The stage and theatre actor, director and make-up artiste Parvesh Sethi were inseparable. From the oldest theatre group of the city to the new and emerging ones, Sethi was an integral part of the theatre scene of Chandigarh for more than six decades. Sethi, who was 75, passed away late Friday night because of kidney failure, leaving behind a large repertory of work in theatre, films and television. A mentor and guide to many theatre professionals of the city, he was instrumental in giving shape to many theatre festivals and creative endeavours, having been a part of the Chandigarh Sangeet Natak Akademi and Haryana Kala Parishad.
Born in Gujranwala, Pakistan, in 1943, Sethi’s family moved to Rohtak after Partition, where he did his high school, with his love for theatre beginning at the age of seven, when he would take part in plays in Shimla, while on summer holidays with his family. Sethi moved to Chandigarh in the late 1950s and here he began his journey in theatre, one that he once said was a commitment. While Sethi had no formal training in theatre, his extensive work, passion and dedicated work in various fields of theatre made him a name to reckon with. Sethi’s tryst with the stage began in the early 1960s as a make-up artiste, when not many were aware of the techniques and importance of make-up for theatre and Sethi would invest his own money to buy make-up and convince actors to try it, for it was a new art at that time.
Sethi worked closely with Balwant Gargi, when he was setting up Panjab University’s Department of Indian Theatre in the 1970s and his role of Hanuman in the Ram Leela of sectors 17, 22 and 27 earned him many fans. “He never said this cannot be done. He lived for theatre and his energy and positive attitude were infectious. I don’t think there is any theatre group in the city he was not associated with. From acting to make-up, direction to mentoring, his passion grew with time and Theatre For Theatre, our group he gave shape to in 1988 and build bit by bit to what it is today. He was the backbone of our 36 festivals. In spite of his ill-health, he would come to the venue of our recent one-month-long theatre festival in the morning, staying there till night. We would tell him to rest, but he wanted to be part of all the action, taking responsibility for many aspects of the festival,” recalls theatre director and now TFT head Sudesh Sharma.
For Sharma, Sethi was a guru, father figure, from whom he always got love, emotional support and guidance. “For me, his going is a personal loss. I remember his passion for his role of Colonel Surat Singh in the play, Court Martial, of which we have done 400 shows. His baritone voice earned him powerful roles of Kans in Katha Ek Kans Ki, Mughal ruler Aurangzeb in Zafarnama, Sandhya Chhaya and also films like Jab We Met, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Shaheed Udham Singh… Theatre gave him energy.”