Nirmal Pandey – The Forgotten Actor
Many years ago, I had seen the film, Godmother by Vinay Shukla. It was based on Santokben Jadeja, a female don who reigned over the port city of Porbandar and was a liquor baroness. In that film, I had seen the role of Jakhra and when I came to know that it was played by Nirmal Pandey, I immediately recalled him somewhere in some film long forgotten(it was so long ago, frankly) and which hung in my mind as hazy images of past. I kept wracking my brains and I remembered an offhand comment about a theatre artist who had made his mark in films from my social circles.
So I decided to find out more about him. Here’s the gist of what I found out.
He was born on 10th August 1962 at Nainital, Uttarakhand. His original name was Rajkumar Pandey. He was a graduate from the National School of Drama, Delhi. He was a very prolific theatre artist who had shifted to London after graduation and had acted in more than 125 plays. But that was just a beginning. His major break was in Shekhar Kapoor’s iconic Bandit Queen (1996) where he played the role of Phoolan Devi’s lover Vikram Malla. And what’s interesting is that while he played side roles, he got an award for his role as Best Actor, at the 1997 France’s Valenciennes Film Festival for his portrayal of a transvestite in Amol Palekar’s Daayraa (1996). Even more interesting, I found out that he also acted a major role in Sudhir Mishra’s Iss Raat Ki Subah Nahi. (Which btw is an iconic Mumbai gangster film, a cult classic talked about in film writer circles of Bombay even today.)
There was more information on him regarding his vision for theatre which frankly would be much more than the extent to which I can cover on him here, but my concerns about him stem not only from the point of view regarding how unknown he is to the common masses but also the internet coverage on him is minimal. Here’s a man who had a vision for Nagpur theatre and the moment I click a news link on him.. poof, 404 error! How irritating! I checked the wiki page on him and found at least 70% of media links broken (404 error). A tragedy equal to his untimely death at the age of 47, when he was at the prime of his life.
There’s a tragic quality to an untimely demise of individuals who leave their mark, to be found much later when there are seekers who wish to explore the confines of what one is shown and what one knows, even if imperfectly. A strange tendency tends to grip us as we look at the VHS tapes played incessantly in which an old actor left his/her mark on a young mind and which may reveal and pattern certain dreams. I’ve only made a humble effort though. May others find out more about him, revive his memories and work with his unfulfilled vision.