Jaishankar Bhojak

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Jaishankar Bhojak 'Sundari'
Mama Warerkar-CG Kolhatkar-Jaishankar Sundari-1957.jpg
Jaishankar 'Sundari' (right) in conversation with Mama Warerkar (left) and C. G. Kolhatkar (centre) at the presentation of Sangeet Natak Akademi Awards in New Delhi on 31 March 1957
Jaishankar Bhudhardas Bhojak

(1889-01-30)30 January 1889
Undhai near Visnagar, Gujarat
Died(1975-01-22)22 January 1975
Other namesJaishankar 'Sundari'
OccupationTheatre actor and director
Years active1897 – 1932 (acting), 1948 – 1962 (direction)
Known forSaubhagya Sundari (1901)

Jaishankar Bhudhardas Bhojak, (30 January 1889 – 22 January 1975) better known by his theatre name Jaishankar 'Sundari' , was an Indian actor and director of Gujarati theatre. Starting at the young age, he rose to fame for his roles of female impersonator in early Gujarati plays. He retired from acting in 1932 but returned to theatre direction in 1948. He directed and acted in several successful plays. He was awarded Padma Vibhushan in 1971.

Early life[edit]

He was born in the family of Bhojak, the performing caste of Brahmins,[1][2] in Undhai near Visnagar on 30 January 1889. However, his family members were traditionally involved in performing arts and singing. He studied up to second standard. He was trained in performing arts and singing by his grandfather, Tribhuvandas who himself was trained by Ustad Fakhruddin. He was also trained in music by Pandit Vadilal Nayak.[3][4]


Bapulal Nayak (left) and Jaishankar Bhojak 'Sundari' in the play Kamlata, at Gaiety Theatre, Bombay, 1904
Bapulal Nayak (left) and Jaishankar Bhojak 'Sundari' in a play Sneh-Sarita, 1915

He started his career by joining Dadabhai Thunthi's Urdu performing art company in Calcutta in 1897. He worked in a chorus of girls for a salary of six rupees a month.[5] He returned to Bombay and joined Chotalal Kapadia's Mumbai Gujarati Natak Mandali in 1901. Along with Gujarati, he also performed in Hindi and Urdu languages. He mainly performed as a female impersonator as females were not allowed in theatres in those times.[3][4] He played role of Desdemona as a female impersonator in Saubhagya Sundari, an adaptation of Shakespeare's Othello by Parsi theatre in Bombay. It was successful and Jaishankar received his sobriquet Sundari (lit. beautiful lady).[6][7] He performed female lead opposite Bapulal Nayak several times including in Jugal Jugari (Jugal the Gambler), Kamlata (Lovestruck Girl, 1904), Madhu Bansari (Sweet Flute) and Sneh Sarita (River of Affection), Vikrama Charitra (Vikrama's Life, 1902). He along with Bapulal brought Govardhanram Tripathi's Saraswatichandra, Nrisinh Vibhakar's nationalistic plays and plays of Mulshankar Mulani to stage. He retired in 1932 and returned to Visnagar.[3][4][5] In Vikrama Charitra, he played a character of Rambha, a Dairy-maid. This play continued for 3 years and was performed 160 times, every Saturday nights.[8]

He was active in Ahmedabad from 1948 to 1962 as the director in theatre. He joined Gujarat Vidhya Sabha in 1948 in Ahmedabad to perform in Ramanbhai Neelkanth's Raino Parvat in 1950 on the occasion of its centenary. Later he organised a performing troupe and theatre school, Natamandal with Rasiklal Parikh and Ganesh Mavlankar. He revived Bhavai, the traditional performing art form, by directing Mithyabhiman (False Vanity, 1955), a satirical play by Dalpatram. They produced several plays like Mena Gurjari (Mena of Gujarat) in 1953 which he synthesized Bhavai and Beijing Opera. He trained several actors including Jaswant Thaker, Dina Pathak, Pransukh Nayak and Kailash Pandya.[3][4]

He died on 22 January 1975 at Visnagar, Gujarat.[3][4]


He received the Ranjitram Suvarna Chandrak in 1951; which is considered the highest literary award in Gujarati literature. In 1957, Rajendra Prasad presented him with the highest Indian recognition given to practicing artists - the President's award, now called the Sangeet Natak Akademi award for drama direction.[9] In 1963, he was elected chairman for the Department of Arts at Gujarati Sahitya Parishad. He was felicitated by Gujarat Rajya Sangeet Nrutya Akademi in 1967. He was awarded Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award, by the Government of India in 1971.[3][4]


