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Shyamanand Jalan
- Sunil Kothari

May 29, 2010

I feel great grief while writing this obituary of the renowned theatre personality, director, actor, legal advisor, Shyamanand Jalan, who passed away on May 24, 2010. He was 79 and had been battling cancer for a year.

He will be particularly well remembered for his performance as the don in Roland Joffe's 1992 film 'City of Joy.' He also worked with other reputed film directors like Mrinal Sen, Shyam Benegal, MS Sathyu, and Utpalendu Chakrabarty.

He was Vice-Chairman of the Sangeet Natak Akademi, the Chairman of the Kathak Kendra, New Delhi, and Science City and the Birla Industrial and Technological Museum, Kolkata. He had also been a governing body member of the National Council of Science Museums. He was an awardee of Sangeet Natak Akademi for direction. He has contributed a lot to the field of Art and will always be deeply missed by the whole Art fraternity.

His wife Chetna Jalan is a renowned Kathak exponent. Shyamanand-ji took great interest in classical dances of India and under the aegis of Padatik in Kolkata, he arranged several workshops on dance, lec-dems of Gurus like Kelucharan Mohapatra, Vempati Chinna Satyam, Guru Bipin Singh, Birju Mharaj, organized three major international theatre, dance, martial arts conferences inviting theatre personalities like Peter Brook, Euginio Barba, Tadashi Suzuki, Richard Schechner and leading theatre directors and actors from all over India.

He directed Badal Sarkar's plays Evam Indrajit, Shuturmurg, Mohan Rakesh's plays Ashad Ka Ek Din and also Vijay Tendulkar's play Sakharam Binder, others like Kauva Chale Hans Ki Chaal, Hazar Chaurasi Ki Maa, and experimented with theatre in the round. He played a major role in building up Hindi theatre in Kolkata. With help of Dr Suresh Awasthi and Sangeet Nata Akademi, he had organized Chhau Festival bringing three Chhau forms - Seraikella, Mayurbhanj, Purulia - together on one platform, way back in March 1977 in Kolkata.

His house was open to theatre actors, director, dancers, critics, scholars, painters, poets, literary personalities. He was a brilliant solicitor and legal practitioner but his first love was theatre. A voracious reader, his library was a treasure trove. To strike a personal note, during my tenure as a Professor and Head, Dept of Dance, Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata, Shyamanand Jalan was my friend, philosopher and guide. Chetna and he took great care of me, offered support in my all academic and performing arts activities. Their house has been my second home. He was generous to a fault, inspired confidence, and always encouraged many of us, dancers, scholars, critics. His house was a place where any evening, if you were to drop in, even unannounced, you were welcome and you could join his ever increasing and widening circle of artists, dancers, painters, musicians, actors, directors, photographers, poets, film makers, film directors, film actors.

Even when he was taken ill and was unwell, he showed amazing courage, carried on directing plays, after his legal consultancy work. He would change from legal advisor to a director, loved provoking artists, engaged them in lively conversations and arguments.

He was fond of food, loved 'adda baji,' read a lot and was always thinking of directing plays.

Kolkata will not be same for some of us. He made us feel comfortable in Kolkata. We knew 'he was there' and always extended a hand to help, assist, with warmth and affection. He will be sorely missed.

Dr. Sunil Kothari, is a dance historian, scholar, author, and a renowned dance critic.