“‘Don’t ever take yourself seriously, have fun and never back off from commitments you make in life,’ are the golden words that we have imbibed from our Guru Balwant Gargi, who was not only a great teacher but a legendry playwright, producer and director besides being a novelist,” said Panjab University alumni and star couple Anupam Kher and Kirron Kher at an interaction with students at their alma mater.
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Anupam announced a scholarship for one student from the department of Indian Theatre in the memory Balwant Gargi. Gargi taught them both when they were students in the Theatre Department of the University in the early 1970s. Anupam said Gargi had immense depth.
Describing how he got admission to the department, Anupam said after scraping through his undergraduate studies, he saw an advertisement in a newspaper for walk-in interviews being held by the Theatre department
“I stole Rs 100 from the worship room at home to pay to travel to Chandigarh from Shimla (where he lived). I had the feeling that my parents would not allow me to join the theatre department. I was asked to audition for a role in a Sanskrit play — Vasantasena. I was to play the role of a girl.
“Gargi accepted me reluctantly saying my acting was just ordinary but it had an element of boldness,” Anupam recalled.
He eventually got a scholarship,with a stipend of Rs 200, topped the class and won a gold medal. He also gave back to his mother the money that he had taken from the worship room. For students, Anupam’s advice was: “Never be afraid of failure.”
Kirron, who is also Chandigarh MP, described Gargi as a huge influence on her, who taught her to be disciplined as an actor and instilled in her a sense of commitment. “He was very entertaining and lively. He introduced us to the world literature in theater which opened up our vision about the world and broadened our minds. I learnt not only the craft but also the passion to put into it. I miss him even today as he had enriched my life.”
The husband-wife duo entertained the audience with their lively banter and witty digs at each other. Referring to his wife as “MP Sahiba” throughout the function, Anupam said a lot had changed since July 27, 1974, his first day at the Theatre department. “But the one thing that hasn’t changed is that I have to sit in the audience to watch Kirron talking from the stage even now. That was the also the case when I enrolled in the department as a student,” said Anupam.
When Kirron said she was enjoying “every moment performing my duty” as MP, so much so that she was planning to settle down in Chandigarh permanently, Anupam quipped he wanted to live in Shimla.