Ramesh Mehta

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This article is about a Hindi theatre personality. For an article about the comedy actor of Gujarati cinema, see Ramesh Mehta (comedian).

Rameshwar Nath "Ramesh" Mehta, (born 7 August 1923) is an Indian playwright, director, actor and translator.

Biography[edit]

Mehta was born in Jhang Maghiyana, the only son of Pyare Lal, an employee of the Jammu and Kashmir Government, and Durga Devi, a housewife. His birth name was Rameshwar Nath Mehta, but he was re-christened as Ramesh Mehta by his first theatre director, Shibu Ghoshal, when he joined the Three Arts Club. He had his early education in Srinagar and Jammu and graduated from Dayal Singh College, Lahore, after his father's death. Mehta's interest in theatre began during his college days in Lahore, where he used to see the Coronthian Theatre's Parsi plays regularly. He moved to Delhi in 1942 in search of a job after his graduation.[1]

Mehta joined Three Arts Club in 1947 or 1948. Three Arts Club was a theatre group of the government employees of Delhi. In pre-partition days, the government of India used to shift its offices from Delhi to Simla in summer months. Thus, although the Three Arts Club was established in 1943 and was registered in Shimla, it functioned from Delhi and Simla. After independence, it started performing in Delhi, as the practice of moving the capital to Shimla was abandoned. Ghoshal first entrusted Metha with the job of prompting. Metha not only performed this job of prompting well, but also suggested some new dialogues for the play, which improved the performance.

Ghoshal next gave Mehta a chance to act in a small role, in which he excelled. In 1949 Ghoshal wanted to stage an original contemporary play on the prevailing condition of India after independence. Mehta penned the first play of his life, India Today, which was a picture of the India of those days, and ran for four days in the Messey Hall of Delhi. Next year he wrote a new play, Dahej. These two plays are not available today, as these were not published.

In 1950 Ramesh wrote his third play, Dasturi, which was published with the title of Damad (Son-in-Law). It had six successful shows. Slowly, Mehta was becoming the in-house writer of the Three Arts Club, where he wrote ten more full-length plays, approximately one dozen one-act plays, translated/adapted a number of plays from the Indian languages like Telugu (N.R. Nandi's Maro Mohanjodaro), Bengali (Shambhu Mitra's Kanchanranga), Gujrati (Bakul Tripathi's Leela), Marathi (Mama Warerkar and Vasant Kanetkar's plays), as well as Inspector General (a Russian play written by Gogol), and directed more than a dozen plays.

He was supported by Rajendra Mohan Kaul, who ran the administration of the Club as general secretary for nearly the entire existence of the Club. They were also supported by Shri M.N. Kapur, the then principal of the Modern School, Barakhamba Road, who became the president of the Club in 1956 and remained in that position for more than two decades.

Some of Mehta's plays such as Under Secretary, Dhai Akar Prem Ka, Dhong, Hamara Gaon, and Faisla have become milestones of modern Hindi theatre. His farce Under Secretary has been translated into many Indian languages, including Tamil, Malayalam, Sindhi, Bengali, and Gujrati.[2] This play is being performed in Hindi, as well as in other languages, in many cities of India and abroad. Mehta has wrpyr and performed three plays for the children based on Panchtantra.

Mehta not only wrote, directed and acted in the plays, but also helped in forming theatrical clubs in many governmental departments and ministries of the government of India such as Central Secretariet and the Home Ministry. The Three Arts Club performed numerous times for the Western Command Theatrical Society of the Indian Armed Forces. Theatrical groups were established in many industrial houses and establishments in Delhi, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh with his support and guidance. His play Hamara Gaon was performed in Teen Murty House on 13 November 1954, where Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru was present along with his cabinet members and other Indian and foreign dignitaries. President Dr. Rajendra Prasad, President Dr. Zakir Hussain, Chief Minister (later Prime Minister) Ch. Charan Singh, and many other dignitaries used to come to see his plays. Film-stars Prithviraj Kapoor, Moti Lal, Shobhna Samarth, I.S. Johar, and Sunder .also used to watch his plays in Delhi and Simla's Gaiety Theatre. Sunder performed in many of Mehta's plays in Bombay (now Mumbai).

