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The mask man

india Updated: Dec 08, 2007 02:53 IST
Pallavi Polanki
Pallavi Polanki
Hindustan Times
Nastional School of Drama

The charm is unintentional. At 83, H. V. Sharma, National School of Drama’s oldest teacher, continues to win hearts. An NSD graduate himself — from the second batch (1962) — he is incidentally one of its oldest students too.

A visiting professor now, the love for him on campus is overwhelming. The affection is mutual — Sharma is in campus at least three times a week. “I just have to see my students, I have great love for them.” Naseeruddin Shah, Raj Babbar, Neena Gupta, Om Puri, Raghuveer Yadav, and more recently, Irrfan Khan are among his more famous students. He teaches Theatre Architecture and is renowned for the masks he creates.

His self-effacing nature is hard to get over. “His grace and humility are unbelievable. The childlike relationship he has with his work makes him special to all of us,” says Anuradha Kapur, director, NSD.

His students can’t get enough of him. From the time he enters campus till the time he leaves, they are with him.“He is different from all other teachers. He shares a lot with us. There is not a drama on campus that he does not watch,” says Arun Mallik, a student who graduated this year.

A master at stagecraft — Sharma’s mobile stage exhibit that he made as an amateur in 1959 caught the eye of NSD’s first director Satu Sen and theatre doyen Ibrahim Alkazi, and eventually led to his studying at the NSD. An artist — only last week Chief Minister Sheila Dixit released a collection of his sketches in ball point, a musician — he has even created a musical instrument, Sharma’s talent has many manifestations. He has written five books.

“I have a tendency to learn the arts, it is a propensity with me,” he says. He has eight diplomas in different arts and crafts.

Born in Hyderabad, then a dominion, he studied in an Urdu-medium school. After three years in the British army and 11 months in a bank, Sharma became a schoolteacher because it allowed him time to give in to his creative longings.

He earned a degree in correspondence from the J. J. School of Art, started a puppet theatre and became part of an amateur theatre group. NSD was only a matter of time.

Ask him how he met his wife and he refuses to tell. “That is personal. Don’t write about that.” His wife, Shama, a ghazal singer, is always by his side. Immensely proud and much in love, she, friends say, is his “better half and a lot more”.

Much before his first award — the Girish Ghosh Award at NSD in 1962 — and much after the Sangeet Natak Akademi award in 2005, Sharma has and continues to live for theatre.

“There is nothing special about me. I do things that I like. I always remember my teachers because of whom I am able to do these things. They were so much moregreat.”