The 24th death anniversary of the Marathi stage luminary- the late Arvind Deshpande was commemorated on January 3, 2011 with the play-reading of DIVYACHYA KHALI UJED - a brand new surreal creation which probed the possibility of having lights on round the clock and dealing with living without darkness in life. What an apt tribute to the man who dedicated his life to the 'R&D' of Marathi theatre!
Arvind Deshpande is best remembered as the man with thick glasses, a bald pate and an endearing presence. Sulabha Deshpande, his life partner likes to remember him first as a human being and then as a theatrewallah. She says: 'Arvind was a great director and once he cast an actor in a role he wouldn''t have the heart to sack that actor however incompetent he may be! Arvind would take it upon himself to train and charge up the actor to the requisite level. He would work hard on it. He was a taleem master - a task master.'
Sulabha Deshpande had rushed to the memorial ceremony organized by Awishkar from Madh Island where she was shooting for her popular tele-serial, Lek Ladki Hya Gharchi... Arvind Deshpande had dedicated three decades of his life to Marathi theatre during which he acted in 38 plays and directed 27. He acted in five Marathi and 27 Hindi feature films in addition to seven Hindi tele serials. He won the National Award for directing the Marathi film, Shapit.
His memorable acting projects include TUZE AAHE TUJPASHI, SHITU, KACHECHI
KHELNI, TUGHLAQ, SHANTATA COURT CHALU AAHE'' and TI PHULRANI. He worked as Vijaya Mehta''s associate for several years in Rangayan before launching his own banner Awishakar. Experimental theatre was his mission and it is being carried forward even today by his associates under the able guidance of Arun Kakade.
'Awishkar was founded with the aim to make progressive, meaningful and pragmatic plays - people call it experimental or avant garde theatre. Our endeavor is to present soul-stirring as well as touching themes before the audience,' adds Arun Kakade.
As for his dear colleague, Arvind, he says,' He taught us that Research and Development are most important in theatre. That is the only way to widen our creative vision. After 24 years of his passing, we still follow the rules Arvind laid down for us at Awishkar.'
Arvind Deshpande is also credited with imparting a commercial format to Children''s theatre with DURGA ZALI GAURI. 'Innovative and ever evolving- that''s how Arvind''s theatre work can be described,' says Sulabha Deshpande. She recalled the play OCTOPUS fondly as both of them had acted together in it. 'It was our best work together. He was a team leader and believed that theatre was a group activity,' she concluded.
*Deepa Ranade is a film and theatre reviewer. She has been an entertainment journalist for over fifteen years.