School Plays

Upendra Limaye studied up to the 10th standard in New English High School, Tilak Road, Pune. He was more interested in extra-curricular activities than studies. This prompted him to start taking part in the school’s social gatherings plays. He didn’t know it then. But the seeds of his career were sown in those school dramas. The school nurtured the growth of dramatic art. And his drama teacher, Mrs Bhanutai, supported and encouraged him, boosting his confidence in his ability to act. He took part in several school drama competitions, also became the school’s cultural representative, and developed a real liking for drama.

For Junior College, he took admission in Bharti Vidyapeeth. Here, too, the cultural atmosphere was just right. He continued acting in plays, took part in various inter-collegiate drama contests, even won some awards for his acting. Yet, he remained merely curious about the field of acting, imbibing inputs for his craft from whatever sources were available at the time.

That changed in the 11th standard when one day he happened to see a professional drama called, ‘Padgham’, directed by Jabbar Patel. With its student union theme and powerful performances, ‘Padgham’ exerted a profound effect on Upendra. For the first time, he felt the sheer strength of drama. He sensed its amazing power to entertain, influence and move audiences. He was awed by its potential to offer artists a limitless field for personal creativity and expression. Now he knew he wanted to be an actor.

So, after the 12th exam, he told his family he was going to join Lalit Kala Kendra, the Centre for Performing Arts, to major in dramatic art. No one objected to his decision. His father just told him, “Do whatever you like to do, but be at the top!” A familial injunction he has scrupulously tried to fulfill till date.

Enrolling in Lalit Kala Kendra marked the first turning point in his life.

But immediately after joining the college, to earn his upkeep, he secured a job with Pune’s Alurkar Music House, the only regular job he has ever held. The job, as destiny would have it, lasted just a year. For not long after, he met three like-minded theatre devotees, Sanjay Pawar, Subodh Pande and Abhay Godse who, like him, yearned to do something different in the theatre field. So, in 1988, the four friends got together and founded an Experimental Theatre platform called ‘Parichay’, and launched their novel dramatic movement.

In the next decade, Upendra acted in numerous experimental and commercial plays (see Theatre). With his talent getting recognised and lauded, barely three years after the founding of Parichay, he began getting parts in Marathi parallel cinema, produced by well-known film makers. He was now a versatile and recognised actor.

Looking back now, he feels, “it was the best period of my life…a sort of romantic, idealistic phase where we dreamt of doing great work, of producing pure art without any commercial compromise.”