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Resonances of the Past – a review by Manohar Khushalani

Resonances of the Past (The Ruth Wieder Magan Show)
first Published in IIC Diary Feb-March 2021

Ruth Wieder Magan

To commemorate International Womens Day, Organised with the support of “The Foundation for Independent Artists”, Ministry of Culture and Sport, Israel) the India International Center Screened three films by Ruth Wieder Magan; Mirror Sky (50 min), Come Away Human Child (6.42 min) and Kadayil Shabbaso (10 min)

A Webinar was also conducted at IIC, The Ecstatic Voice. What is the Female Voice? Participants were: Ruth Wieder Magan, well-known contemporary voice/body theatre artist from Israel; Prof. Michal Govrin, Prominent Israeli writer, poet and theatre director; Gabriella Lev, theatre director, writer, performer, Artistic Director and Co-Founder, Theatre Company Jerusalem; Michael Shachrur, prominent body worker, dancer; Sara Siegel and Yuval Steinberg, filmmakers. The sentiments echoed what the films resonate with.

Ruth is best known for her pioneering work integrating sacred texts into contemporary voice/body theatre. Her pioneering approach to the transcendental aspect of voice is founded solidly in sacred cantorial Jewish traditions. In Mirror Sky in a backdrop of dimly lit scenes Ruth, swirling, moaning, producing gutrral sound explains the origin of her techniques:

“The process of my voicing goes something like this; a voice arises from the particular presence of present time. I will begin to track the life of the vibration. Where is it sounding in my body?

[As Music Swirls] Is it liver or kidneys or blood or eyelids?

And where in my perception of the cosmos?

is that reverberation, am i feeling angels

or am i sensing the moon or feeling stars shifting?

….and how is that kernel of sound moving out into space?

Does it want to travel forward or travel back into the sides?

and what cultural meaning arises in me

As i hear the sound emitting from my very own voice

…is it ancient America or China or is it atlantis?… or am i hearing an animal? Her investigation continues

Ruth’s source of inspiration, were her own parents, both were Holocaust survivors. Their memories and experiences triggered the melodies and intonations rooted in the barren world of the yore.

The movies are psychedelic Ruth’s voice and body performance is mesmerizing. Audience connected to so many insights and the things she said ”..a wound is a gateway, a gateway to the universe.

A wind blown image of her own hair swirling over her face like diaphonous clouds punctuated with screams of agony seems to haunt you

IIC Diary Masthead Feb-Mar 2021



The End and the Future of Theater

NYC Theatre District – Will it be the same?

Theater halls have opened in the UK and Australia, and the lights will shine bright on Broadway after two years. It is too early to say whether the policymakers are being over-optimistic or careless. But for most of the world, specifically, India, theater shows will not go live for at least a couple of years. And even when the theaters open with safety protocols, the theater may not remain a financially viable business. Is it the end of theater as we know it? Is it the end of an art form that has been performed for at least 5,000 years? But then theater has survived the plague and the Spanish Flu. Before we speculate about the future, let’s take a moment to investigate the past.

The first obituary of the theater was written in the 1920s when the talkies ushered in a new era of entertainment. But not only did the theater survive the competition from cinema, the Broadway Book Musicals became a billion-dollar industry around the time. The first real blow to small regional and off-off-Broadway theater came from the television in the 1960s when a television set became a household item. But that did not stop Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller from writing great plays. They forced the audience to return to the theaters. Harold Pinter, Beckett, Albee, and more recently Mamet created scintillating works for the stage despite the competition from the cinema and the television industry. The competition challenged theater to become more daring and intelligent.

Yakshagana

Talking of India, we must first understand that the Indian theater is more diverse than anywhere else in the world. Indian theater is in part sacred, ritualistic, and regional.  There is a deep wide chasm between the text-centric theater that is performed in the cities and the traditional theater that exists in rural India. The traditional Indian forms of performance like nautanki, pandavani, bhavai, terukkuttu, yakshagana and even the classical theater Koodiyattam have a significant regional presence and local patronage. Some of these forms are a few thousand years old and we can assume they have survived epidemics, attacks by Mughal invaders, World wars, famines, floods, earthquakes, poverty, and competition from TV and cinema. Did they survive because they spoke to the audience in their dialect? Are they immortal because they tell the local stories of the land?  Or did they survive because of their sacred-spiritual nature and patronage by the temples? The temples were the seats of arts and any attack on the temple was an assault on the arts and the artists of the land. Hence this continuity of art forms is no small miracle. But the urban theater has neither local patronage nor loyalty of committed artists. Therefore, it is starting to crumble under competition from OTT and entertainment in the digital space.

