Sushant Singh Rajput
21 Jan 1986 – 14 Jun 2020
Actor Sushant Singh Rajput was found dead in his Bandra apartment on June 14. What followed was an appalling trial by media, with accusations of drugs, depression, nepotism, murder and abetment to suicide flying thick and fast. As one investigating agency after the other was put on the job, many Bollywood biggies got sucked into the high-octane drama, fuelled and driven by 24/7 television. A private tragedy was turned into a public spectacle and no one was spared of the mud-slinging, including the actor’s family. Sushant’s girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty, along with her brother, was arrested. #JusticeForSushantSingh
Rajput kept the twitterati busy, but in all the noise and din, what was lost was the silent mourning for a promising life cut short. And remembering the man who won hearts with his TV show Pavitra Rishta, and then went on to give memorable performances in films like Kai Po Che!, MS Dhoni: The Untold Story and Kedarnath. His last film, released after his death, was ironically titled Dil Bechara, an adaptation of The Fault In Our Stars.
28 Jan 1930 – 17 Aug 2020
A voice that mesmerised millions across the globe could also charm animals, and even conjure up storms, literally out of thin air. As the legend goes, Pandit Jasraj, a name synonymous with Indian classical music the world over, was performing Raag Todi on the grounds of Sankat Mochan Temple in Varanasi (1996), when a deer came near the stage and stayed till the performance ended. According to another tale, a rendition of Raag Dhulia Malhar brought about a storm on a calm summer night when he was performing in Delhi in 1998. His magical voice that could traverse over all four-and-a-half octaves was a perfect blend of sur, laya and gayaki. Born in Hisar into a family of musicians belonging to the Mewati Gharana, Pandit Jasraj’s journey started under his father Pandit Motiram. After his father’s death at four, he would accompany his elder brother and guru, Pandit Maniram on tabla. A caustic remark at 14 made him switch to singing. What taal lost, sur gained. An eight-decade career, studded with numerous international and national honours, including the three Padma awards, his contribution to Indian music is immense. His legacy lives on in his unique creations that include Jasrangi (a unique jugalbandi style), Haveli sangeet, more than 300 compositions, and perhaps a minor planet named after him.
25 Dec 1928 —16 Sept 2020
A life that enriched the world of arts in myriad ways, art scholar Kapila Vatsyayan wore many hats. A redoubtable author, an able administrator, adviser and a dancer in her own right, her journey may have started when government patronage for the arts was unheard of. Yet, she not only patronised the arts at a personal level, working with luminaries like Jawaharlal Nehru, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Indira Gandhi, but also helmed many important institutions. The founding director of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, she was also chairperson of the Asia Project at the India International Centre. The recipient of Padma Vibushan and former Member of Parliament, she leaves behind a treasure-trove of wisdom and knowledge with her books like Bharata: The Natyasastra, Traditions of Indian Folk Dance, Classical Indian Dance in Literature and the Arts and The Square and Circle of the Indian Arts. The archives she built at IGNCA are as enviable a collection as her insightful life. Much ahead of her time, she was a true scholar of ancient Indian culture and civilisation.
19 Jan 1935 — 15 Nov 2020
The streets of Kolkata swarmed with people who came out to pay tributes to Soumitra Chatterjee when he died of Covid last month. A Dadasaheb Phalke Award winner, he was the first Indian actor to be conferred with France’s highest award for artistes, Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. Ironically, the actor wasn’t awarded National Film Award for much of his earlier work, which included most of the world class cinema he did with Satyajit Ray. The doyen of Bengali cinema started his film journey with Ray’s Apur Sansar in 1959. He went on to do 14 films with the ace director. With his role of sleuth Feluda, he won hearts across generations. In a career spanning 300 films, the versatile genius worked with directors like Mrinal Sen, Tapan Sinha and Rituparno Ghosh. Besides screen and theatre, his poetry recitations saw full house as well. Even in his 80s, the Padma Vibushan recipient could carry a film on his shoulders. Complete scripts were written keeping him in mind. When Sujoy Ghosh came out with his 14-minute epic thriller Ahalya, he said he made the film only to direct Soumitra
25 Dec 1925 – 26 Mar 2020
Artist, sculptor, architect — Satish Gujral excelled in each role he took up. Having lost the sense of hearing when he was eight, silence was to fill his world with unparalleled imagination. This silence was to manifest itself on his canvas, making him one of India’s best-known artists. The pronounced pain of Partition in his works brought him recognition — women huddled together, the trauma and pain evident on their faces, becoming a symbol of the great migration. An implant brought back the sounds of the world to him, at 72 years of age. But when the sounds became too much, he returned to silence again, six years later. As an architect, his designs for the Embassy of Belgium and India Islamic Cultural Centre in Delhi stand out. Younger brother of former Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral, he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 1999. In his death in March, the country lost one of its greatest icons of modernism, who towered the art scene for six decades.
