Tributes flow after theatre, cinema actor Jemal Gaganidze dies at 89

The theatre and cinema actor appeared in domestic productions across decades since the 1950s. Photo via Rustaveli Theatre, 03 Feb 2023 - 14:07, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgian theatre and cinema institutions, artists and officials on Friday sent their tributes after Jemal Gaganidze, a popular actor of the domestic stage art and film scene, died at the age of 89.

The long-standing actor was praised for "major share in developing and promoting Georgian theatre art" by the Culture Ministry, which also paid homage to his "special qualities" and awards bestowed on the performing artist over decades of his career.

Gaganidze's "distinct nobility, talent and creative work" were noted in a message from Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, who sent his condolences to the late actor's family, relatives and colleagues. Garibashvili said the actor had created "numerous beloved characters" in productions he had been cast in.

Tributes to the late artist also came in from Tbilisi's Rustaveli Theatre, where Gaganidze performed many of his roles, including in productions where he appeared alongside his grandson, Sandro Mikuchadze-Gaganidze, also an actor of the troupe.

Theatre companies from other parts of the country also sent their messages of condolence, with Chiatura State Theatre noting the "distinctly warm personality" and lamenting the "great loss" for the domestic scene.

Rustaveli Theatre hosted the presentation of a book album by Gaganidze in 2016, with the troupe and the actor's own career the subject of the publication. Photo via Rustaveli Theatre

Tskhinvali Theatre said on social media Gaganidze, a "person beloved by everyone", would be missed by the Georgian theatre community.

Born in 1933, Gaganidze went on to join Rustaveli Theatre in 1956 and performed in productions based both on domestic and international plays, from portraying Rosencrantz in Hamlet and the roles of Lavrenti and the godfather in The Caucasian Chalk Circle to appearing as Tyrrell in Richard III and in the domestic staging Khanuma.

He was also cast in Soviet-era cinema productions, from director Tengiz Abuladze's 1976 Wish Tree to the 1958 My Friend Nodar by filmmaker David Rondeli, and appeared in TV series produced in recent decades.

His performing career was recognised with prizes ranging from Meritorious Artist of Georgia and People's Artist of Georgia, to Kote Marjanishvili State Prize and the title of the Honorary Citizen of Tbilisi. A star in his name was unveiled outside Rustaveli Theatre in 2011.

In 2016, Gaganidze presented his book album on the theatre troupe and his own career at the Tbilisi venue.