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Dr Shriram Lagoo, The Masterly Misfit



The  supremely talented  Shriram  Lagoo who passed  away  on  17 December  was  a late  bloomer. He  did his  first  film  when he  was  into  his 40s. 

He was  42 when he  finally  quit his  successful career as  an ENT  doctor  and pursued his passion of acting in theatre where he did such memorable  plays as  Nata Samrat, KaachechaChandra and Gidhade.

Back then for an actor  in his 40s to enter  Bollywood was  unheard  of. But he   got lucky with V Shantaram’s Pinjra in Marathi  where Dr Lagoo  was cast as an  aging school teacher in a  conservative village who creates  a scandal by  falling in love with a prostitute.

Though the film with its rippling raunchy lavani songs, was  a big hit Dr Lagoo, ever candid and  self-exploratory   confessed that  the great Shantaram’s  genius  was on the decline  by the  time he  made Pinjra and also admitted that  re-making Pinjra into  Hindi was  a big mistake.

Such brutal frankness  is  unknown in Hindi cinema. Forever the outsider, Dr Lagoo never minced  words.  His honesty  was  extended to his  characters which seemed to be  real even when placed in hardcore commercial milieu such as  Prakash Mehra’s Lawaris where Dr Lagoo left an impact as Amitabh  Bachchan’s alcoholic so-star. 


In his most memorable role in Hindi  in   Gharoanda in Hindi 1977  he was cast as  one  of   three central characters alongside  Amol Palekar and Zarina Wahab.Dr Lagoo played a widower  who  undergoes a  marriage  of  convenience with a much younger woman. Understandably  he had very few really meaty roles  to sink his  teeth into.Yet  such was  craving for  the stage and  camera that he  did demeaning  minuscule  parts  in scores and scores  of  Hindi films  all through   the 1980 and  90s.

Theatre and  film  actress Lilette Dubey who never got an opportunity to work with Dr  Lagoomakes  an  interesting  observation about his career. “Like Amrish  Puri, Boman Irani, Judi Denchand  Maggie Smith  , Dr Lagoo  got  into acting late in his life. His acting career  followed  a similar trajectory  to theirs. For me Dr Lagoo exemplified how intelligence can be brought to the fore in every field ,even one of acting , he was a true blood theatre actor , magnificent on stage, who transitioned brilliantly on to screen with his natural and real, yet intense style of acting .One will always remember his wonderfully expressive eyes .. another great passes on ..Unfortunately I  never  got to work with his…One of life’s mysteries .. But remember, I started my mid-life accidental film career barely 19-20 years ago by when he had retired almost from films.”

 Actor-filmmaker Rakesh Roshan who  worked in several films  with Dr Lagoo  during the latter’s career’s  rush-hour in the 1990s remembers him as   an erudite gentle  sophisticated  actor. 

Says Roshan, “Apart from being extremely talented Dr Lagoo was  a  humble and well-read person. He was always polite and smiling.He will be remembered for his  work.Always.”

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