Theatre legend (1941-2019)

Dinyar Contractor was a theatre legend, actor par excellence, writer, director, comedian, and TV and Bollywood actor, whom the audience will remember for a long time. 

With his roly-poly looks, his ability to tweak both ears and other acting skills, he never failed to amaze with his comic timing and powerful acting. His trademark dead-pan style of dialogue delivery brought the house down. Best known for his comic roles, he lit up the screen and our lives with his wit and charm, evoking bursts of laughter wherever he went.

He will be remembered as the moon-faced comedian. Yet, behind the laughs lay a virtual encyclopedia of theatre, a hawk eye, and a nose which could smell a plagiarised play at a distance, and call out its adaptor who claimed it to be original.

Dinyar started acting in school and began his professional acting career on stage in 1966, and made a mark in several Gujarati, Hindi and English stage productions, devoting over five decades of his life, beginning with Eruch Pavri’s Mamai Ni Musaafri (an old Parsi fairytale) in 1965.

He started working on television programmes with Adi Marzban when Mumbai Doordarshan launched the DD-2 channel in Mumbai with Aao Marvao Meri Saathe, a Gujarati programme, and became a household name. His evergreen show, Hum Sab Ek Hai has left behind many memories.

He has worked and gained popularity in Bollywood films like Baazigar, Baadshah, 36 China Town, Khiladi, Khichdi-the movie, Daraar, Jhankaar Beats, Mujhse Shaadi Karogi and Jawab. But it is on television that he was more prolific. Some of his better-known works include Hum Sab Ek Hain, Do Aur Do Paanch, Khichdi, Tarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah, Dil Vil Pyar Vyar, Karishma- the Miracles of Destiny, Dam Dama Dam, Hum Sab Baraati, Teri Bhi Chup Meri Bhi Chup, Kabhi Idhar Kabhi Udhar, Shubh Mangal Savadhan, and Aaj Ke Shrimaan Shrimati. And also stage shows like Carry On Papa, Carry On Frying and more.

The actor was awarded the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian honour on Republic Day in January 2019, by the President of India, Ramnath Kovind. Recovering from a spine ailment, as excited as a child, he had said, “I’m elated to receive this honour and have been flooded with congratulatory calls since it was announced! I am thankful to God and to all my well-wishers. I’ve never worked for awards. When I got the call from Delhi, I thought it’s not genuine – someone’s just playing the fool. But I realised it’s the truth when I started getting numerous congratulatory calls from distinguished personalities, and it sunk in.”

Contractor died due to old age related health issues on 5 June2019 in Mumbai, aged 79 and was cremated at Worli prayer hall in Mumbai for Parsis. The Gujarati theatre fraternity arrived in strength for the funeral and condolences poured in on social media from different sections of the society.

On Twitter, Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled Contractor’s death, saying he is ‘saddened’ by the veteran actor’s demise. ‘Padma Shri Dinyar Contractor was special because he spread lots of happiness. His versatile acting brought smiles on several faces. Be it theatre, television or films, he excelled across all mediums.’

Union minister Smriti Irani tweeted, “He brought bursts of laughter with him wherever he went, and he lit up the screen and our lives with his wit and charm.”

Unfortunately, Dinyar Contractor could not complete his wish of hosting a huge, mega, magical show. A bachelor, he leaves behind four siblings, two of whom live abroad and two are settled in Mumbai.


A.RADHAKRISHNAN is a Pune based freelance journalist, short story writer and poet, who loves to make friends and share humour.