Mehta is also credited with writing the farce play Uljhan, the first Hindi play staged by the Indian Armed Forces. This play was written by him at the desire of Field Marshal K.M. Cariappa, who wanted the Indian Armed Forces to do plays in Hindi, the national language, after having attained independence.

Even at Defence Services Staff College, Wellington (Nilgris) in 1975, the spirit of giving equal importance to Hindi and English under FM Sam Manekshaw at Coonoor was carried forward by Lt. Gen A N Sethna, then Commandant of Staff College. Two plays were staged: Mehta's Hindi comedy Dhai Akhar Prem Ka'a, and 'See How They Run', an English comedy. Dhai Akhar Prem Ka'; was again staged by Army in 1982 at Gaiety Theater, Shimla. At that time General K Sunderji was Army Commander Western Command. Sham Narain acted as Mamaji.

Mehta's plays were performed not only in India, but in many other countries such as Kenya, Canada, and Pakistan. All India Radio requested Mehta to stage his play Hamara Gaon and relayed it simultaneously from all of its transmitters. Similarly, when Doordarshan started, it requested Mehta to stage his play Dhong;; in Pragati Maidan’s exhibition grounds in New Delhi and telecast it live on the Television sets installed on all sides.

The Three Arts Club organised the first big theatre-festival in 1956,[3] and followed it with several functions until the early 1980s. They are also credited with organising the first Children’s theatre festival in Delhi in 1961, where adults performed in the children’s plays. The Three Arts Club was financially self-sufficient, never having to depend upon government grants. Its solvency became evident in 1981 when the group finished with a closing balance of Rs. 21,000/- after giving parting gifts to all its artists. This amount was donated to Rajiv Gandhi for the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund. Tickets to Mehta's plays used to be sold even at a premium, and people from the other cities such as Meerut, Bareilly, and Muzaffarnagar used to come to Delhi to see them. With the organisational skills or R.M. Kaul and the support of M.N. Kapur that the Three Arts Club became the solitary example of an amateur theatre group in North India that thrived for over 35 years on audience support and box-office returns. The club performed more than 1200 shows of 27 plays in its history of around 40 years, which is a record for an amateur theatre group in North India.

Mehta was awarded with Chamanlal Memorial Award for lifetime achievement, the Sahitya Kala Parishad, the Delhi Award, the Delhi Natya Sangh Award, and the Uttar Pradesh Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, among others. The Sangeet Natak Akademy awarded him the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for acting in 2007.[4][5]

Plays written[edit]

  • India Today (1949)
  • Dahej (1950)
  • Dastoori (Damad) (1950)
  • Faisla (1951)
  • Apradhi Kaun (1952)
  • Jamana (1952)
  • Hamara Gaon (1954)
  • Uljhan (1955)
  • Dhong (1956)
  • Under Secretary (1958)
  • Roti Aur Beti (1960)
  • Bade Aadmi (1966)
  • Khuli Baat (1969)

One act and short plays[edit]

  • Hisab Barabar
  • Pagal
  • Kya Musibat Hai
  • Lakshmi Ke Pujari
  • Shararat
  • Namak Ka Daroga
  • Panch Parmeshwar
  • Swang
  • Bhai-Band
  • Panch Lakh
  • Andhera Aur Ujala
  • Moorkh Billiyan
  • Ek Tha Buddha

Plays directed[edit]

  • Pagal
  • Faisla
  • Uljhan
  • Dhong
  • Under Secretary
  • Roti Aur Beti
  • Bade Aadmi
  • Khuli Baat
  • Paisa Bolta Hai
  • Wah Re Insaan
  • Katha Naqad Narain Ki
  • Rang Kachche Aur Pakke
  • Inspector General
  • Bin Chehron Ke Purush

Adaptations and translations[edit]

(Including original name, writer and language)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Interview by Anil Goel, Chhayanat Year 29 Issue 113 January–March 2008
  2. ^ Three Arts Club Silver Jubilee Festival Brochure – 1968
  3. ^ The Three Arts Club Drama Festival Brochure – 1956
  4. ^ Sangeet Natak Akademi Awards 2007
  5. ^ One of Delhi's oldest theatre groups comes alive again, Daily News and Analysis (12 May 2008)