A 40-something Shreeam Lagoo traded his career as an ENT surgeon way back in 1969 to live his love for acting on stage. He never looked back, shaping an acting style all of his own and setting quality benchmarks for Marathi theatre. The progression to films, both Hindi and Marathi, was natural but Lagoo made sure he would never leave the stage. On Tuesday night, Lagoo left the world stage for good, passing away due to age-related illnesses at his home. He was 92.
Film and theatre actor Satish Alekar told TOI that Lagoo’s remains have been kept at the Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital’s morgue. “His adopted son is arriving from the US to perform the last rites,” he said. A hospital spokesperson confirmed that Lagoo was declared brought dead.
“Lagoo was simply a giant in theatre in the country,” says Alekar. “He would take part in two-hour-long productions of V V Shirwadkar’s play ‘Natasamrat’, standing most of the time and delivering 20-minute-long monologues. The public would be simply mesmerised by that sight.”
Alekar says Lagoo played his role in more than a hundred productions of the play, achieving near-legendary status in Marathi theatre. His role as an upright school teacher in Marathi blockbuster film ‘Pinjara’ further burnished his image. He would later leave his imprint on films in both Hindi and Marathi in leading and character roles, receiving multiple accolades, especially for films like ‘Gharonda’.
“I would say his loss is as large as that of Shambhu Mitra, another giant of Indian theatre,” said Alekar, adding that Lagoo stands among other legendary actors like Lawrence Olivier.
Alekar also spoke about Lagoo’s strong stand for freedom of expression and his avowed political stance, even during tough times. A rationalist, he was active in the anti-superstition movement in Maharashtra, often courting controversy for his forthright views about religion.
“He was a committed socialist with strong values for freedom of expression. He did not hesitate to stand up for Vijay Tendulkar during the ‘Ghashiram Kotwal’ controversy and did so for other figures as well. Even during the Emergency, he adapted Antigone by Jean Anouilh for Indian audiences to protest against oppression and censorship,” Alekar remarked.
Lagoo attended the Tanveer Sanman ceremony earlier this month at the Yashwantrao Chavan Natyagruha in Kothrud, where actor Naseeruddin Shah received the top honours. The award is named after Tanveer, Lagoo and wife Deepa’s son, who was killed in a freak accident on a train.
News filtered through the city late on Tuesday, with some of Lagoo’s colleagues from film and theatre condoling his death. Among them was filmmaker and thespian Jabbar Patel, who worked with Lagoo on multiple films including ‘Samna’ and ‘Sinhasan’.
Union minister Prakash Javadekar acknowledged Lagoo’s role as a social activist besides his theatre and film presence. “We have lost a versatile personality. A unique theatre actor dominated silver screen and created an impact. He was a social activist too,” he said