First Director of NSD, Theatre maestro Ebrahim Alkazi passes away at 94

Veterna Odia actors Bijay Mohanty and Ajit Das received theatre training from Mr Alkazi at NSD while filmmaker Ghanteshwar Guru was under his tutelage at Living Theatre Group, New Delhi from 1992 to 1996

New Delhi: Considered the father of modern Indian theatre, Ebrahim Alkazi, the first Director of National School of Drama (NSD) breathed his last in the capital on Tuesday. He was 94.

When it comes to relationship with Odisha, veteran actor Bijay Mohanty and Ajit Das received theatre training from Mr Alkazi at the National School of Drama (NSD). Later Odia filmmaker Ghantesheswar Guru received theatre training from the maestro at Living Theatre Group in New Delhi from the year 1992 to 1996.

Condoling demise of Mr Alkazi Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, “Shri Ebrahim Alkazi will be remembered for his efforts to make theatre more popular and accessible across India. His contributions to the world of art and culture are noteworthy too. Saddened by his demise. My thoughts are with his family and friends. May his soul rest in peace.”

“Ebrahim Alkazi was the director of NSD for 16 long years, where he revolutionised theatre in India. He never took a leave and absent from the school, if in Delhi. On Sundays, he used to go to the hostel to check cleanliness. He broke the tradition of doing plays in just a proscenium theatre but staged plays like ‘Tughlaq’ and ‘Andhayug’ in Old fort, New Delhi, ” said Ghanteshwar Guru from Odisha who is based in Mumbai and worked in many Bollywood films as Associate director, Chief Asst. Dir, Executive producer and line producer.

“Mr Alkazi went to London after his stint in NSD, came back in 1991 to do three plays with NSD Repertory company and in 1992, started Living Theatre Academy of Drama, where I was a student. Bijay Mohanty and Ajit Das were his student in NSD. He never used to let anyone touch his feet,” Guru added.

Asked how he get introduced to Mr Alkazi Guru said, “In 1992, I applied for NSD. Since I was already living in Delhi from 1990 and active in Delhi theatre scene, I was pretty sure that I would be selected. But when the result came, my name was not there. It was my friend Manoj Mishra (both of us actually prepared for NSD together) who got it. I was devastated, felt like my life came to a dead end, without actually knowing that there’s something bigger and better waiting for me. As they say, a closed door opens a hundred new doors, Mr. Alkazi just announced a new school of Drama “Living Theatre Academy of Drama”. I applied for it and to my surprise, selected for it. On top of that, he offered me a scholarship. It was the turning point. It was his inspiration that even today, I don’t get late for any meeting, shooting or social event. Later he inspired me to dream big. So once I told him, I don’t think I’m enjoying acting that much. He said, I actually saw a leadership quality in you and you shld get into acting. He told me you should go to a foreign university and study. One thing led to another and eventually I enrolled myself as a student of film direction and production in prestigious New York University. He even met me in New York and gave me an envelope. I thought it’s a good luck card and opening but he said please don’t open now. When I left his house, I opened it and there was 500 US dollar in it. He knew life in New York City was not that easy and usd 500 was huge in 1999. Another beautiful quality in him was he would never let anyone touch his feet and use to refer to us as friends. He would be always my Guru.

Also an art connoisseur, collector and gallery owner, he founded Art Heritage Gallery in New Delhi.

This Royal Academy of Dramatics Art (RADA) pass-out staged more than 50 plays during his distinguished career and won the BBC Broadcasting Award in 1950.

Some of the major plays directed by him include “Tuglaq” (Girish Karnad), “Ashadh Ka Ek Din” (Mohan Rakesh), Dharamvir Bharti’s “Andha Yug” besides several Greek tragedies and Shakespeare’s works.

Recipient of the Padma Vibhushan (2010), Padma Bhushan (1991) and Padma Shri (1966) honours, he was known to be a strict disciplinarian who provided a blue print for theatre training during his years as the Director of NSD (1962-1977).

Associated with training some of the best known talents in the country, including Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Uttara Baokar and Rohini Hattangadi, besides a host of major theatre directors in the country, Alkazi was married to Roshan Alkazi, who designed costumes for his plays.

His two children are also theatre artists. Amal Allana, is a theatre director and former Chairperson of National School of Drama while Feisal Alkazi too is a theatre director.

(With inputs from IANS)

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