Article Hindi

Raghuvir Yadav, Daya Shankar Pandey recall Lagaan co-star Shrivallabh Vyas

Vyas and Yadav were inseparable on the sets of Ashutosh Gowariker's Oscar-nominated film.

Raghuvir Yadav, Shrivallabh Vyas and Daya Shankar Pandey in Lagaan

Keyur Seta

Veteran actor Shrivallabh Vyas died on Sunday in Jaipur at the age of 59. He had been ill for the past nine years, following a stroke which led to paralysis.

Though he acted in around 60 films, Vyas's best known role remains that of wicket-keeper Ishwar in Ashutosh Gowariker's Oscar-nominated film Lagaan: Once Upon A Time In India (2001).

Two of Vyas's colleagues from the film, Raghuvir Yadav and Daya Shankar Pandey expressed sorrow and became nostalgic thinking about their co-star and close friend in a conversation with

For Yadav, Vyas was family. “I knew him since my NSD [National School of Drama] days," Yadav said. "He was 4-5 years junior to me, but we were together in the repertory."

Yadav said the two of them did a lot of work together and came to develop close ties. "We knew each other for nearly 25 years, even before he was married," the veteran actor said. "We used to visit each other when we were in the repertory. When we had nothing to do, we used to cook. He was a well-read person with an interest in literature. We weren’t party people, so we were more into reading and writing.”

Recalling his friend, Pandey said, “He was an amazing human being. He was like a child, always eager to do good roles. More than money, he was interesting in doing quality work. It is sad to lose him. He was like my older brother. I have good relations even with his family members.”

Pandey recalled how Vyas did not suffer from the most common failing of artistes. “Every actor has the habit of criticizing some other actor," he said. "All do this, including me. But Vyasji was an exception. I never heard him criticize anyone. If someone started criticizing another, he would divert the conversation. He had no hard feelings towards anyone. He never used to feel jealous if an actor achieved more success. He used to leave everything to god.”

Vyas with Aamir Khan in Lagaan

Yadav agreed with Pandey. “Vyas never used to fight and I have never seen him criticizing anyone. He was fully into his work,” he said.

Yadav recalled a gesture by Vyas that he said he would never forget. “When I won the Silver Peacock award in 1987, he came to the airport with his friend to congratulate me and share my happiness. He looked for me and took me with him,” he said.

The Mungerilal actor did just one film with Vyas — Lagaan — but it turned out to be historic. Recalling the days of the shooting, he said, “That was the only film I have done with him. We were unable to stay without each other on the sets. After coming on the sets, we would search for one another. In the five-and-a-half months we were together, we were always up to some antics. After speaking just about everything about our lives, when there was nothing left to say, we would blabber any rubbish. This is how we used to pass our time.”

Recalling Lagaan (2001), Pandey spoke about Vyas’s hidden talent. “He was a lot into singing," he said. "The song we sang in Lagaan, ‘Oh Re Taal Mile Nadi Ke Jal Mein’, was started off by Vyasji. We used to also sing it while going to the sets. It became Aamir Khan’s favourite song. I had good bonding with him, even at an emotional level. He didn’t even hesitate to scold me!”

Pandey also spoke of the Vyas family's royal connection. “His father was an astrologer in the palace of the king of Jaisalmer," he said. "Even today they have a house inside the palace. It was a rebellious act for the son of a pandit to go into acting.”

After the release of Lagaan, Vyas bought his first car. “He was delighted with it," recalled Pandey. "He used to stay in the same building as cricketer Rohit Sharma. He once introduced me to him. At that time, Sharma was a new face. But Vyas was too passionate about cricket.”

Vyas has a strong body of work in theatre. According to Pandey, he was better than even Naseeruddin Shah when it came to playing Mirza Ghalib. “He had done a play called Qaid-e-Hayat," he said. "People are of the opinion that he did it better than even Naseer saheb. He had such great command of Urdu.”

Pandey was supposed to do an interesting play with Vyas, but the production never took off owing to the latter’s ill health. “It was Umesh Shukla’s play, Kashmira Kiski. He was supposed to play [former Pakistan dictator] Pervez Musharraf and I was to play [former prime minister] Atal Bihari Vajpayee. We both fall in love with a young woman named Kashmira but indirectly it hinted at the Kashmir issue,” Pandey said.

Vyas's death has deeply affected Pandey. “This wasn’t even an age [to die]," he said. "But what can one do before god’s will? It is sad that he had to be away from work so early in life. Sometimes I feel one shouldn’t be a good person. If this is what you get in return, then it’s scary to be a good person."

But Melaram from Swades, We The People (2004) was glad that at least Vyas’s family is doing well. “His daughter has become a fashion designer," Pandey said. "She is doing well and has got engaged, too. The biggest sorrow is faced by the family when someone passes away. His wife Shobha has handled the family well after he fell sick. I have realized that even though god makes a good person face atrocities, he takes care of the family.”