His autobiography Thoda Aansu, Thoda Ful was in part written and in part dictated to his son Dinkar Bhojak and Somabhai Patel over a period of four years. It was first published in 1976. It was adopted as part of the syllabus at the Master of Arts course level at the Gujarat University.[10] Thoda Aansu, Thoda Ful was reprinted in 1989 in an expanded version. In 2002, the older edition was translated into Hindi as Kuchh Aansu, Kuchh Phool by Dinesh Khanna and published by the National School of Drama.[11] In 2011, it was translated into English as Some Blossoms, Some Tears.[12][13][14]

In his memory, Jaishankar Sundari Natyagrah - a drama theatre was named after him in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.[15] The Bhavai Government Museum in Vadnagar, North Gujarat contains his exhibition and a description of his work.[16] His oil painted portrait was unveiled by the Kala Mandal of Morbi and adorns the halls of the Kala Mandir in Saurashtra.[17]

The play Sundari : An Actor Prepares based on his autobiography was produced in 1998.[13]

Further reading[edit]

  • Bhojak Jaishankar, Bhojak Dinkar (1976). Thoda Aansu, Thoda Phool (in Gujarati). Ahmedabad: Shivji Asher, Vora & Co.
  • Panchotia, B. B. Jayashankar Sundari and Abhinaykala. Bhavans Book University.


  1. ^ Risley, Herbert; Crooke, William (1999). The People of India By Herbert Risley, William Crooke. p. 457. ISBN 9788120612655. Retrieved 27 August 2014.
  2. ^ Enthoven, Reginald Edward (1990). The Tribes and Castes of Bombay, Volume 1 By Reginald E. Enthoven. pp. 219–220. ISBN 9788120606302. Retrieved 27 August 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Jaishankar 'Sundari'". Gujarati Sahitya Parishad (in Gujarati). Retrieved 20 July 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Lal, Ananda (2004). The Oxford Companion to Indian Theatre. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acref/9780195644463.001.0001. ISBN 9780195644463 – via Oxford Reference.
  5. ^ a b Hansen, Kathryn (1999). "Making Women Visible: Gender and Race Cross-Dressing in the Parsi Theatre". Theatre Journal. 51 (2): 134–135. JSTOR 25068647.
  6. ^ Poonam Trivedi, Dennis Bartholomeusz (2005). India's Shakespeare: Translation, Interpretation, and Performance. Pearson Education India. p. 50. ISBN 9788177581317.
  7. ^ Anshu Malhotra; Siobhan Lambert-Hurley (12 October 2015). Speaking of the Self: Gender, Performance, and Autobiography in South Asia. Duke University Press. p. 245. ISBN 978-0-8223-7497-8.
  8. ^ Hansen, Kathryn (29 August 1998). "Stri Bhumika Female Impersonators and Actresses on the Parsi Stage". Economic and Political Weekly. 33 (35): 2294 – via EPW.(subscription required)
  9. ^ "Sangeet Natak Akademi award". Sangeet Natak Akademi. Archived from the original on 31 March 2016. Retrieved 20 July 2014.
  10. ^ Bhojak Jayashankar 'Sundari', Bhojak Dinkar (2005). Thoda Aansu, Thoda Ful (3rd ed.). Asait Sahitya Sabha.
  11. ^ Khanna, Dinesh (2002). Kuchh Aansu, Kuchh Phool: An autobiography of Jaishankar 'Sundari' (1st ed.). New Delhi: Rashtriya Natya Vidhyala.
  12. ^ Kapoor, Anuradha (6 November 2011). "Translation as cultural mediation". The Hindu. Retrieved 20 July 2014.
  13. ^ a b Ray, Bharati (2009). Women of India: Colonial and Post-colonial Periods/Part 3 of History of science, philosophy, and culture in Indian civilization: Colonial period. SAGE Publications India. pp. 492, 500. ISBN 9788132102649.
  14. ^ Hansen, Kathryn (2011). Stages of Life: Indian Theatre Autobiographies. Anthem Press. pp. 170–245. ISBN 9780857286604.
  15. ^ "Auditoriums in Gujarat, India". www.narthaki.com. Retrieved 30 December 2014.
  16. ^ Attractions. "Bhavai Government Museum". Gujarat Tourism. Retrieved 1 December 2014.
  17. ^ Panchotia, B. B. (1987). Jayashankar Sundari and Abhinayakala (1st ed.). Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.