In Memoriam: Indian entertainment, arts and culture world witnesses a sombre 2020
With nearly three quarters of 2020 behind us, this list is an attempt to memorialise those we have lost, in a seemingly dark year for the arts.
In the midst of a global pandemic, it can feel like the onslaught of bad news is especially unrelenting this year. This sentiment has been underscored by the loss of several members of the Indian entertainment, arts and culture fraternity. With nearly three quarters of 2020 behind us, this list is an attempt to memorialise those we have lost, in a seemingly dark year for the arts.
Director-actor Nishikant Kamat passed away on 17 August, in Hyderabad’s AIG Hospital, after a battle with liver cirrhosis. He was 50. (Read an analysis of his most critically acclaimed film, Dombivali Fast.)
Legendary Hindustani classical vocalist and Padma Vibhushan awardee Pandit Jasraj passed away on 17 August in New Jersey, aged 90. Lakshmi Sreeram writes about Pandit Jasraj's Khayal legacy here.
Noted poet and lyricist Rahat Indori passed away on 11 August. He had tested positive for coronavirus the previous day, and suffered two heart attacks while admitted to the ICU of Sri Aurobindo Institute of Medical Sciences in Indore. He was 70. (Watch three poets recite verses by Indor saab here.)
Mukund Lath, prominent cultural historian, scholar, and an exponent of the Mewati gharana passed away on 6 August at the age of 82.
Noted Delhi-based writer and activist Sadia Dehlvi passed away at her home on 5 August after a prolonged battle with cancer. She was 63.
Indian theatre legend Ebrahim Alkazi died on the afternoon of 4 August after suffering a heart attack, his son said to the Press Trust of India. He was 94. Alkazi was the longest-serving director of the National School of Drama. (Read a tribute by Vikram Phukan here.)
Television actor Sameer Sharma was found dead at his Mumbai residence, on 6 August reported Hindustan Times. The artiste was 44.
Bhojpuri film actress Anupama Pathak, 40, allegedly died by suicide in north Mumbai's Dahisar suburb, police said on 7 August.
Artist Ram Indranil Kamath was found dead in his Matunga flat on 19 August, aged 41. Apart from being a painter, Kamath was also a photographer and mythologist, known for glass paintings and contemporary Indian calendar art.
Bollywood choreographer Saroj Khan died on 3 July due to cardiac arrest. She was 71. The three-time National Award winner had choreographed some of the most memorable songs in Hindi cinema. (Read a personal essay by poet Joshua Muyiwa: 'Growing up mixed-race, queer and femme, how Saroj Khan provided me the keys to the vehicle of my body'.)
Renowned danseuse Amala Shankar passed away on 24 July, in Kolkata. She was 101. Read about how Shankar witnessed the evolution of modern Indian dance and shaped it with her enthusiasm for life, here.
Veteran Bollywood actor Jagdeep (original name Syed Ishtiaq Ahmed Jafri) passed away on 8 July, at the age of 81. He had appeared in more than 400 films.
Veteran actress Kumkum passed away on 28 July. She was 86. The actress was known for her performances in notable films like Mother India, Kohinoor, Ek Sapera Ek Lootera, Naya Daur, among others.
Bollywood filmmaker Rajat Mukherjee, best known for directing movies such as Pyaar Tune Kya Kiya and Road, passed away in Jaipur on 19 July.
Marathi actor Ashutosh Bhakre allegedly died by suicide at his home in Nanded town in the Marathwada region. Bhakre, who starred in films like Bhakar and Ichar Tharla Pakka, was 32.
Malayalam actor Anil Murali passed away in Kochi on 30 July. He was 56. Kumar made his actin debut with the 1993 film Kanyakumariyil Oru Kavitha.
Actor-singer Divvya Chouksey passed away on 12 July after a year-and-a-half long battle with cancer. She was 28.
Odia actor Deepa Sahu, 35, passed away in Bhubaneswar on 27 July. She had been under treatment for uterine cancer, the Times of India reported.
Veteran Odia actor Bijay Mohanty died on 20 July following a prolonged illness. He was 70.
Action director Parvez Khan, known for his work in films like Sriram Raghavan's Andhadhun and Badlapur, passed away on 27 July after suffering a heart attack. He was 55.
