Tracing a Legendhttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/pune/tracing-a-legend/

Tracing a Legend

Marathi actor Shriram Lagoo’s autobiography captures his journey as an actor.

Marathi actor Shriram Lagoo’s autobiography captures his journey as an actor.

Noted filmmaker Jabbar Patel has always been a man of the moment. With critically-acclaimed Marathi films such as Jait Re Jait,Saamna and Umbartha to his credit,Patel has always been comfortable at public events. But on Thursday evening,at the dimly lit theatre of the National Film Archives of India,Patel admitted it was one of the most unique situations he had ever faced in life. Attending the launch of legendary Marathi actor Shriram Lagoo’s biography Roopavedh,Patel said,“I am faced with a unique situation. Doctor Lagoo is my guru,and here I am,presiding over his book launch event.” Other noted personalities who gathered for the launch included Narendra Dabholkar,Ramdas Bhatkal and Jyoti Subhash.

Written and compiled by Lagoo himself,Roopavedh traces his journey as an actor,with his unique critique of Indian theatre and cinema from the ’60s to ’90s through essays,articles and interviews. Pune-based Lagoo,who has acted in a number of Marathi,Hindi and English films,is well-known for his portrayal of Professor Gokhale in Sir Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi (1982). In Marathi cinema,his performances were critically acclaimed in V Shantaram’s Pinjra (1972) and Patel’s Saamna (1974).

Making a mark in Marathi theatre,Lagoo was the first to act in VV Shirvadkar’s epic play Natasamrat. He portrayed the role of an actor who has retired from his public life and honoured with the prestigious Natasamrat award for his contribution to theatre. The story begins with his speech at the award function and goes through various stages of his retired life after the award. The pitiful lament by an old man — “Mala ghar deta ka,ghar” (Will someone give me a house),has been made immortal by Lagoo ever since.

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“It was in 1969 that someone from the Goa Hindu Association came to me with this play. Since I was a big fan of Kusumagraj,I decided to read it and was hooked,” writes Lagoo in a chapter called Natasamrat and I – A bond. He also recounts the time when the play was staged in Delhi and Pandit Ravi Shankar had come backstage to congratulate him. “Panditji hugged me tightly and said,‘You are killing me’,” recalls Lagoo.

Dressed in a cream silk kurta and carrying a walking stick,as he clutched the arm of his wife and theatre personality Deepa,the 85-year-old Lagoo sat on the stage with his friends and colleagues,but did not seem to be listening to the showers of praises bestowed upon him. A sudden memory,an anecdote,however,bought a dimpled smile and a devilish glint in his eyes. As he picked up the microphone to speak,Lagoo asked the audience in jest,“Why have we gathered here? To shower praises on me? Does it not seem a little too much?”

Well-known for being a rationalist,Lagoo’s most controversial essay Parmeshwarala Retire Kara (Time to Retire God),which provoked debates in the media and on other public platforms,is also included in Roopavedh.

Ask him about the book and how he worked upon it,he says,“I just wrote it. Some parts of the book I had already written,some I wrote later. But it is not that big a deal.” Almost retired from acting,Lagoo was last seen in Umesh Kulkarni’s Masala (2012),in a cameo role.

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