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'A Complete Theatre Man': Family, Friends Remember Thespian Mohan Maharishi

The former National School of Drama director and Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee passed away in Delhi on May 9 at the age of 83.

Mohan Maharishi

Image credit: Tribune India

New Delhi: Thespian Mohan Maharishi was a "complete theatre person", second only to his legendary mentor Ebrahim Alkazi, according to friends and family members, who remember the former National School of Drama director as a gracious and affectionate teacher.

Maharishi died in Delhi on May 9 at the age of 83.

The well-known director-teacher served as the cultural advisor to the Prime Minister of Mauritius and director of NSD (1984-86) from where he graduated in 1965 under the tutelage of Alkazi.

Noted theatre director-playwright Bhanu Bharti said his elder brother was genuinely among the very few whom one can call a "complete theatre person".

"After Alkazi, there are very few people whom you can call a complete theatre person. He was that. I mean actor, director, playwright, teacher...he could do anything. Also, his concerns were manifold, he was a very keen student of poetry, literature and had a deep insight in the current affairs of not only the country, but of the world," Bharti, also an alumni of NSD, told PTI.

Crediting Maharishi for introducing her to the world of theatre, actor-singer Ila Arun compared their relationship to that of Professor Higgins and Eliza Doolittle from George Bernard Shaw's popular play "Pygmalion" -- which was also directed by Maharishi with Arun in the main lead.

"Like Professor Higgins in the play teaches Doolittle how to speak proper English, Maharishi ji taught me everything about theatre. In fact, I was in 11th standard when I first saw him, and I remember how I felt awestruck watching this tall, charming man. He had a magnetic personality. I'll really miss him," Arun told PTI.

The actor did three plays with Maharishi as the main lead -- including "Aashad Ka Ek Din" and "Shuturmurg".

Maharishi's most memorable productions include "Suno Janmejaya", "Andha Yug", "Viddyottama", "Rani Jindan", "Joseph ka Muquddama" and "Raja ki Rasoi".

Born in Rajasthan's Ajmer, Maharishi joined the NSD in 1962 -- the same year Alkazi joined the institute as its director.

Maharishi later established 'Dishantar' and 'Sanket' theatre groups in Delhi and Jaipur where he initiated a vibrant theatre movement by working with students of the Rajasthan University.

Having worked with both, Alkazi and Maharishi, Arun also underscored the similarities between the two theatre personalities.

"I worked with Alkazi for 'King Oedipus', and I was surprised about how a student (Maharishi) could be this similar to his teacher (Alkazi). The only difference I could observe was of height -- Maharishi was shorter than Alkazi ji. Of course, the credit goes to Alkazi ji for his excellent teaching skills," she added.

Bharti pointed to the 1994 play "Einstein" by the Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee to underscore his late brother's wide knowledge on a range of subjects, including physics.

"He surprised everybody when he came out with a play on 'Einstein'. It is such a complex field, imagine that you would write a play on Einstein's (Albert) theory of relativity. He wrote the play, and directed it. Everybody was so surprised. Nobody believed a play can be written about a physicist," Bharti said.

Maharishi's junior from NSD, actor-director Amitabh Srivastava, said he would always remember the theatre veteran as a "gracious" person.

"I would usually address all my colleagues as bhai, but 'bhai shahab' to him. He was very affectionate and would treat me as a younger brother," Srivastava, who worked with Maharishi on various plays and a serial on Doordarshan, said.

Maharishi is survived by his wife Anjala Maharishi and two children.

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