rasika Dugal of ‘Delhi Crime’ fame was also part of the ‘Hamidabai ki Kothi’. In 2022, on World Theatre Day, she posted on social media, “The heart still thumps at the sound of the third bell. More than being on stage, I miss the backstage, hurried whispers, fluttering frenzy and racing hearts.”

In just a few words, she summed up why theatre stirs her more than any other medium. Right from her days at Lady Shri Ram College in Delhi, where she acted in various plays, Dugal has lent her presence to varied production­s, including ‘The Vagina Monologues’ and ‘Dastangoi’. She can also be seen in acclaimed teleplays like ‘Bombay Talkies’.

Theatre has given me everything that I have today. Cinema has not given me much and my talent and craft are recognised today only because of theatre.

Every minute that you spend immersed in theatre teaches you something new”

— Raghubir Yadav

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