Joy Michael, Delhi-based theatre director, actor, producer and teacher — who nurtured some of the biggest stage talents over 50 years through the group Yatrik — passed away on March 9 at the age of 92. She had been ill for the last few years.
“Almost everybody who has been through Yatrik is now in films, television and theatre. There was Ebrahim Alkazi, Alyque Padamsee, Sai Paranjpye, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Mohan Maharishi, Kirti Jain and, of course, Barry John and Marcus Munch. She kept people together, and always wanted to reach out to more,” said Sunit Tandon, the current director of Yatrik.
Michael, who was also the principal of St Thomas School in Delhi, founded Yatrik in 1964 with people who were driven by a passion for theatre, including actresses Kusum Haider and Sushma Seth. Michael had been active in theatre since her college days, and was the first woman secretary of the Shakespeare Society at St Stephen’s College. She has been felicitated with the Sangeet Natak Akademi award and the Padma Shri.
In the 1960s and through the 80s, theatre in Delhi often struggled to get audiences. Bhaskar Ghosh, who joined Yatrik a year after it was founded, recalled how one performance had more people on stage than in the hall. “But, Joy said, ‘The show must go on’,” he recalled.
Yatrik did plays ranging from Greek tragedies to Agatha Christie, in English, Hindi and Urdu. “She had tremendous will power. When I directed the play ‘9 Jakhoo Hill’, which toured South Africa, she was the producer. She was suffering from a really bad toothache, yet she went out and collected furniture for the sets. I would tell her to stay in the hotel, and then find her sitting in the wings, holding her jaw, which was obviously throbbing with pain,” said Tandon, admitting that he has “very large shoes to fill”.