A wonderful stage designer and a theatre director known for evolving a new idiom of clown theatre, Bansi Kaul took the road less travelled. A National School of Drama pass-out, unlike the other theatres giants who rose and shone in Delhi, Kaul called Bhopal his karam bhumi, establishing the theatre group Rang Vidushak that trained a number of theatre-persons.
A Padma Shri (2014) and Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee (1995), Kaul was the designer and show director for the Commonwealth Games’ opening ceremony (2010) and art director for Khajuraho Festival (1986 and 1987).
Eminent theatreperson GS Channi recalls, “He was three years senior to me in NSD; we would call him Bansi da. He specialised in stagecraft. His contribution towards vidushak (clown tradition) is tremendous. His wife Anjana Puri would contribute the music for his productions.” Channi also hails the tough choices he made in life, “Bansi da worked with people on the sidelanes and yet managed to be a national figure. Whatever he touched was transformed.”
Renowned theatreperson Neelam Mansingh Chowdhry too remembers Kaul for his magical stagecraft. “I worked with him during my days in Bhopal. Once I was doing a folk tale and somehow the stage setting was not to my liking; I told him that it did not seem coherent and he said, Abhi bandh dete hain. I thought he was kidding. But, lo and behold, he asked for a rope and managed it all.” Mansingh counts Aala Afsar, based on Russian play Inspector General by Nikolai Gogaul, as Kaul’s finest play.
Punjabi playwright Kewal Dhaliwal feels fortunate to have had Kaul as his guru. “He introduced fresh concept in stage design. In fact, his last production was a play that I wrote. His passing away is a huge loss for theatre.”
Meanwhile, many from the film industry mourned his demise. Actor Satish Kaushik tweeted, “Bansi Kaul bhai your immense contribution and dedication to Indian theatre will always be remembered .” Vani Tripathi Tikoo posted on Twitter, “End of an era! My daddu, my life, gone! Theatre thespian and a father to millions, sad to say #BansiKaul passed away leaving millions of aggrieved students and lovers of theatre behind. We will always miss you and this void is impossible to fill…”