Sushant Singh Rajput reportedly died by suicide in his Mumbai home on 14 June. He was 34. The actor, who made his debut in Hindi cinema with the movie Kai Po Che, was known for his performances in MS Dhoni: The Untold Story, PK and Kedarnath, among others. (Read our critic Anna MM Vetticad's essay on an essential aspect of Rajput's films.)
Filmmaker Basu Chatterjee, best known for directing films like Choti Si Baat, Rajnigandha, and Baaton Baaton Mein, passed away on 4 June in Mumbai, following age-related ailments, reported The Indian Express. He was 93. (Read an essay by Devansh Sharma, on revisiting Basu Chatterjee's Bombay.)
Veteran Urdu poet Anand Mohan Zutshi ‘Gulzar’ Dehlvi passed away on 12 June, five days after he recovered from COVID-19 . He died at his Noida home, and was a month shy of turning 94.
Playback singer and actor AL Raghavan passed away on 19 June after suffering a cardiac arrest. He was 80 years old. Raghavan was the husband of legendary actress MN Rajam.
Wajid Khan, one half of the successful music composer duo Sajid-Wajid, passed away at the age of 47 due to a cardiac arrest on 1 June at a Mumbai hospital. His brother Sajid Khan told the press that Wajid had undergone a successful kidney transplant in 2019 and was receiving treatment for a throat infection in the hospital at the time of his passing.
Television actor Jagesh Mukati, best known for his roles in shows like Amita Ka Amit and Shree Ganesh, died on 10 June. Apart from Hindi and Gujarati television serials and plays, Jagesh also acted in 2014 film Hasee Toh Phasee, starring Parineeti Chopra and Sidharth Malhotra.
Veteran lyricist Anwar Sagar, best remembered for his hit track 'Wada Raha Sanam' from Akshay Kumar-starrer Khiladi, passed away on 3 June. He was believed to be 70.
Renowned Urdu writer and Padma Shri awardee Mujtaba Hussain passed away on 27 May in Hyderabad, after suffering cardiac arrest. Amid nationwide protests over the Citizenship Amendment Act in 2019, Hussain returned his Padma Shri, saying he was not happy with the situation in the country. (Read his interview with Firstpost at the time.)
Noted theatre personality Ruby Patel passed away in Mumbai on 12 May. She was 86. Ruby and her husband Burjor Patel were among the most sought-after stage artists in the Parsi-Gujarati theatre circuit during the 1960s and worked on popular Gujarati plays such as Gher Ghungro Ne Ghotalo, Tirangi Tehmul, Hello Inspector and Oogi Dahpun Ni Dadh.
Renowned Kannada poet Professor KS Nisar Ahmed passed away on 3 May at the age of 84 at his Bengaluru residence, reported Asian News International. The Padma Shri-awardee was suffering from cancer.
Veteran lyricist Yogesh Gaur, who penned the famous 'Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli' in Anand, passed away on 29 May. He was 77.
Popular Kannada actor and comedian Michael Madhu died of a heart attack on 13 May. Known for his roles in films such as 1993's Shhh! and 2013's Bhajrangi, the 51-year-old actor is survived by his wife and two daughters.
Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii actor Sachin Kumar passed away due to a heart attack on 15 May. The actor had featured in another popular show, Lajja, but quit showbiz in pursuit of a career in photography.
Actor Irrfan Khan passed away aged 53 on 19 April, a day after being admitted to a Mumbai hospital due to a colon infection. Angrezi Medium was the gifted actor's last release. In his tribute, Aditya Mani Jha wrote that Irrfan's was 'a rare and magnetic talent that held filmmakers, writers and audiences in thrall'.
Veteran actor Rishi Kapoor passed away aged 67 on 30 April. 'For some he was the pop sensation Monty (Karz), to others he was the delightful Akbar Illahabadi from Amar Akbar Anthony, while many simply saw him as the middle-aged, pot-bellied Duggal sir of Do Dooni Chaar. But in each of these performances, Kapoor always managed to connect with his audience, Akshay Manwani wrote in an obituary.
Actor Ranjit Chowdhry, best known for his roles in Khatta Meetha, Baton Baton Mein and Bollywood/Hollywood, died at the age of 65 on 15 April. Chowdhry was the son of renowned theatre actor Pearl Padamsee.
