{ Page-Title / Story-Title }

Article Hindi

Dinesh Thakur created actors out of people, remembers wife Preeta Mathur

Preeta Mathur speaks of the late film and theatre artiste's unique way of training actors, on his fourth death anniversary.

Keyur Seta

Dinesh Thakur was a legend in Hindi theatre, who also made a mark in the so-called parallel Hindi cinema. After his untimely demise in 2012, his wife and theatre performer Preeta Mathur has been running his theatre group, Ank. On his fourth death anniversary, she spoke exclusively with Cinestaan.com about his unique style of working, among other things.

As far as films are concerned, Thakur is remembered the most for Basu Chatterjee’s classic, Rajnigandha (1974), which also starred Amol Palekar and Vidya Sinha. In the film he played an ad filmmaker who was once in a relationship with Sinha’s character. Recalling the film, Mathur revealed how her husband used to speak, only partially in jest, about paving the way for other actor's actors. 

“He used to say, ‘If Rajnigandha and I hadn't happened to films, Om Puri and Naseeruddin Shah would not have received much work.’ In those days, people used to cast only chocolate heroes; Rajesh Khanna, Rajendra Kumar, Jeetendra types. When a face which wasn’t that beautiful in the conventional sense got importance, it paved the way for less good-looking people to get cast in main roles. Somebody had to show the way,” Mathur said.

The era of 1970s was dominated by hero-centric commercial films. After Rajnigandha in the mid-1970s, the era of what was then called parallel cinema also started blooming.

Mathur believes Thakur did not get his due from the Hindi film industry but she has no complaints. “Personally, I always felt that the film people overlooked him in some aspects. He could have been used in so many ways and so beautifully. Anyway, what was a loss for films became a huge asset for theatre. He created this theatre group and with it a tradition. It’s going to last and it is durable. This wouldn’t have happened if he had been busy in the film world.”

She also spoke of how Thakur earned the title of ‘actor maker’. “He knew how to extract the correct performance from an actor," said his wife. "[That is why] he was regarded by people as an ‘actor maker.’ People believed that Dineshji had a magic wand; he will weave it and we will become actors. He believed that a person can become an actor if he or she surrenders to the director or guru. An actor should not have an ego and should do everything the director asks.” 

She also disclosed Thakur’s harsh way of training actors which ended up helping them. “If an actor has achieved something, it is more difficult to surrender. What Dineshji used to do is that before making you, he will break you. He would make you so upset that you will keep crying. In that state, when everything gets broken down, he would ask you to try again. Then you will see miracles taking place. You would be able to do a perfect job as everything would be empty inside.”

But Mathur also lamented the fact that people with such patience seem to be extinct. “Nobody has such patience today," she remarked. "He knew how to treat different people. That’s why Dineshji stands taller as he created actors out of people. I was with IPTA [Indian People's Theatre Association] earlier. I knew what my weaknesses were and what I needed to do to overcome them. But Dineshji taught me how to. There were big names in IPTA, but who would work with actors this way? You need a lot of patience, understanding and love for the people working with you. You can break and make them only because you love them.” 

Needless to say, Mathur misses him and his ways. “We really miss all this," the Ank anchorwoman said. "Today we get new actors. I know this guy is not able to perform because of a mental block. For me to break that mental block is a huge task. Dineshji used to do it so easily. He had a unique quality that we don’t!”