Theatre doyenne Ruby Patel—one half of the golden couple of the Parsi-Gujarati stage of yore as well as a famous poker-faced actor from the heyday of city’s English plays—passed away in Mumbai. She was 86. Patel is survived by husband and long-time co-star Burjor Patel and three children. Their daughter Shernaz Patel is a renowned theatre, television and movie actor.
Mumbai, which mourned the demise of English theatre’s “comedy king” Bomi Kapadia this past week, has lost in Patel not only a prominent memory cue of Western-drama-obsessed ’60s Mumbai, but also a reminder of the glory days of Parsi theatre when some patrons fondly referred to her as “Aapri Ruby”.
One of the descendants of the Parsi-Gujarati stage that traces its roots back to 1853’s Parsi Theatrical Company, Patel, along with Burjor, was part of shows that saw over 50 performances under director giants such as Adi Marzban, Firoz Antia and Dorab Mehta. The couple joined the Parsi wing of the Indian National Theatre (INT), acted in popular plays, including ‘Gher Ghungro Ne Ghotalo’ and ‘Hello Inspector’ and later formed the theatre company Burjor Patel Productions and spent 20 years in Dubai before returning to Mumbai in 2009.
Patel’s funeral was held at the Tower of Silence in Malabar Hill.
In his Twitter tribute, actor Viveck Vaswani, who had worked with Shernaz in the serial ‘Khandaan’, called actor Hosi Vasunia and Patel “the Dharmendra and Hema of the English theatre” for having delivered 15 hits. Theatre personality and adman Rahul da Cunha, who had directed Patel in three plays in the 1980s, said she could effortlessly straddle not only two languages but also two comedic styles: Deadpan and slapstick.