Partap Sharma [Curzon 1950-54] passed away on 30th November 2011. Known as the Golden Voice of India, Partap was always warm, encouraging and inspirational. The world will be sadder without him but greater for his contributions.
A Touch of Brightness: Biography of Partap Sharma
Partap Sharma born December 12, 1939 is an Indian playwright, novelist, author of books for children, commentator, actor and documentary film-maker. A gifted writer, Sharma covers a wide range of subjects and perspectives, and as a master craftsman delivers intricate ideas simply. Like Mahatma Gandhi, the subject of one of Sharma’s most applauded plays “Sammy!” Sharma found that uncovering the truth was not always popular. In Contemporary Authors Sharma explains: “Stories are perhaps a way of making more coherent and comprehensible the bewildering complexity of the world. I learn and discover as I write and I try to share what I have understood. This began with me when I was a child, before I could read, and when I needed to deduce a story to explain the pictures in a book. But that is just the technique; the aim is to uncover an aspect of the truth. The truth isn’t always palatable. Two of my documentaries and a play were, at various times, banned. The High Court reversed the ban on the play; it is now a text in three Indian universities and has been the subject of a doctoral thesis in drama at Utah University.”
Sharma was born in Lahore which was then part of India and is the oldest son of Dr. Baij Nath Sharma and Dayawati (Pandit) Sharma. Sharma’s father was a civil engineer who served as Technical Advisor to governments in Ceylon, Tanganyika and Libya and later retired to their ancestral property in Punjab as a gentleman farmer. This colourful Punjabi village forms much of the backdrop of Sharma’s novel, Days of the Turban. Sharma’s early education was in Trinity College, Kandy, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and then at Bishop Cotton School, Shimla. Sharma received a triple promotion and completed school at 14 before going to study at St. Xavier’s College, Bombay mainly because all other universities in India required a minimum age of 16. He is married to Susan Amanda Pick, they have two daughters: Namrita and Tara. Tara is, of course, known to many as the beautiful Bollywood actress, Tara Sharma. Sharma’s association with the Indian National Theatre, Mumbai, began in 1961 with the production by it of his first full-length play “Bars Invisible” and continued till the eventual production of the banned “A Touch of Brightness.” While working at his writing, Sharma freelanced as a narrator for short films and newsreels. In due course, he also directed a few documentaries for the Government of India. He was TV host of the popular programme “What’s the Good Word?” produced by Television Centre, Mumbai. One of India’s leading voices heard in narrations and commentaries on film, radio and TV, he has voiced many national and international award-winning documentaries and short films. He is known as the golden voice of India, and has often been referred to in the Press as simply ‘The Voice’. He is the voice on most of the Son et lumière shows produced in India, including the one still running forty years later, at the Delhi Fort, in Delhi.
- The Surangini Tales
- Dog Detective Ranjha
- The Little Master of the Elephant
- Top Dog
- Days of the Turban
- A Touch of Brightness
- Zen Katha
- Begum Sumroo
- Brothers Under The Skin (1956)
- Bars Invisible (1961)
- A Touch Of Brightness (1965)
- The Word (1966)
- The Professor Has A Warcry (1970)
- Queen Bee (1976)
- Power Play (1991)
- Begum Sumroo (1997)
- Zen Katha (2004)
- SAMMY! (2005)
Documentaries and Films
Partap Sharma has directed some outstanding documentaries, as independent producer and for the Government of India’s Films Division, and Channel Four Television, U.K. His film credits include:
- The Framework Of Famine, 1967, an investigation of how nature’s devastation is compounded by human corruption and inefficiency; banned for it’s “ruthless candour” then released after other documentary-makers protested.
- The Flickering Flame, 1974, a study of the mismanagement of the energy crisis and its effect on the suburban housewife; banned and never released.
- Kamli, 1976, a short film depicting the status of women in rural Indian society.
- The Empty Hand, 1982, (co-directed) a prize-winning audiovisual about the art of karate.
- Viewpoint Amritsar, 1984, co-directed a film about the Golden Temple and environs in the aftermath of Operation Bluestar.
- The British Raj Through Indian Eyes, 1992, a documentary series telecast in 1992 by Channel Four Television UK.
Part I: The Uprising of 1857.
Part II: The Massacre at Jallianwallah Bagh 1919.
The museum of the British Empire and Commonwealth, in Bristol, now has a permanent section entitled The Sharma Archive consisting of 30 video and 67 audio tapes made by Partap Sharma. Interviews and footage of Indian nationalists, freedom fighters and writers. Indian perspectives on the Raj. Some transcripts available (CDs, Videos and Cassettes).
- Sailing Around The World And Discover America Yachting Rally, two video programmes directed by Sandhya Divecha and produced by Sharma’s Indofocus Films Pvt. Ltd. British Raj Hindustani Nazron Se, 1995-98, A Hindi TV Serial.
