Satyadev Dubey is no more…
Indian theatre on Sunday lost Satyadev Dubey, 75-year-old theatre personality who inspired generations of actors and writers. He breathed his last after lying semi-conscious for more than three months. Mr. Dubey had suffered an uncontrolled seizure for 45 minutes in September which put him into a coma and led to a paralytic attack.
“He passed away at 11.56 a.m. today [Sunday] at a private hospital with his well-wishers at his bedside. In the last one month, things looked better, but he could not talk or communicate. He couldn’t move his right side. After the uncontrolled seizure, there was damage to his brain, he slipped into coma, suffered from residual paralysis and remained bedridden,” Pranav Shah, who treated Mr. Dubey for the past few months, told The Hindu.
“He will celebrate Christmas with God,” one of Mr. Dubey’s students said.
Renowned theatre and film personalities remembered his contribution towards the growth and vibrancy of not just Hindi theatre, but also Marathi, Bengali and Kannada theatre, and paid tribute to his passion.
“He used to provoke his actors. Being with him was like bungee jumping. You would never know what to expect,” actor Meeta Vasisht said. “He was very provocative. He used to push his actors to do things that they never thought they would,” said Sulabha Deshpande, veteran Marathi actor and director.
Mr. Dubey was awarded Padma Bhushan by the government this year.
“He was not just a director, or a writer. He was active on all fronts of theatre. For him, theatre was joy. He wanted to enrich it, spread it around. In 1960s, when Hindi theatre was dormant, he took up the challenge of reviving it as a part of the nationalistic project. It wasn’t just an outlet for his personal expression. He revived the Hindi theatre where it would compete and far surpass the English theatre that was being done in Mumbai at that time. His contribution to Indian theatre can be listed at various levels,” Shanta Gokhale, renowned writer, translator and theatre critic said.
Remembering his contribution since the 1960s, she said that he was a catalyst who worked as a bridge between Hindi, Marathi, Kannada and Bengali theatre. “He was a mentor to the writers. There is a whole string of writers whom he groomed to write. For example, G.P. Deshpande never thought he was a playwright, but he inspired him and we got Uddhvastha Dharmashala. Directors didn’t do such things, but he was a director, writer, translator and much more,” Ms. Gokhale said.
“His earliest play was from European modern classics. He translated, directed and acted in Sartre’s play No Exit, which he translated as Band Darwaze. The play just blew everyone’s mind. He was the one who said that Dharam Vir Bharti’s Andha Yug, which was written for radio, should be staged. He sent it to Ebrahim Alkazi who performed it [in Delhi]. That is how it became known to the entire country,” she said.
Ms. Gokhale said Mr. Dubey created an audience for theatre that was “off-mainstream.”
“He created an atmosphere through his plays and got new audience. Even English theatre benefitted from it. He touched every generation. In fact, he always looked around him for the younger generation who could be injected with his madness for theatre.”
She refused to call him a maverick. “When you call him a maverick, you push him on the margin. Whereas, he was very much at the centre-stage and influenced things.” he said.
Shyam Benegal, renowned film director, remembered Mr. Dubey as an “extremely talented and wonderful human being, kind and loyal friend.”
“He was very close to me, my wife, my entire family. I met him for the first time way back in 1962. He wrote the dialogues of the first eight feature films that I made. After that, he said he wanted to do only theatre. But we always remained very close friends,” he said.
Vinay Apte, actor and director of many Marathi plays, said Mr. Dubey was an ideal theatre personality. “He was mad about theatre. He lived for that madness. His plays were always ahead of time. He gave a new direction to Indian theatre. Future generations will have to find a new theatre guru now.” Alyque Padamsee, theatre personality, said the theatre has lost a great experimental theatre director. “His contribution to modern Hindi theatre will always be remembered.” Film director Mahesh Bhatt remembered him as an icon in theatre. “He was our guru. We had learnt a lot from him.” Many film personalities like Govind Nihalani, Naseeruddin Shah, Ratna Pathak-Shah, Jayant Kriplani, Dolly Thakur, Sulabha Arya, Ashutosh Rana, paid their last respects to Mr. Dubey at Shivaji Park crematorium.