18 Oct 1925 — 4 Aug 2020
The year was 1963. The ruins of Ferozeshah Kotla became the setting for the epic story of Mahabharata. India had still been bearing the brunt of the 1962 war with China when Ebrahim Alkazi staged Andha Yug, discussing the cost of violence. The play, along with his productions such as Tughlaq and Ashaad Ka Ek Din, will be remembered for long. Hailing from an Arab family settled in India, he studied at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, UK. At the National School of Drama, he mentored actors like Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri and Rohini Hattangadi. His passing away at the age of 95 in August sent his students back to the classroom. They remembered stories of his strict nature, of his appreciation that was to remain the best compliment ever, his lessons in dignity of labour, his appreciation of other arts. Among the tallest of contemporary Indian theatre practitioners, Alkazi quit NSD in 1977, at the age of 52, and set up an arts gallery. His experiments in theatre, meanwhile, continued, and will continue to inspire generations to come.
10 Jan 1927 – 4 Jun 2020
Film director, screenwriter Basu Chatterjee worked as an illustrator and cartoonist for nearly two decades before turning his gaze towards filmmaking. Known for his content-driven cinema, he has left behind an unparalleled cinematic legacy with films like Rajnigandha, Chitchor, Khatta Meetha, Baton Baton Mein, Chameli Ki Shaadi and Ek Ruka Hua Faisla. Before debuting as a director with Sara Akash in 1969, Chatterjee assisted Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Basu Bhattacharya. He even wrote the screenplay for the film, which was based on a novel of the same name. The film got him Filmfare Best Screenplay Award. Coated in satire, a humorous take on the common man’s problems was at the heart of his repertoire. He found his quintessential hero in Amol Palekar, who helmed six of his films. Amitabh Bachchan played the protagonist in his critically acclaimed film Manzil. Chatterjee received the National Film Award for Best Film on Family Welfare for Durga in 1992. This master storyteller of the urban middle class ruled television with shows like Rajani and Byomkesh Bakshi, winning the hearts of audience as well as critics.
4 Sept 1952 – 30 Apr 2020
Eternal heartthrob, Chintuji to millions of his fans, the ever-charming Rishi Kapoor, lost the battle with cancer in April. The cherubic child actor of Mera Naam Joker, the breakout star of Bobby, he endeared himself to cinema lovers time and again. Be it as the romantic hero in hits like Khel Khel Mein, Karz, Rafoo Chakkar, Chandni or with twinkling toes in Hum Kisise Kum Naheen. In his final innings too,
the star actor took centrestage in film after film. Ever since he re-discovered himself as the mean and menacing Rauf Lala in Agneepath (2012), experimentation defined his choices. Cantankerous Babulal of 102 Not Out, 90-year-old grandpa of Kapoor & Sons, righteous Muslim of Mulk, Rishi proved he was the rightful inheritor of the rich legacy of acting that came naturally to the son of Raj Kapoor. If spontaneity was his middle name, candid charm was his innate style. Khullam Khulla: Rishi Kapoor Uncensored was not just the name of his autobiography, but that is who he was, as he tweeted fearlessly. The actor, who had begun to master his autograph soon after his debut in Mera Naam Joker, leaves behind a signature impossible to erase and equally hard to emulate.
