As you go up the stairs of Alyque Padamsee’s house, Kulsum Terrace, in Colaba, the first thing that hits you is the familiar antique smell. Wooden framed paintings of MF Husain on the walls on either side draw attention, and so does the little scrap of paper pasted on the elevator door. It reads: ‘This is a 100-year-old lift. Please shut the door gently.’ The rehearsal room is strewn with traces of Pearl Padamsee — the actor, the wife and the mother.
Raell Padamsee’s Ace Productions has brought together the theatre stalwarts associated with Pearl, to pay a tribute on her 10th death anniversary. Excerpts from some of her productions — The Serpent, Godspell, Death of a Salesman, The Wiz, Arturo Ui, Duet for One and her last directorial play, Betrayal— will be staged on April 23.
Delna Patel, who helped with backstage production work, gives away Pearl’s eccentricities. “I’d come all the way from Tardeo to switch on the microwave oven that Alyque (Pearl’s husband) gifted her. She would call me up and ask me to come over and re-arrange her books. She cared about my health, so she’d tell me, ‘Delphy, give me 10 kilos, I’ll take it’.” Pearl would even ask her to bring her yellow postcards. She loved to write letters.
Raell feels lucky to have had such liberal parents. Her mother had impacted her in the same way she impacted everyone around her. “Usually, we’d get together on her birthdays and death anniversaries at home, reading plays she directed. This time I wanted to do something special. So, I brought together her friends from the original cast,” she says.
Gerson Da Cunha, a veteran actor, cannot think of any one particular anecdote about her. “We went to St Xavier’s College together and our acting stints began there in 1948. Our first play was AA Milne’s The Ugly Duckling. I miss Pearl every day. She was an instinctive, creative and an amusing person who ran an open house... her heart was as open and big as her house!” he reminisces.
Karla Singh, a dancer and choreographer, got her big break to act with Pearl. She laughs, “I was lucky that her lead actress had to go off to study abroad.” She remembers Pearl as “this four-feet-something” who had once hung on to a staircase to keep it from falling, in the middle of a play called
Raell discovered Pearl’s recipes tucked away somewhere in their huge house. “She made the best Biryani. Sadly, I didn’t inherit her cooking talent. I came across a whole lot of scripts with her markings. This helped me understand her theatrical perspective better,” Raell reveals.She hasn’t forgotten her mother’s old metal whistle that she’d use to shush people. Now she plans to write a book sharing her recipes.
About Pearl Padamsee
Pearl Padamsee (1931-2000) was a play producer and director. She even forayed into films, some of which include Khatta Meetha, Baaton Baaton Mein and Junoon. She married Alyque Padamsee. Raell Padamsee is their daughter.
Did you know?
Pearl Padamsee hated chewing gums.
She’d never stay in a hotel and would insist on cooking even when she was on a holiday abroad.
She loved to write on inland letters and would buy yellow postcards.
She would mark the stage positions with whatever was in her bag— lipsticks, kajal, chess pieces.
She’d tell her friend, Delna Patel, to get her fish and chips from the CCI Club.
She played the Wicked Witch of the East in the Broadway version of the Wizard of Oz.
Her favourite play was Godspell; she staged it thrice with a different cast each time.