Monday, March 23, 2015

‘Damn him for rushing away so, so early’ - RIP, Sanjay Iyer

Sanjay Iyer, theatre actor, writer and cultural activist, breathed his last on Thursday morning
‘Damn him for rushing away so, so early’ - Khushali P Madhwani

He often asked his buddies if they knew why he was not a leader of men and the answer to that would come from him... "Because I'm a follower of women"

Thursday evening, when messages of theatre actor, writer and cultural activist Sanjay Iyer's demise started doing the rounds, the theatre fraternity first thought it was a rumour. Though the actor had been unwell for a while with respiratory problems, news of his passing away came as a shock. The 54-year-old actor, who has touched many lives, young and old alike, was a dear friend to most people in the industry.

Iyer's repertoire was vast and varied. From working in plays like The Dreams of Tipu Sultan, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest and the like, he even headed the Arts Education Funding Program at India Foundation for the Arts (IFA). He has also acted in films like Lucia and the soon-to-release Uppi 2. 

He was married to author Arshia Sattar, who had posted on Facebook on their marriage anniversary on February 25. He was the driving force behind Goethe Institut's flagship culture and development project — Kali-su — which he had helped conceptualise. The project, a part of the Arts Education Division of IFA, involves working with government schools in smaller towns across Karnataka. "He was associated all along," says Maureen Gonsalves, cultural coordinator, Goethe Institut. "Kali-su would not have taken off without him." 

Fondly known as 'Iyer' in the industry, his moustache was his trademark feature. When Lucia director, Pawan Kumar, met him at World Theatre Day in 2012, they were in the same team for a play. Kumar cast him as an old lady. "He had great inputs. He would ask questions like why he's playing the role in a particular way and why the character is responding in another way - all of which made me relook my script." Kumar knew then that he would make the perfect detective for his flick. "I was scared he might yell at me for asking him to act in a film but he instantly agreed." He was later cast in Uppi 2 also that is slated to release later this year.

Recollecting their times together, Kumar says he would often ask Iyer in jest how he managed to drink his coffee considering most of his moustache would end up in the cup. Iyer's quip was he had a special cup with a horizontal handle at the rim that pushed the moustache away from the coffee.

Arundhati Ghose, executive director of IFA, who closely worked with Iyer said, "Damn him for rushing away so, so early," then adding, "He'd want that kind of language." He often asked his buddies if they knew why he was not a leader of men and the answer to that would come from him... "Because I'm a follower of women," and there would be laughter all around. "He's one of the best feminists I found among men," Ghose says. 

Around three months ago, while celebrating Lekhana - Bangalore's Literary Weekend at their home in the city, theatre artiste Vivek Madan and Iyer would exchange musical notes. While the former would play old Hindi songs, the latter would play English music. "He'd teach me about single meter and off beat and other musical terminology," says Madan.

When restauranteur and theatre person Arjun Sajnani auditioned Iyer for his play A Man For All Seasons, he thought Iyer fit the part perfectly, recalls Madan. At the end of it, Sajnani told Madan that Iyer, "looked at me at the end of the audition and said but my wife won't let me shave off my moustache," and he didn't do the part. "That was Iyer," says Madan.

Iyer was also a hardcore cricket enthusiast and was excited like a little child when he got the opportunity to watch an IPL match a few years ago.  Iyer is gone, but all those whose lives he touched know they have a treasure of memories to cherish forever.