Theatre veteran Pearl Padamsee taught drama to the just-resigned MoS for External Affairs, and industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla. This evening, friends, family and theatre stalwarts present a show featuring vignettes from her best-loved plays
Days before she passed away, in an interview to Prithvi Theatre's newsletter PT Notes, Pearl Padamsee clarified, "Sometimes it may have sounded like I've been waving the Union Jack of English. But I was not. I was waving the Indian flag for English."
Through out her life, the theatre veteran worked on some of the best known Indian English theatre productions with some of the best actors and stagehands the country has seen.
On April 23, ten years to the day she passed away, her friends, family, theatrewallahs and students come together for a unique show that features snippets from six of Pearl's plays.
Shweta Shetty, Karla Singh, Raell Padamsee, Shahriyar Atai, Dodo Bhujwalla, Delna Mody, Delna Patel and Deven Khote at a rehearsal for The Wiz at Kulsum Terrace.
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As you read this, 25 of the best actors are busy rehearsing across three locations in Mumbai for the tribute show titled, Celebrating Pearl.
Kulsum Terrace in Colaba, where most of Pearl's plays were rehearsed, is packed with actors trying to recall their positions on stage from memory.
It's been years since they first acted together but when they get on stage again today, they want to make Pearl proud.
Veterans Gerson DaCunha, Sabira Merchant and Alyque Padamsee will share stage with singer Shweta Shetty, dancer-choreographer Karla Singh, comedians Cyrus Broacha and Kunal Vijayakar, all of whom began their acting careers with Pearl.
"She saw beyond-the-obvious potential in people, and helped them hone it," remembers Karla.
Shweta gets emotional as she steps on to the terrace of Pearl's home and remembers her teenage self rehearsing for Godspell.
"She once told me, 'Shweta, entertainment is like a garden in full bloom; you'll have people who'll love being around you but there will also be a time when there will be no water.
Everybody will ignore you, and then you'll wait for that one ray of sunshine and one drop of water and you'll bloom again. Utilise the down phase in the best way you can'," recalls the singer.
Ghar ka khana
For the actors, this evening's performance is special because the post-show dinner planned at Kulsum Terrace will be a lavish spread with Pearl's favourite dishes on the menu.
Practically everybody who has ever worked with Pearl remembers her post-rehearsal/ performance dinners.
"Her Beef Curry and Pork Vindaloo were legendary in theatre circles," theatre director- actor-technician Arghya Lahiri says. Alyque remembers how Pearl would cook all the food herself despite a hectic schedule.
"The only rule for dinner was that you had to bring your own pav (bread). She'd cook the curry but the actors would bring their own pav," laughs Raell.
Catch Celebrating Pearl today,
7 pm at Experimental Theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point.
Call: 22824567. Tickets: Rs 200
The performance will include excerpts from productions include The Serpent, Godspell, The Collector, The Wiz, Arturo Ui, Duet for One and her last directorial play, Betrayal. Non-theatre enthusiasts will know Pearl from her role in Hindi films like Khatta Meetha and Baaton Baaton Mein.
Pearl taught dramatics to school children and loved interacting with youngsters.
Ex-husband Alyque Padamsee and daughter Raell tell you about the people they bump into from varied walks of life, recounting how Pearl taught them not just theatre but principles of life.
"She taught them discipline. She expected her people to have done their homework before the rehearsals. She loved to work with young people and help them get a grounding in theatre," says Raell.
In fact, there is an informal group that calls itself Pearl's Boys, which includes the likes of now ex-Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor, producer Ronnie Screwvala and actor Ranjit Chowdhury.
Ronnie, who is going to host tonight's show in Mumbai says, "She was a mentor and a friend. Our interaction was always based on equality, and that was her humility.
Being on stage rids you of fears that life leaves you with, and I think those days helped shape my personality."
There can be only one of her
Arghya Lahiri, Director-Actor
Whenever I pass by Ivorine building (where Pearl spent her last years), I look up to the first floor balcony and remember how she'd insist that you turn back and
wave after you left her home. She was always there to wave back.
Alyque Padamsee, Theatre Personality, Pearl's Ex-Husband
At post-show dinners, she'd cook everything. She would even talk to the vegetables or whatever she was cooking. Everything was a dramatic process for her.
Raell Padamsee, Daughter
The only rule for dinner was that you had to bring your own pav (bread). She'd cook the curry but the actors would bring their own pav.