Barry John is a British-born and internationally noted Indian theatre director, actor, writer, and teacher. He has been based in India since 1969. Barry is recognised as the inspiration and teacher of various popular Bollywood and Hollywood actors.
Barry John was born on Wednesday, 2 February 1944 Manoj Bajpayee – Twitter (age 78 years; as of 2022) in West Midlands (County), England. The Free Birds Collective His zodiac sign is Aquarius. He studied at Coundon Junior School, United Kingdom. Barry John – LinkedIn At the age of 12, Barry John started selling newspapers along with pursuing theatres in the evenings. He shifted from England in the late sixties. Mumbai Theatre Guide. Later, he went to Leeds University in England. The Times of India Being attracted to India’s classical music and culture, Barry John also studied Upnishads. The Times of India After ten years, he noticed an advertisement in the newspapers for an English Literature teacher vacancy in Bangalore (now Bengaluru). At the age of 22, Barry John decided to join as an English Literature teacher in Bangalore with a salary of Rs 200 per month. While he was working as a teacher in Bangalore, he started trying his hand at acting at Bangalore Little Theatre. According to Barry, along with teaching he also did radio programmes The Times of India and in the evenings he used to give his time to theatres. The Times of India In 1970, he was invited by a friend to Delhi. The Free Birds Collective In 197o, Barry John joined Yatrik, The Times of India a theatre group founded in 1964. The Tribune Barry started working as a teacher and director. He taught drama at Jesus and Mary College, New Delhi, and directed student productions at different colleges in Delhi such as St Stephen’s, Hindu College, Miranda House, and Lady Shri Ram College, among others. Indian Express In 1773, he established the foundation of the ‘Theatre Action Group,’ which included Abba Sooth, Asha Kochar, Khalid Taibji Rileth, Manohar Singh, Mira Nair, Pamela Rooks, Pankaj Kapoor, and many more. The group became famous with a huge following and created a history for over two decades with productions of various plays. Barry John became an inspiration to young actors like Deepika Ameen, Divya Seth, Manoj Bajpayee, Radhika Singh, Rituraj Singh, and Shah Rukh Khan among others. His inspiration to enter theatres was John Hodgson, who is one of the instigators of theatres in the United Kingdom. The Indian Express In an interview, Barry John shared his experience of his first meeting with John Hodgson as a student of art, drama, and English Literature. He said,
“He would never answer our questions but say, ‘Just find out’. What is important is the homework you do to bring out a character who is not you. This is difficult to explain to people who cannot imagine anything other than a traditional approach.” The Indian Express
Later, Barry John became the founder – director of the Theatre In Education (TIE) Company of the National School of Drama. With the Theatre Action Group (TAG), he set up ‘Nukkar,’ a theatre project for street and working children, which became a part of the Salaam Baalak Trust; Salaam Baalak Trust is a non-governmental organisation, founded after the release of Mira Nair’s award-winning film ‘Salaam Bombay,’ which revealed the bitter truth of the life of the homeless children. This NGO provides complete care and protection to street children through education, mental health facility, and vocational training. After 36 years in Delhi, In 2007, Barry John shifted to Mumbai. Mumbai Theatre Guide In an interview, Barry John pointed out the reason for relocating to Mumbai. He said,
Delhi has become a haven for corrupt politicians, bureaucrats, land and property speculators. Culturally, it is a virtual desert. Theatre activity has sunk to an all-time low; television offers few and uninspiring opportunities, and film is virtually non-existent. So, just as my student has little option but to migrate to Mumbai to improve their prospects, the same now applies to me.” Mumbai Theatre Guide
Imago Acting School was renamed ‘The Barry John Acting Studio’ due to Barry’s popularity in Mumbai and to give his acting studio brand recognition by adding his name. Mumbai Theatre Guide The last work of Barry as a director was a play titled ‘The Honey Trilogy.’ This includes the three individual plays – It’s All About Money, Honey; It’s All About God, Honey, and It’s All About Sex, Honey. Mint Reportedly, John stepped down from the theatre when he turned 70. The Indian Express
Hair Colour: Grey
Eye Colour: True Grey
Parents & Siblings
His father, an engineer by profession, joined the navy during World War II and his mother was a homemaker. He has a younger sister named Christine John. The Times of India
Barry John Acting Studio
In 1997, Barry John started Imago Media Company along with Sanjay Sujitabh, and, in the same year, he started his acting studio named ‘Imago School of Acting’ in film city, Noida, Uttar Pradesh. The inauguration of the studio was announced at a small press conference. During the conference, Barry John said that it was a small organisation, which came into existence with his savings and the financial contribution of his friends. According to Barry, the studio would help provide full-time and part-time courses in arts, electronic media, and drama therapy. In March 2007, both the acting school and the company moved to Mumbai after which the studio was renamed ‘Barry John Acting Studio,’ situated in Andheri. The Barry John Acting Studio functions under the Theatre in Education Trust, a non-profit organisation, which aims at spreading knowledge of and building interest in arts and acting through the medium of education.
