One of the finest actors of his generation, and an influence on several generations since, Dr Lagoo has thoroughly justified the title of his most famous act on stage, Natasamrat (Emperor Of Actors).
Shriram Lagoo made his first appearance on stage in a school play. As he would say in a later interview, “My school — Bhave School — has always had a great tradition in dramatics. Several of its alumni like Smita Patil, Rohini Hattangadi and even Sonali Kulkarni have gone on to make their mark as actors.
Lagoo was Gopal Krishna Gokhale in the play. Years later, he would reprise the role on the big screen alongside Oscar winner Ben Kingsley in Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi.
At BJ Medical College in Pune, he took up stage performances for the first time. Lagnachi Bedi (The Marital Chain), a play written by Acharya Prahlad Keshav Atre, was one of his first successes. “Juggling medicine and theatre were not easy,” Dr Lagoo said. “Yet, the love for theatre persisted… and with like-minded drama-lovers, one was part of the Progressive Dramatic Association set up by our chemistry professor.”
The stage was Lagoo’s arena, and he was one of its finest gladiators. Over a career spanning 40 years, well into his 80s, the doctor performed in plays by writers such as Vijay Tendulkar, Atre and Shirwadkar, the last of whom wrote a play with Dr Lagoo specifically in mind that was to be the crown jewel of the doctor’s acting career.
An actor who was sadly sidelined in Hindi cinema, his only award-winning performance was in Bhimsain Khurana’s Gharaonda (1977), about a middle-class couple’s search for a home in Mumbai.
He was surely the king of theatre, though he didn’t receive as much fame as he deserved, he was an amazing artist.