Bhubaneswar: An era came to an end Tuesday night with the demise of Master Kashinath Sahoo, the oldest theatre personality of India. He was 108. Kashinath Sahoo was and will remain a colossus of Odia theatre according to many.
“My father was active till the end. He skipped his lunch Tuesday after feeling little feverish. We never imagined he would no more be with us in the evening,” said a shocked Debendra Sahoo, his elder son here Wednesday.
Several members of Odisha Natya Sangha, an apex body of theatre troupes in the state, including Prasanna Mishra, Dhira Mallick, Manoj Pattanaik, Haren Sahoo, Prakash Moharana, Ashok Kar, Debananda Nayak, Lalatendu Rath, Hemendra Mohapatra, Kesharanjan Pradhan, Sushmita Rana, Dinesh Das and Sharat Samrat expressed sadness at the death of Kashinath Sahoo. They also expressed their heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family members of the theatre personality.
Born to Radhamani and Bandhu Sahoo of Haripur village near Pipili, September 7, 1913, Kashinath was the youngest among eight siblings. Known for his simple lifestyle, Kashinath a gamut of talents, all rolled into one. He was an actor, director, dance exponent, musician, organiser, educationist and a prominent social worker
Popularly known as ‘Master’ (Guru) in Odisha theatre, Kashinath took to stage when he was five. He was an integral part many prominent troupes like Minerva Theatre (Kolkata), Hajuri Theatre, Haribandhu Sundara’s Rasa Party, Balanga’s Banamali Theatre, Art Theatre and Annuapurna A. He acted in hundreds of historical, mythological, social and family dramas. Kashinath also directed many plays.
However, his role as ‘Dharama’ in the play ‘Konarka’ made him a household name in Odisha. He played the character more than a hundred times. Hence he was often addressed as ‘Dharama’ as the role he portrayed became synonymous with him in real life.
Kashinath was conferred with ‘Kabi Samrat Upendra Bhanja Samman’, the highest honour in Odisha. It was presented to him by the ‘Odisha Sangeet Natak Akademi’ for his contribution towards Odisha’s art and culture. This apart, he was honoured with ‘Buddha Samman’, ‘Konark Jyoti Samman’ and felicitated on several occasions by many organisations in Odisha. He also performed in several ‘Garjat’ states of British India and was awarded gold medals many times. The state Culture Department, in collaboration with ‘Odisha Sangeet Natak Akademi’ and ‘Odisha Natya Sangh’ felicitated him at Bhanja Kala Mandap September, 8, 2013 after he scored a century in life and published a souvenir in his honour.
Not many know that Kashinath was a true Gandhian who had scripted nearly half a dozen skits to encourage freedom fighters. He was part of the group that walked with the Mahatma from Dandamukundpur till Pipili, May 12, 1934.
Kashinath established the first movie theatre of Pipili, ‘Bijoyshree Talkies’, which still continues to host films. Among his socio cultural activities, Kashinath was among the founders of the ‘Pipili Mahavidyalaya’ and the ‘Jawahar Vidyapeeth’ to promote education in the area. He also played key role in formation of ‘Pipili Sanskrutika Parishad’ and several other cultural organisations.
Kashinath will remain a sparkling star in the annals of Odia theatre, said many persons associated with theatre and other works of art in Odisha.