- The Case Of The Hidden Ear-Ring, 1983
As an actor Sharma played a role in the Merchant-Ivory film “Shakespearewallah”. Other films include the lead role in the following Hindi films:
- Phir Bhi (1971)
- Andolan (1975)
- Tyaag Patra (1980)
- Pehla Kadam (1980)
- Nehru – The Jewel of India (1989)
- The Bandung Sonata (2002) Filmed in China, Sharma played Nehru in this international film which was subsequently re-titled for release in China as Chou-en-Lai in Bandung.
Awards and Honours
- Sharma’s literary genius was recognized at an early age, and he won numerous first prizes in school and university in debating, elocution and acting including first prize at the All India Inter-University Youth Festival, Delhi, in 1958.
- 1971 National Award for the lead role in the feature film “Phir Bhi” which also won the National Award for the best Hindi film of the year.
- Cleo Award U.S.A for best voice.
- 1976 RAPA First Prize for best voice in radio spots.
- 1992 the “Hamid Sayani” Trophy for a lifetime of all-round excellence in radio and television.
- 2000 Ad Club of Mumbai Award for Lifetime Contribution to Advertising.
- 2004 the “Dadasaheb Phalke Award” with the citation ‘the voice of India’ on behalf of 35 associations of professional cine workers representing all branches of the Indian film industry.
- India Who’s Who, Infa publications, India.
- Contemporary Authors, Gale Research Company, Detroit, U.S.A.
- Asia’s Who’s Who, Asian Publishing House, India.
- Dictionary Of International Biography, International Biographical Centre, Cambridge, England.
The real complete man.
Malavika Sangghvi / Mumbai December 03, 2011, 0:42 IST
Partap Sharma, who died this week, was a polymath: author, playwright, documentary filmmaker, anchor, actor, voice-over artist and more. His titles were many, but it is for other qualities that I would like to remember him today.
The first is courage. When his award winning play, A Touch of Brightness, was prevented by a regressive state from leaving India to perform abroad, Partap, refusing to be cowed down, engaged Soli Sorabjee to argue his case. They won the case — seven years later — and the play about a woman in Mumbai’s red light area went on to get international success and recognition.
That should have been ample evidence of Partap’s grit: nine years ago, after he was struck down by a debilitating attack of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and emphysema which left him wheel-chair bound and in need of a constant supply of oxygen, Partap once again refused to allow circumstances to dictate his story. He went on to record Macbeth, Julius Caesar and The Merchant of Venice in his famous voice, enacting all the parts — even the female ones!
More inspiring was the fact that this man, struggling to breathe, began to sing! “I always had an ear for music, but when I was told that it would be therapeutic for my lungs I started learning it seriously and the result was a series of songs for my family which have been collected as ‘Home Songs’.”
If courage was his anthem, humility was his calling card. Partap wore his achievements and accolades (a Dada Saheb Phalke, a National Film award, a Thespo lifetime achievement award) lightly. Struggling to speak from his hospital bed while receiving yet another award (this time from Dr Vijaya Mehta) it was edifying to hear him say, “People should look for the affirmative in every creative work that they critique, so that the creator gets encouraged.”
Partap himself was nothing if not encouraging, his lovely home by the sea was open to all: celebrated litterateurs along with struggling poets, confused writers, footloose students and hungry neighbours.
If these qualities were enough to make him larger than life, it was his swashbuckling sense of self-actualisation and adventure that made him a hero to many. He was a black-belt Karate expert, a rider of bare back horses, a solver of neighbourhood crimes with his famous Alsatian Ranjha of the “Dog Detective series”, the owner of a magnificently restored shiny black Mercedes-Benz, an above-average chess player, an aficionado of books and ideas, and a lover of Mahabaleshwar where he would disappear for long writing spells. I could go on. But suffice to say that the copywriter who came up with the “Complete Man” sign off, could well have had Partap in mind. But that is not all. Above all, it was for Partap’s qualities of decency and grace that he will be cherished, His human qualities outstripped his considerable material and creative success. It is fitting that he died surrounded by his daughters, the lovely Namrita and Tara, and their families, his many friends and in the arms of his devoted wife-comrade-companion and champion Sue. Two days before he died, I met her at his bedside in the ICU. I remember thinking that she had gazed at him and stroked his face with the tenderness and love of a young bride.
Every man should aspire to live and die like that.
[Vijay Khurana adds: For those of you have lived or know Bombay, Malavika Sangghvi is the daughter of Mrs Khanna who ran Samovar at the Jehangir Art Gallery at Kala Ghoda. Partap’s daughter Tara Sharma is the well known actress.]
The Biography is an extract from http://www.partapsharma.com/, where you can read more about this great man.
EDITOR May 28th 2012
Here is a letter from Tara, Partap’s daughter :
Thank you so much for your kind words about Dad. As you can imagine it’s devastating for us but I truly believe Daddy is with us always and it is only the body that is resting. Words cannot express how much Daddy means to me and us as a family and how inspirational, brave and loving he was and is. He touched so many lives and his rich legacy continues to do so. I write about Daddy often on my blog www.tarasharmashow.com and am grateful he got to meet both my kids and he knew my sister Namrita’s baby was soon to be born. On behalf of my Mum Sue, sister and our husbands and kids thank you and do keep writing your thoughts on Dad to me, it helps me keep him alive.