MUMBAI: Manohar Singh was one of the first major theatre artistes to make the shift to the small screen as early as 1990, while satellite television was still a blink on the electronic horizon in the country.
Best remembered for portraying roles of the iron willed patriarch in several serials, Singh brought a touch of theatre professionalism and acting calibre to Indian television. Producer actor Neena Gupta, with whom he worked in several serials including Dard and Palcchin, remembers him as an actor with a beautiful sense of dialogue delivery.
Described as a shining example of toil, tenacity and talent, Singh was last seen on the big screen in a bit role as Pooja Bhatt's father in law in Rahul Bose's Everybody Says I'm Fine. Singh, 64, passed away on Thursday morning at the Apollo Hospitals, Delhi, after a protracted battle with lung cancer.
A graduate of the National School of Drama, he started off with a role in Bertolt Brecht's Caucasian Chalk Circle in 1968-69 while still in his first year. Theatre director Amal Allana says the integrity he brought to his work was simply stupendous.
Best known for his performances in the Ebrahim Alkazi directed Tughlaq as the despotic king, as Jimmy Potter in Look Back in Anger, in Dante's Death, Mohan Rakesh's Adhe Adhure, Sandhya Chaya and other plays such as Nagamandala, King Lear, Mother Courage (where he played Mother Courage) and as "Chanakya" in Mudra Rakhshas, Singh also essayed strong roles in several Hindi films.
TV serial director Feisal Alkazi, who worked with Singh in serials Mullah Nasiruddin and Raj Se Swaraj says he had a very detailed approach to acting. "When I was handling costumes for these serials, he would get into every little bit of his own outfit. From the belt he would have to wear to the wig and down to his footwear he wanted to know everything. And he managed to carry off those outfits, unlike a lot of actors who don't know how to handle elaborate costumes," Alkazi has been quoted as saying.
A soft spoken actor, theatre remained Singh's first love. Among his performances on television are Dard, Gumraah, Palchhin, Raag Durbari and Mahayagya. In a tribute, I&B minister Sushma Swaraj has said that his roles will continue to motivate upcoming film and stage artists.