Friday 26 December 2008
Source: Screen Weekly
By Alaka Sahani
For Sam Kerawalla, the real-pleasure was in working backstage and in making sure the actions unfold onstage without hiccups. But last Sunday evening, he was under spotlight again when he was presented Thespo’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Yet, not many veteran theatre-goers will forget his contribution to the Mumbai theatre. Those, who have missed him on-and-off the stage, are sure to have loved him as carrom-crazy oldie in Munnabhai MBBS.
Most of his time as a theatre person in the last five decades, however, was spent in dabbling in all aspects of stagecraft — acting, direction, stage management, set and light designing. So it doesn’t come as a surprise when the 77-year-old says: «Theatre is my religion. I’ve only been practicing it for all these years.» His understanding of everything related to stage also stems from his association with the famous Adi Marzban. Burjor Patel, Hosi Vasunia and Pervez Mehta are some of the other renowned theatre personalities Kerawalla worked with.
Theatre artist Dolly Thakore remembers Kerawalla as one of the gentlest theatrewallahs. «Sam strongly believed in theatre even though he didn’t get as much recognition as he deserves», she says. Thakore came in contact with Kerawalla while perfroming at Patkar Hall, a city-theatre hub of yore. Kerawalla managed the hall for 30 years.
Kerawalla, who worked for Parsi and Gujarati comedies mainly, chose the backstage as he wanted to be a technician. «I preferred the backlights over the spotlight», he says. When he started off his theatre career, light designing didn’t enjoy so much technical support unlike nowadays. So the challenges involved perhaps were a pull for his. «I wasn’t a very dynamic and handsome guy nor did I have the baritone voice», he says offering another explanation.
The fact that he overcame the challenges posed in lighting is clear from the fact that he excellently designed and executed lights for the evergreen Aap Jaisa Koi number in the ‘80s hit Qurbaani. His recent Bollywood was a brief appearance in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Saawariya.
In theatre, however, he made a more permanent mark. The 1931-born’s Run For Your Wife was a long-running play which logged 1,000 shows. Produced by Burjor Patel Productions, it was first staged in the ‘70s. His English play Rummy Game too was highly-appreciated.
Going by all these achievements, it seems probably an honour like Thespo’s should have come to him years ago.