Kirron Kher releases Balwant Gargi stamp on PU stage where he directed her first play | punjab$chandigarh | Hindustan Times
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Kirron Kher releases Balwant Gargi stamp on PU stage where he directed her first play

When Gargi founded the Panjab University department of Indian theatre, Kirron Kher joined him and took part in a number of plays directed by him. “What I am today, I owe it to Balwant Gargi,” she said.   

punjab Updated: Jun 01, 2017 12:28 IST
HT Correspondent
Chandigarh MP Kirron Kher and V-C Arun Kumar Grover releasing a postal in memory of thespain  Balwant Gargi at Punjab University in Chandigarh on Wednesday.
Chandigarh MP Kirron Kher and V-C Arun Kumar Grover releasing a postal in memory of thespain Balwant Gargi at Punjab University in Chandigarh on Wednesday.(HT Photo)

The release of a postal stamp in memory of thespian Balwant Gargi saw a nostalgic turn of events on Wednesday. Actor and Lok Sabha member  Kirron Kher was on stage for the function in Panjab University English department auditorium, the same place where she made her theatre debut in 1971 with ‘Desire Under the Elms’ directed by Gargi.

She remembered him as an ageless artist: “Even if he had lived to be 200 years old, he would have looked the same. I never saw any change in him.”

“I first met him when I was doing MA in English…He had a convertible car which he used to drive quite fast,” she recalled.

They met when Gargi, a professor at the university, was to direct ‘Desire Under the Elms’ written by Eugene O’Neill. “In the audition, the character was that of a 35-year-old woman, and she had to seduce her 25-year-old stepson. It was difficult, but I put myself into it. I was hesitant. I remember my mother told me ‘so what?’. She said it is a great play and you must do it.”

She said the experience of working with Gargi taught her “not to get judgmental, and to open myself to life”.

When Gargi founded the PU department of Indian theatre, Kher joined him and took part in a number of plays directed by him. “What I am today, I owe it to Balwant Gargi,” she said.   

Know Balwant Gargi
  • The founder-director of the Indian theatre department at Panjab University, Chandigarh, Balwant Gargi taught several men and women who made it big.
  • His students include actors such as Anupam Kher, Kirron Kher and Poonam Dhillon, and director Satish Kaushik.
  • Gargi, who was born in 1916 in Bathinda, was awarded the Sahitya Akademi award, the highest Indian literary award, in 1962 for his book ‘Rang Manch’. This was followed by the Padma Shri (1972), and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in Punjabi playwriting in 1998.
  • Punjab University, in 2016, had declared the 100th year of his birth as a year-long celebration.

When he cautioned against Anupam!

When she got married and settled in domestic life, Gargi was unhappy as he wanted her to pursue a career. She said he told her that Anupam Kher, also his student, was not “husband material”. The MP joked, “He was right. It is difficult to catch him (Anupam).”

“I am so privileged today. I am so grateful to God that I am releasing a commemorative stamp in the name of a person who changed my life,” she said. “He must have never thought that I would become MP.”

Besides the one on Gargi, stamps commemorating PU alumni and writers Krishan Chander and Bhisham Sahni were released too.

V-C seeks help

Arun Kumar Grover, the vice-chancellor of PU, requested MP Kher to take up with the Centre the need for additional funds for a university auditorium with a capacity of 2,500. He urged that the auditorium be owned by the Union ministry of human resource development for all universities of India and be named ‘Sardar Sabhagrah’, after Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. He recalled how Patel had attended the PU convocation at Ambala in 1949, when he was honoured the first Honoris Causa degree of the university after Partition.