2011 draws to a close today. And in this year I started my column with a farewell to Zul Vellani….and I end it with a farewell to Satyadev Dubey.
A lot has been written about Satyadev as I called him. My association goes back to 1969-70. At that time he hated English Theatre. I remember his fiery outbursts. And I constantly asked him to cast me in his productions. But he never did. And the last time I made the request to him was four months ago –some two weeks before he collapsed -- at the Prithvi Café where he held forth surrounded by young theatre passionatas. It was almost a running gag between us!
If I recall accurately there was not a play of his that I missed….first as critic and later purely as his friend. I drove to what was then remote corners of the city to see his work…Matunga, Vile Parle, in spaces that he discovered for his brand of plays.
I even sat in on a couple of his workshops to see how he puts his actors through their paces to be so acquainted with the text that they are able to recite whole paragraphs backwards.
Every time I visited Prithvi, no matter who I was with I always made a beeline for wherever he sat or stood…inviting him to come and see me on stage in Vagina Monologues. But for ten years I failed. He didn’t even see me on stage during my Mira, Birthday Party, Wings, Gaslight, Rashomon, Streetcar Named Desire, Death of a Salesman days – not even when I did a Hindi play with Dinesh Thakur in Tum Kya Jaano Preet.
But he remained my friend. And my carpet which has hosted many young actors of today has had the privilege of offering its hospitality to Satyadev!
Each time I met him he would repeat: “You deserve a medal coming all this way to Prithvi. All my old friends have dropped out.” But my loyalty and affections endured.
I visited him at least once through his illnesses. And each time he returned to his favourite haunt at the Prithvi to boast about his teeth or hair. And he did look young.
When I went to see his last play Khuda ke Liye Mat Dekho…he said “Tum nahin mano gi.”
Then his usual refrain became to get him sponsors to complete his film Ram Naam Satya Hai… he needed help with sound, mixing etc. …But I never acquiesed to his last request…Sorry Satyadev.