22 Nov 1948 – 3 Jul 2020
When Sridevi danced to choreographer Saroj Khan’s Hawa Hawai moves in Mr India, not only did these capture the imagination of an entire generation, but also rewrote the rule book of Bollywood dance. Shattering the glass ceiling and becoming the first woman choreographer of Hindi cinema wasn’t easy for Saroj, born Nirmala Nagpal. Starting her career at three as child artiste Baby Shyama, she worked as a background dancer in films like Howrah Bridge, Taj Mahal and Madhumati. In a career spanning four decades, Saroj choreographed more than 2,000 songs and won three National Awards. Fondly called Masterji, she made leading Bollywood stars like Sridevi, Madhuri Dixit and Aishwarya Rai groove to her steps. Bollywood’s go-to artiste, Saroj was best known for the dance form mujra. She fused elements of folk and classical Indian dance into film choreography. Her dance moves in iconic songs like “Ek Do Teen” (Tezaab), “Dola Re” (Devdas), “Choli Ke Peeche” (Khalnayak), “Mere Haathon Mein” (Chandni) and “Yeh Ishq, Hai” (Jab We Met), will remain etched in memory.
As Subhash Ghai, in his tribute, said, ‘With her death, an era has ended’.
4 Jun 1946 – 25 Sept 2020
The passing of SP Balasubrahmanyam due to Covid at age 74 silenced a beautiful voice that was loved all across India. Thanks to the Hindi film industry, the velvet voice of Balasubramaniam — or simply Bala — sailed over the Vindhyas and enriched the North, West and East, too. Thus Bala’s beautiful singing became a voice of India, instead of remaining the voice of South India, which had been the fate of wonderful singers like P Jayachandran of Kerala and PB Sreenivas, celluloid voice of Kannada superstar Rajkumar.
Bala was introduced to listeners of Hindi songs in 1981, with Ek Duuje Ke Liye, a year after the death of Mohammed Rafi. Bala was the rightful follower of Rafi, both as the sweetest male voice in Hindi cinema and as a man of unmatched humility. He was Kamal Haasan’s voice in Hindi songs, and when Salman Khan arrived, Bala sang some of the emerging superstar’s greatest songs in films like Maine Pyar Kiya, Patthar Ke Phool and Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! Bala was heard lesser and lesser in Hindi films — Haasan retreated to the South and Salman became a toughie, less likely to lip-sync soulful songs — but he remained deeply loved, as was evident in the mourning that followed his death.
7 Jan 1967 — 29 Apr 2020
As an actor, he never missed a beat but in real life, his heart stopped beating as he succumbed to neuroendocrine tumour gnawing him for two years, leaving millions of fans grief-stricken. India’s most visible ambassador to Hollywood, seen in movies like Life of Pi, The Namesake, Jurassic World, Inferno, A Mighty Heart and The Amazing Spider-Man, he was truly an international star. A product of National School of Drama, the film industry may have taken a while in recognising the sheer brilliance of this rather diffident actor. But Paan Singh Tomar and a National Award established him firm and square as an actor par excellence. Be it the titular part of Maqbool, Rana of Piku, Ashoke Ganguli of The Namesake and Roohdaar of Haider, it’s near impossible to say which his best role was. He achieved perfection each time he melted into a character and proved his worth on the box office barometer too. From sombre to comic, there wasn’t a genre or formula that would limit him. A critics’ darling, directors’ favourite and viewers’ delight, his early demise seemed like a personal loss to his countless avid fans.
12 Apr 1928 — 6 Jan 2020
A modernist in the true sense, a pure colourist, creator of metascapes, whatever may be the epithet you choose to confer on Akbar Padamsee, he is, perhaps, best described in his own words. “You need the mind of a mathematician and a poet to be a painter.” Trained at Sir JJ School of Art, he learnt as much from his international experiences and worked with surrealist painter Stanley Hayter. Yet, when it came to putting his brush, rather knife, to canvas, he drew inspiration from Sanskrit texts and Indian philosophy. It might be fashionable to use words like avant garde today, but here was an artist who broke barriers of mediums and subjects. Film director Ashim Ahluwalia was so inspired by Padamsee’s films that he decided to reconstruct his 6-mm film, Events In A Cloud Chamber. He may have courted controversy with his nudes, which invited charges
of obscenity, but Padamsee would call his creations “dressed in shadow”. The Padma Bhushan recipient went beyond the obvious and captured essence and stillness as his works would constantly remain a study in contemplation. But then, here was a thinker’s artist who felt no need to play to the gallery or gallerists.
