October 13, 2006

Balraj Pandit No More

Maverick theatre personality Balraj Pandit is no more. A playwright, poet, painter and a popular teacher, Pandit jee, as he was fondly called, wrote Panchwan Sawaar, considered to be a significant play of Indian dramaturgy and Lok Udasi in Punjabi besides adaptation of Molière's School for Wives into Biwiyon Ka Madrasa among others. He breathed his last after a brief illness at Patiala, where he had been staying after retirement from Theatre and Television department of Punjabi University.An epitome of unconventionality, he refused to fit into moulds. Be it a script of a play or the life itself, he had his own way, full of mercurial passion. He came from the times when theatre meant theatre and art was meant to be for art’s sake. Those were exciting times to live an artist’s life while studying under such stalwarts as Alkazi at National School of Drama and then teaching students like Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri. But he was not left with much choice after he settled in Patiala. Pandit jee got stuck in frustrating times. Teaching generations of students who came to see theater as nothing more than a precursor to a hero’s life in Mumbai and Pandit jee as some kind of an oddity, was not what he was made for. That’s what he believed in and gave voice to many times especially when he had his bouts of drinking. That’s what he was known for more. But he did everything with same passion be it painting, singing, directing a play or watching game of cricket on television. There was not much room for this tormented genius among people who did not give much space to passion. He was biding his time. He finally gave up this morning.

No comments: