Curtains on The Life of Theatre

Siddhant Agarwal

Well versed as an artist, director, poet and writer Jugal Kishore was actively associated with theatre from more than two decades. A graduate of Lucknow University and Bhartendu Natya Akademi, Jugal Kishore has had over 25 years of experience of teaching theatre in the country’s premier drama school he was also Chief of the Bhartendu Natya Akademi from 2008-2012.

He was a part of various Hindi & Bhojpuri films like Dabang 2, Peepli Live, Babar, Coffee House, Mai Meri Patni aur Woh, Kafan, Hamka Aisan Waisan Na Samjha etc. and television shows like Brahm Ka Swang, Parda, Wasiyat, Hal hona eik kathin samasya ka, etc. He was the force behind the Hindi version of the of G.V. Iyer’s Sanskrit film Shrimad Bhagwad Gita. The film was awarded the Golden Lotus, the highest National award in 1993. He was awarded the Pride of Lucknow by Lions Club. And was also honoured with Shri Sharad Chandra Vairagkar Sangkarmi Samman 2012. An active artist, he published various works for the electronic media. Some notable ones are, Inhe bhi apni Taah Samjhen: a feature on problem of deaf and dumb, Lucknow Rangmanch Kal Aaj Aur Kaal: a feature on the theatre history of Lucknow, Mrityu dand hi Kyon?: A feature on the validity of death punishment, Nai Pidhi ke Naye Chehre: A feature on the problem of youth, Lucknow ke Hastshilp ñ Chikan Art: A feature on the chikan art of Lucknow, Lucknow ke Hastshilp ñ Mitti ke Khilone: A feature on the terracotta toys and sculpture of Lucknow. This feature also looks into the problem of poor artisans. He painstalingly documented the art of the Bhands (mimics patronized by the Nawabs of Awadh) and Pai Danda the martial art of the Bundelkhand region.

He organised theatre workshops for Bhartendu Natya Akademi, Manila Samakhya and Ramanand Saraswati Pustkalya, and Sangeet Natak Akademi, Government of India on playwriting in Allahabad. He presented various papers in national seminars on theatre and had been writing on theatre and art for newspapers and magazines. In the words of renowned theatre person Fritz Bennewitz, his art embraces the vitality of living folk theatre traditions and the delicacy and poetry of the classic.

As a director he experimented in various folk forms including Nautanki and his selection of plays brought out themes of contemporary concerns of political, social or psychological aspects. As a director, he was a part of approximately 30 plays mainly on contemporary social and political issues which have been staged in various cities like Brahm ka Swang, based on a short story by Munshi Prem Chand, the play hit out at the hypocrisy in society, it has had more than 500 shows across the country; Ek Atankwadi ki Maut – an adaptation of Nobel-prize winner Dario Fo’s Accidental Death of an Anarchist; Tashon ka Desh – A musical adaptation of Ravindranath Tagore’s Tasher Desh; Caligula – An adaptation of Albert Camus’s play of the same name; Andher Nagari – Bhartendu Harish Chandra’s play hitting out at the corrupt political system; Khoja Nasiruddin – An adaptation of leonid Solove’s novel; Matia burj – Stage adaptation of the film script Roshoman by Akira Kurusawa; Tikram baaz (Bicchu) – An adaptation of Molier’s Les Fourberis de Scapin; Ali Baba – The legendary Arabian tale enacted by the BNA Repertory interpreting the thieves as a symbol of capitalism; Ala Afsar – Mudra Rakshas’s adaptation of Gogol’s Inspector General performed in nautanki style; Satyavakta Harish Chandra – A popular story of a pious king performed in experimental style bringing together famous Hathrasi nautanki artist late Pandit Girijas Prasad Kama and professional actors from the BNA repertory; Makah chor – Rakesh’s experimental play depicting globalization’s onslaught on the traditional value system; Holi – Reflects the agitation of the student community on today’s system; Dafan Karo – An anti-war play based on an adaptation of Irwin Shaw’s Bury the Dead; Raat – Exposing the state-sponsored Gujarat pogrom of 2002 and the trauma of the common man; Andhaar Yatra – A translation of G P Deshpande’s play of the same name, etc.

As an actor he was a part of more than 30 plays which were critically acclaimed including Andher Nagari by Bhartendu Harish Chandra, Uribhaag by Bhas, Andha Yug by Dharamvir Bharti, Gufawasi (The Cave Dwellers) by William Saroyam, Julius Ceaser by William Shakespere, Tughlaq by Girish Karnad, Aadhe Adhure by Mohan Rakesh, Garbo by Mahesh Elkunchwar, Raaz (Sleuth) by Anthony Shaffer, Trojan Women by Euripides, Vansansi Jirnani by Mahesh, Elkurchwar, Balkan’s Women, Antigone, etc.

On 26th October 2015, the legend breathed his last due to a cardiac arrest in his home in Gomti Nagar. Saddened by the loss to the industry, many renowned artists turned up to pay their respects to the person who gave 26 years of dedication to the theatre industry. Not only a face of theatre, he was also renowned in Bollywood which is evident from the fact that condolences also poured in from various Bollywood celebrities such as Aamir Khan, Salman Khan, Anil Rastogi and Rajpal Yadav. His mortal remains were first kept in his home where the people paid their respects, after that they were taken to the Bhartendu Natya Akademi, where his mentor Raj Bisariya bid him a tearful goodbye. He was cremated at Gulalaghat by his son Ashutosh Mishra. His demise leaves a hole in the theatre fraternity of Lucknow as well as in the industry as a whole. He was a person who dedicated his life to the cause of theatre and brought it to the level as it is today. He was an inspiration for the people aspiring to be a part of theatre and his plays will always be one of the most influential pieces of art and culture that we have.

A budding engineer, the writer loves to spend time penning down his thoughts and reading books.

(Published in The Lucknow Observer, Volume 2 Issue 20, 5th November 2015)

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