Basdeo Panday as a stage and film actor

January 3rd, 2024

Basdeo Panday as a stage and film actor NL183 feature

A short tribute by Dr Kumar Mahabir, Chairman, Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre

Basdeo Panday passed away on New Year’s Day at the age of 90. He was a Trinidad and Tobago lawyer, politician, trade unionist and Prime Minister. However, few people know that he was – briefly – also a stage, radio, television and film actor.

As a boy, Panday loved to see movies at the local cinemas in Trinidad. He admitted in interviews with his biographers that he would sometimes cut classes at Presentation College to see films such as Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. He recalled that after seeing the Zorro Rides Again, he imitated the part of the protagonist, complete with whip in hand.

While working low-paying day jobs in England, Panday studied drama at night at the London School of Dramatic Art, and went on to play minor roles in television for the BBC and ITV. In 1961, he was given a small role on stage in the play “Bird of Time” which ran for several months at the Savoy Theatre in The Strand. Earnings for his appearances in the play enabled him to enter Lincoln’s Inn to study law. Panday also has the distinction of having acted in three British-made feature films: Nine Hours to Rama (1963), Man in the Middle (1964), and The Brigand of Kandahar (1965).

On his return to his homeland in Trinidad and Tobago, he plunged headlong into trade unionism and electoral politics. He eventually emerged as the leader of the All Trinidad Sugar and General Workers’ Trade Union and rose to become Prime Minister of the country (1995-2001). Panday is recognised for his dramatic oratorical skills, which he used so effectively as a politician.

The Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre (ICC), of which I am the Chairman, has decided to dedicate this Sunday’s weekly ZOOM program in tribute to the life and legacies of Basdeo Panday (1933-2024) (