Renowned Gujarati stage actor and theatre personality Markand Bhatt, 87 passed away on Friday morning. Bhatt is survived by a son and a daughter. His funeral is scheduled for Saturday morning, his son Suketu Bhatt said.
Bhatt was conferred with numerous awards in his lifetime, including the Gujarat Sangeet Natak Akademi in 1973 and was also felicitated by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, London in 1984. He also garnered the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for his contribution to Indian theatre in 2008 and is known as a champion of contemporary Gujarati theatre.
Having obtained a degree in theatre from MSU-Vadodara, he went on to become the Head of the Department of Drama at Saurashtra Sangeet Natak Akademi, Rajkot for two years and later headed the Department of Theatre Arts at MS University-Vadodara from 1969-1989. He was Dean of the Faculty of Performing Arts between 1984 to 1989 and the Chairman of the Gujarat Sangeet Natak Akademi from 1992 to 1995. Some of his major productions as director were Dhara Gurjari, Sheetal Ne Kanthe, Finger Print, Paritran and Hoholika.
Noted Ahmedabad-based theatre-person Aditi Desai said, “He was like a father figure to me and we had family relations. Incidentally, my father Jaswant Thakar who founded the first theatre college at MS University in Vadodara played a major role in getting Bhatt married to his wife Urmila, who was a non-Gujarati. The husband-wife duo had trained under my father and he was one of the few actors who made a name in theatre nationally. After having started a theatre college in Rajkot he came back to Vadodara and became the Dean at MSU. He dabbled in several genres from folk drama to historical to modern plays and was keen to encourage newcomers like Mahesh Champaklal, PS Chari whom he groomed. I recall him having watched our recent production/play ‘Akoopar’ with moist eyes. Despite having left acting several years ago, he was busily involved in theatre through his Vadodara-based institute Triveni and gave several seminars and theatre training. He also possessed a deep-throated voice and a great diction that are apt for theatre.”
Noted Vadodara-based Director and a student of Bhatt- PS Chari recalled, “I studied under him and specialised in Direction. He was ‘a giver’ as far as theatre was concerned and I recall having accompanied him when he was the Dean at MSU- Faculty of Performing Arts to USA. There he had taken us (students) to several theatre departments from where I learnt a lot. I also picked up several direction techniques from him. He was equally supportive of both commercial and alternative theatre and was a wonderful teacher and mentor. His students are spread across Gujarati and Hindi theatre and also few in USA and UK, all of whom have benefitted from his knowledge. He was active as an actor-director till about the year 2000 and then focussed on theatre through his organisation-Triveni.”