Satyadev Dubey's students and colleagues plan tribute for his 82nd birth anniversary

By Snigdha Hasan | Mumbai

Updated: Aug 06, 2018, 08:29 IST

As Satyadev Dubey's students and colleagues plan a fitting tribute to the late theatre legend on his 82nd birth anniversary, we take a trip down memory lane with them

Illustration/Uday Mohite

Any artiste who has talked theatre with Satyadev Dubey is bound to have heard him say, "Acting cannot be taught, but it can be learnt" at least once. The paradox is, Dubey ji, as the iconic director, actor, playwright and screenwriter was called, was a theatre guru extraordinaire. Such that apart from his pioneering work in Hindi theatre, it is his army of students that is counted as his greatest legacy.

"Everything Dubey ji would do was a paradox. He always relished a good argument," recalls actor-director Trishla Patel, whose production, 1 Ka 3, is part of a series of plays to be performed as a day-long tribute to Dubey on his 82nd birth anniversary this Friday.

(From left) Amrish Puri, Sunila Pradhan, Satyadev Dubey and Sunil Shanbag (kneeling) in the Hindi translation of Mahesh Elkunchwar's Garbo, directed by Dubey. Pic Courtesy/Theatre Unit Archives

Organised by his long-time student and theatre artiste Hidayat Sami, the tribute is a formalisation of performances that Dubey's students have been presenting in his honour since he passed away in 2011. He now runs Dubey's Theatre Unit, just as Dubey himself had taken over the reins of the theatre group from Ebrahim Alkazi when the latter moved to Delhi to head the National School of Drama. As someone who has worked closely with Dubey since 1991, Sami talks of the importance he would lay on the internalisation of the text. "Communicating the script to the audience effectively was non-negotiable for Dubey ji. His sense of blocking a scene was extraordinary, which would sometimes leave the actor stumped only for it to grow on him later," he reminisces.

Sunil Shanbag's play, Soul, will be the final performance of the evening

"Stumped" would also be an apt way of describing what actor-director Sukant Goel's first interaction with Dubey left him feeling. "'What is your sun sign?' was his first question to me when I signed up for a 20-day workshop with him. He then remarked, 'Baap ke paas bahut paisa hai [Your father must be a rich man]', considering I was paying a fee for the workshop," recalls Goel, giving us a peek into the straight talk that Dubey was known for. He continues, "On the first day, he gave us a passage, asking us to internalise it, with every comma and semicolon.

Trishla Patel, Hidayat Sami and Sukant Goel

In seven days I saw one of the shiest students transform into a confident person." Patel, who now conducts free workshops with Sami at Prithvi Theatre every month like Dubey would, concurs. "Nothing happens without rehearsals, he would say. And we still live it every day," she says, counting the play, Magic Pill, which has seen the likes of two of his earliest students, Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak Shah, cast in it as her favourite.

"He never got absorbed in his own work, and I never heard him dismiss anybody else's work," adds Goel, whose character in Krapp's Last Tape to be performed on Friday is his tribute to Dubey. "We did the workshop for 19 days, and somehow, the last day never materialised. What we learnt from him lives through in that one udhari ka din."

'A dear friend and collaborator'
Satyadev was a person who had committed his life to the development of theatre. His body of work can be seen through the lens of his role as a theatre producer, pioneer of Hindi theatre in Bombay, outstanding teacher of theatre, and dialogue writer. Satyadev worked with me as a dialogue writer since my first film, Ankur (1973), until he passed on. We had many discussions, where he would like his way, and I would mine, but it was a very fruitful relationship.
Shyam Benegal

ON: July 13, 11 am onwards
AT: Prithvi House, Juhu.

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