Theatre personality and Sahitya Akademi awardee Usha Ganguly passed away aged 75 on 23 April. Ganguly started a theatre group, Rangakarmee, in 1976 and forayed into direction in the 1980s with plays like Mahabhoj, Lokkatha, Holi, Rudali and Court Martial.
Veteran Malayalam actor Ravi Vallathol passed away at his residence in Thiruvananthapuram on 25 April at the age of 67. The actor was popular for his roles in several serials and films in a career spanning over 30 years.
Kannada actor Bullet Prakash passed away on 6 April aged 44 at a Bengaluru hospital, where he was being treated for a kidney-related ailment. He worked in over 300 films in his cinematic career.
Telugu television actor Srilakshmi Kanakala died on 6 April in Hyderabad after a prolonged battle with cancer. She was a part of serials such as Ruthu Geetham, Super Mom, Agnipoolu, and the sister of popular actor Rajiv Kanakala.
Sasi Kalinga, veteran Malayalam actor known for Lijo Jose Pellissery's Amen, passed away aged 59 on 7 April, having been ailing with a liver condition.
Actor Shyam Sundar Kalani, who essayed the role of Sugriv and Bali in Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan, passed away on 9 April. The news of Kalani’s demise was confirmed by actor Arun Govil who played the role of Lord Ram in the TV show.
Renowned painter and architect Satish Gujral, known among others for his design of the Belgian Embassy in Delhi and the Goa University, passed away on 26 March, 2020. He was 94. The Padma Vibhushan-awardee was born in Jhelum, Pakistan in 1925 and picked up painting at the age of nine.
Nimmi, the doe-eyed star of 1950s and '60s Hindi movies such as Aan, Barsaat and Deedar, died on 25 March after a prolonged illness. She was 88.
Veteran photographer Nemai Ghosh, who had a long association with directing great Satyajit Ray, passed away at a Kolkata hospital on 25 March. He was 86. Ghosh debuted with Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne (1969) and was with Ray till his last film, Agantuk (1991). 'The lensman, by his own admission, could never quite get over the shock of losing his mentor, whose life and work assumed a greater degree of permanence through his stills — over a lakh of them, to be precise,' Arshia Dhar writes, in this essay on Ghosh's legacy.
Noted Tamil folk singer and actress Paravai Muniyamma, who shot to fame with her performance in Vikram's Dhool, passed away in Madurai on 29 March. She was 83.
Tamil actor Sethuraman died of a cardiac arrest on 26 March in Chennai. The dermatologist-turned-actor was best known for the film Kanna Laddu Thinna Aasaiya.
Actor Imtiaz Khan, best known for his role in the popular musical drama Yaadon Ki Baaraat, passed away at the age of 78, on 17 March. Khan was the brother of yesteryear actor, late Amjad Khan.
Noted fashion designer and Padma Shri awardee Wendell Rodricks passed away on 12 February at his Colvale, Goa, residence, due to a cardiac arrest. 'Fashion designer is too small a term to encompass the multitudes that was Padma Shri awardee,' wrote Manjima Bhattacharjya in this tribute.
The Kalimpong-origin, New Delhi-based axeman, who gave us the inimitable soaring solo on 'But It Rained' about three decades ago, passed away on 14 February at the age of 48. While he went on to form fusion band Mrigya in 1999, Parikrama remained the constant in Sonam’s life, spending year on year at gigs across the country.
Kannada actress Kishori Ballal, who played the role of Kaveriamma in Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Swades, passed away in Bengaluru on 18 February. The actress was suffering from age-related illnesses, reported Mid-day.
Celebrated Bengali actor and former All India Trinamool Congress MP Tapas Pal passed away on 18 February after a cardiac arrest. He was 61.
One of India's best known artists, Akbar Padamsee passed away in Coimbatore on 6 January 2019. He was 91. Padamsee, along with FN Souza, MF Husain and SH Raza, was among the pioneers of modern Indian art, and was also part of the Progressive Artists' Group. Art critic Meera Menezes wrote about the 'consummate colourist, caring peer, anti-censorship champion and ever-evolving artist' for Firstpost.
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