As Bollywood’s undisputed monarch Amitabh Bachchan is celebrating his 80 th birthday today (11 October), his millions of fans across the world would be discussing his films, it is time to remember his first acting guru Frank Thakurdas. Films buffs might not have seen Amitabh Bachchan as an actor had Delhi University’s Kirori Mal College drama teacher Frank Thakur Das did not ask the shy and almost reticent Amitabh Bachchan to take part in the activities of College drama society.
That very meeting with Frank Thakurdas had changed the life of Amitabh Bachchan, then a BSc student of KM College. Amitabh Bachchan studied in Kirori Mal College from the year 1959 to 1962. Those were days when his father and noted Hindi scholar, Dr. Harivansh Rai Bachchan, was working in the Ministry of External Affairs as a Hindi Officer.
A workaholic Punjabi Christian Frank Thakurdas was wearing several hats in Kirori Mal College. Apart from a very accomplished English teacher, he was the bedrock of college drama society. “ I still remember vividly that one day Prof Frank Thakurdas had told me I should take part in plays produced by the drama society of the college without any further delay,”recalls indebted Amitabh Bachchan in an interview in 2017, adding, “ He became my mentor in college from the very meeting. Thanks to him I learnt the ABC of theatre world like how to speak on stage and role of expressions in acting. He was a brilliant actor and director too.”
And then it was no looking back for Amitabh Bachchan as he started doing English and Hindi plays with tremendous amount of zeal, dedication and purpose. Not only in College and Delhi University, Kirori Mal College drama society was staging their plays in various parts of Delhi and Amitabh Bachchan was an integral part of it.
Well, Amitabh Bachchan was his first student who made huge strides as an actor. Later, Frank Thakurdas was also responsible for shaping the acting careers of the likes of other Bollywood stars like Shakti Kapoor, Satish Kaushik, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Dinesh Thakur and many others. They all owe to him for giving them enough opportunities to learn.
Even after so many years and decades of leaving his alma mater, Amitabh Bachchan is still indebted to Frank Thakurdas for sending his name to all-women college Miranda House to take part in an one act play. “ While recalling his days with KM college alumnus couple of years ago, he said with smile on his face, “ How can I forget his gesture of sending my name to Miranda House to take part in a one-act play.”
Very gracious and handsome Frank Thakurdas was a livewire teacher, who was always available to his past and present students. His life used to revolve around his students. “ Frank sir was my teacher in 1975. He taught us English poetry. He knew virtually everything about English poetry and plays. He was authority on Shakespeare, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Burns, Oscar Wilde, John Milton,John Keats. After taking our classes, he rushed to rehearse with his students for their some Hindi play,” recalls Dr. Firoz Bakht Ahmed, the ex- Chancellor of Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU), adding, “He was also a very fine Punjabi singer who trained generations of students with singular devotion and built Kirori Mal College’s drama, debate and music. reputation for cultural. ”
Indeed, Frank Thakurdas was a legendary teacher and mentor. When a KM College auditorium named after him was in bad shape and required urgent maintenance work recently, Amitabh Bachchan came forward at once and donated Rs 51 lakhs so that it can be built in a grand manner. Not only Amitabh Bachchan, many other students of Frank Thakurdas too generously donated money for the making of college auditorium.
“ When I joined KM College in early 70, he ( Frank Thakurdas) was there and making his presence felt. I was overawed by the fact Frank sir also taught Amitabh Bachchan. However, he was not among those who bask on somebody else glory. When we talk about Amitabh Bachchan, he only used to said, “ Amitabh was a quick learner and always keen to experiment . He had to touch the dizzy heights. However, he never boasted that Amitabh was his student. That was the hallmark of his personality,” says Satish Kaushik, who is a noted director and made a mark for his roles as ‘Calendar’ in Mr. India and as Pappu Pager in Deewana Mastana.
Alas, it is so sad that some people do not get their due. Frank Thakurdas was certainly among those who remained unsung. The likes of him deserve better deal. Somebody should write a biography on him and Amitabh Bachchan should write a foreword of it so that avid film buffs know about the life and times of a great teacher who was the Guru of Amitabh Bachchan.