Dinesh Thakur was signed for a role in what turned out to be the trend-setting daily soap of its time. When he went to meet the high-flying and reportedly arrogant producer, he found her attitude disrespectful, and refused the role. The money was good, the chance of household fame would have tempted any actor, but for him, respect for his craft was paramount. He would rather be king in the small pool of theatre, rather than a beggar in the glittering ocean of showbusiness.
Earlier, he had walked out of another iconic TV serial, because he thought the other actors and the directors were sloppy. They couldn’t even speak their lines properly, he related later, and the director could not care less, they just wanted to wrap up the day’s quota of scenes. It was not Dinesh Thakur’s style—for him it was: do it properly or don’t do it at all. He fired young actors from his group, Anks, if he found them lacking in the effort to improve. In the world of films and television he got the reputation for being difficult and fussy, but he continued to get his creative sustenance from theatre.
When he came to Mumbai, from Delhi, where he had been doing plays, he got important roles in films like ‘Mere Apne’, ‘Anubhav’, ‘Rajnigandha’, ‘Griha Pravesh’ and many successful middle of the road films of the seventies with directors like Gulzar, Basu Chatterjee and Basu Bhattacharya, who remained lifelong friends. He also wrote the award-winning film, ‘Ghar’ (starring Rekha and Vinod Mehra), which is acknowledged as one of the most sensitive films on the subject of rape. He could have continued in films and lived a far more comfortable life—for years home was a cramped, one bedroom, rented apartment, which he shared with his wife Preeta Mathur, his books, plants, and theatre trunks. It is here that theatre literary doyens met for invigorating conversations and matchless hospitality. But the pull of theatre was too strong and his devotion to it complete. He established his group Ank in 1976, and in spite of ill health kept writing, directing and designing plays till recently when he revived ‘Jaat Hi Poochho Sadhu Ki’. In fact, it is ironical that a man who was so conscious of his fitness—he woke up at the crack of dawn to walk and work out—should be let down by his body.
He has left behind a legacy of films, plays and beliefs for a better world, to inspire his friends, colleagues and associates. Dineshji… R.I.P.