According to Barry John, he resigned from Barry John Acting Studio for various reasons. According to him, there was still some confusion about his resignation, which he cleared in an interview. He said,
“There is some confusion about BJAS. My name is still being used and abused by certain people in another organisation called BJAS but I’ve no contact with them. I’ve resigned from that company for various reasons.” The Free Birds Collective
The Free Birds Collective
Barry John founded a performing art school named ‘The Free Birds Collective’ after resigning from Barry John Acting Studio (BJAS).
The Theatre Action Group (TAG) created by Barry John came up with various plays like Equus (1973), Noises Off (1982), Agnes Of God (1979), Cactus Flower, Teahouse of the August Moon (1953), Suno Re Kissa, Rough Crossing (1984), and Baghdad Ka Ghulam (1984).
Barry John has played different roles in various films such as Shatranj Ke Khiladi (The Chess Player) 1977, the role of Police Superintendent in the film ‘Gandhi’ (1982), Charles Adam in ‘Massey Sahib’ (1985), John Westtcot in ‘Miss Beatty’s Children’ (1992), Michael Atlee in ‘Shaheed Udham Singh’ (2000), Lago in ‘ In Othello’ (2003), the role of a priest in the film ‘Thanks Maa’ (2009), Ted Wood in ‘Tere Bin Laden’ (2010), Wilkinson in ‘Chittagong’ (2012), and Vishnu Das in ‘M Cream’ (2014).
Barry John has also acted in the play ‘Othello: A Play in Black and White,’ directed by Roysten Abel; the play was praised at the international level and won the Fringe First Award at the Edinburgh Festival, which is considered to be the world’s largest arts festival.
Barry John’s work as a writer came out with a handbook titled ‘Playing For Real: Using Drama in the Classroom.’ The book consists of 178 drama exercises and games for actors. MacMillan has published the book. According to Barry John, the games help in social bonding and individual development.
- Barry John has been honoured with META 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award, an appreciation for the dedication, efforts, and hard work invested by the theatre practitioners in India.
- In 1993, Barry John received Sangeet Natak Academi Award for Theatre Direction by Sangeet Natak Academi.
- Barry has also been honoured with the Sahitya Kala Parishad Award.
- Barry has played a crucial role in introducing Drama and Theatre as subjects while framing the syllabus for the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT). Barry John Acting Studio
- In an interview, Barry revealed that he worked as a labourer at a construction site at ‘Wimpy”s,’ where he used to prepare hamburgers, and at a steel factory, where he made meshes. The Times of India
- Barry John shared some glimpses of earlier days, in an interview, when he was a college student. According to him, he was a ladies’ man. The Times of India
- According to Barry, he was attracted to India’s traditions and classical music. The Times of India He also revealed that his first play in college was Kalidasa, for which the students used guitars instead of tablas. The Times of India According to him, In 1968, he attended a concert by Pandit Ravi Shankar at the Coventry Cathedral wearing a kurta, with beads around his neck, and long hair. The Times of India
In fact, my first play in college was Kalidasa, for which we used guitars instead of tablas! In 1968, Pandit Ravi Shankar staged a concert at the Coventry Cathedral. I landed up in a kurta, with beads around my neck and long hair. The concert was mind-blowing.” The Times of India
- In an interview, he revealed that before becoming a teacher in the college he studied, he was supported by government grants. The Times of India
- In an interview, Barry John shared that he was told that he did not look like actor material but could try to be a theatre teacher. The Times of India Later, Barry specialised in arts, music, and drama; he learnt many things from John Hutchson, the head of the department. The Times of India
- In an interview, Barry explained how much he wanted to be independent and achieve his goals in life. He revealed that he never wanted to bother his parents asking for pocket money. The Indian Express He used to earn himself to bear expenses including his clothes. The Indian Express Barry said,
I never asked my parents for pocket money but bought all my clothes and paid for all my expenses to learn to be independent and to qualify to do what I wanted with my life.” The Indian Express
- In an interview, Barry shared a moment when he was working at a theatre workshop for Mira Nair’s film ‘Salaam Bombay.’ In the interview, Barry shared that he met a ten years old boy through the Salaam Baalak Trust, which supports street children and was formed after the release of the film. The Times of India According to Barry, he supported his school and college studies as the boy wanted to study. Later, the boy became a graphic artist. The Times of India In the interview, Barry revealed that he considered that boy his son. The Times of India Barry said,
I found my son through Mira Nair: Mira is a friend. I held my first theatre workshop for her film Salaam Bombay. Subsequently, the Salaam Baalak Trust, which supports street children, was formed. Through this trust, I met my son, around 15 years ago. He was 10 then and wanted to study — I have supported his education through school and college. He is a graphic artist and, last year, expressed the desire to marry this girl. But he was turned down by her family members — they called him a street-urchin and the child of a single parent. Nobody bothers to appreciate the fact that he is a self-made boy with strong values.” The Times of India
- Barry John has taught acting to many popular actors including Shah Rukh Khan, Freida Pinto, Manoj Bajpayee, and many more.
- Reportedly, Barry owns a house in Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India. The Indian Express