29 Mar 1939 — 8 Jul 2020
The Soorma Bhopali of Sholay, Jagdeep, aka Syed Ishtiaq Ahmed Jaffrey, enjoyed a long innings spread over nearly 400 films, winning audiences with his comic act. Calling Bombay home around Partition, he was just six when picked up from the streets to enact in a film. The rest, as they say, is a rags-to-riches story. From his first break in 1951 in Afsana as a child artiste, he continued to work as late as 2012. He also directed a light-hearted comedy Soorma Bhopali, taking the lead role in it. It was his comic timing that won him fame. Jagdeep was seen in yesteryear melodies — “In Pyar Ki Raahon Mein”, “Chal Ud Ja Re Panchhi” and “Chali Chali Re Patang”. His last message to his fans was through his son Jaaved Jaffrey’s social media handle in 2018, “Main muskarata hoon, main Jagdeep hoon... Aaye o haste haste aur jao haste haste,” he said in a short video in which he reiterated his famous dialogue — “Hamaara naam bhi Soorma Bhopali aise hi nahi hai, ab aap samajh lo”.
7 Oct 1977 — 1 Jun 2020
Musical heartbeat of many Salman Khan films, composer and singer Wajid of the Sajid-Wajid fame has gone too soon. He became a victim of Covid-19, exacerbated by an underlying kidney ailment. In sync with the tradition of hit jodis of Hindi film industry, he, along with his brother, embellished the music of films like the Dabangg franchise, besides Garv, Tere Naam, Tumko Na Bhool Paayenge and Partner. Inspired by Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, in a way it was his robust voice that set the tune for “Hud Hud Dabangg”. A singer in his own right, besides their favourite Salman, Wajid also lent his voice to Akshay Kumar. His song “Chinta Ta Ta Chita Chita” from Rowdy Rathore became an instant hit. So did the foot-tapping “Mashallah”, which he sang in his inimitable style. As his song “Baaki Sab First Class Hai” from Jai Ho resonates, his premature end will forever rankle.
18 Feb 1933 — 25 Mar 2020
A female superstar even before Bollywood could accept this, Nimmi, born Nawab Bano, ruled the silver screen in the 1950s. There are other firsts to her name. Her second movie, Mehboob Khan’s Aan (1952), was the first Indian movie in colour. She was also, perhaps, the first actor to turn down four major Hollywood offers as she was “uncomfortable with kissing scenes”. She had gone to meet Mehboob Khan on the sets of Andaz when she was spotted by Raj Kapoor, who launched her in Barsaat (1949). In a
short journey of 15 years, she worked with top names like K Asif, Sohrab Modi, Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Sunil Dutt, Kishore Kumar and Naushad. Even among contemporaries like Madhubala, Nargis and Meena Kumari, her beauty stood out. Madhubala is said to have got insecure during the making of Amar (1954), which starred Dilip Kumar.
Among her memorable films are Udan Khatola, Daag and Mere Mehboob. Some of her iconic songs include “Hum Se Mile Tum, Sajan”, “Dil Ka Diya Jala Ke Gaya”, “Tum Na Jaane Kis Jahaan” and “Jia Beqarar Hai”.
13 Jul 1947 – 10 Dec 2020
Hailed as a pioneer of modern dance in India, Astad Deboo was born into a Parsi family in Navsari, Gujarat. Trained in kathak at the age of six, he learnt kathakali, and later Martha Graham’s modern dance technique, besides José Limón’s. A recipient of Padma Shri in 2007, Deboo’s fusion dance broke the barriers of style, culture and nationality. He collaborated with the likes of Pink Floyd, Gundecha Brothers and Dadi Pudumjee. Amalgamating Indian classical with western group dance techniques, he created a dance style unique to him. Deboo also initiated social consciousness in his projects. He trained marginalised streetchildren and worked with differently abled youngsters. Deboo’s dance innings spanned half a decade, taking him to about 70 countries, collaborating with scores of artistes. Deboo was also honoured with the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award. He choreographed for MF Husain’s Meenaxi: A Tale of Three Cities, besides working with filmmakers like Mani Ratnam and Vishal Bhardwaj. During the lockdown, Deboo choreographed his last piece Boundaries, an ode to migrant workers. India lost a cultural treasure in the death of this pioneer of modern Indian dance.
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