Modern theater, such as we see in the cities, lacks the spectacle of traditional theater and sometimes even entertainment. The traditional theater is non-realistic and highly stylized. The costumes, make-up, body movements, gestures, music and accentuated abhinaya/acting create a performance that is moving, surreal and mesmerizing. The modern theater relies heavily on dialogue and story-telling through realistic verbal acting. The sitcoms on TV and binge-worthy shows on the OTT are also pivoted around the story and dialogue. Why would someone watch a dramatic performance cramped in a theater when they could watch drama on their phones sitting on their couch or even the toilet seat? It isn’t just the ease of watching drama on the phone, but the addiction to the phone that has become an impediment. Not to fault the story-telling. The shows are gripping and fast-paced. But then it is so easy to manipulate the audience and keep them hooked till the end. There are formula sheets, beats, and tricks that every writer in the industry uses to keep you glued to your phone.

The straight plays in Delhi and even Mumbai theaters be it English or the regional languages are laced with activism. Polemics has replaced aesthetics. Left-leaning plays have so much propaganda thrown in the script that the audience can see through it. Can we really blame the audience for not wanting to watch social activism on stage? Directors think they can compensate aesthetic appeal with lighting but they forget the audience is not here to watch a sound and light show. The audience craves good stories. It wants to see life through a clean lens. The audience is done watching Brecht, Beckett, Karnad, and Tendulkar. Bedroom comedies are passé. OTT gives the audience enough sex, comedy, and violence. What can you give them on stage that TV and cinema can’t?

Audience at the Awards

The irony is the directors and actors who are flag bearers of socialism in the theater circle abandon their ideals to work for the commercial OTT and Cinema. The crew and extras are treated as third rate citizens in Bollywood, worse than apartheid, but the champions of social equality on stage never raise their voice against the injustice. And let’s not even discuss the underbelly of theater where fresh actors are made to sweep floors in the name of training. While the artists in traditional art forms are committed to the tradition and the art, the modern actors distance themselves from the theater as soon as they break into the TV/OTT industry. Without fresh ideas and dedicated theater practitioners, theater as we know in Indian cities, is at the brink of extinction.

The pandemic has given us distance and time away from the theater and rehearsal halls to re-imagine our future. It has been a time to experiment and create many futures of theater. Theater companies and individual practitioners moved the theater online within a few months into the pandemic. Broadway HD has been streaming ace-quality theater productions shot on multiple cameras since 2015. National Theater and the Royal Opera House streamed their old productions at the start of the lockdown in UK. The Melbourne Theater Company has recently launched its Digital Theater version where they stream their running shows for a limited time. Going forward, all their productions will be available to watch online for $25. While the digital productions are a great option for the theater aficionados, but a good digital production needs multiple cameras and sophisticated editing.

Watching theater production with limited camera movement can be a tad boring because our minds compare it to the cinema and TV shows. Our minds are accustomed to two second shots. Watching an hour-long play set in the same space, in more or less the same frame becomes tiring unless it’s a fast-paced comedy like ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’, by National Theater. The musicals lose their grandness on the small screen. Lest we forget, the audience goes to the Musicals for live music. The experience of watching a musical on a small screen is unsatisfying.

Independent theater groups experimented with and adapted short stories for online presentations. It started with some artists performing or even reading short stories and plays live on Zoom. The production quality of the online plays was worse than YouTube content because they were shot on phone without professional lighting and sound equipment. The shows were under 30 minutes to accommodate the audience’s attention span. Story-telling was restricted by time and technology. As time passed these experiments faded away and it became clear that the future of theater is not online.

One future of theater could be virtual reality theater that has been in the making since 2016. National Theater has launched a studio where they will use virtual and augmented reality to create shows for a communal virtual experience. It’s the high-tech, AI technology used for immersive story-telling. But this future requires a capital investment of 100 plus cameras, edit suites, and technical crew on top of the cast and the musicians. How many companies can produce this kind of theater? How many of us can afford a ticket to this show?

Of the many futures of theater, one future could have its origin in the past. Richard Schechner, a performance theorist and a veteran performer has been working with Natyashastra for over four decades. Dr. Bharat Gupt, a classical theorist and Natyashastra expert, is mentoring students in Greece, Romania, India and the US to create performances using the principles of Natyashastra. These performances are an organic convergence of music, movement, myth, abhinaya and story. Theater makers could look to Irish story telling as one kind of performance. This is our time to study the past so that we can shape a meaningful future.

Whatever form the theater takes from here, it has to become more immersive, aesthetic, poetic, non-realistic, surreal, intense, and communicative. The stories have to break fresh ground. The writers have to muster courage to experiment with the shape and the structure of the story. The performers have to make a connection with the audience. Theater has to go beyond activism and entertainment to become truly transformative and cathartic.




Folk Theatre of India: Nautanki

Everything that makes Indian Theatre more special | IWMBuzz

Nautanki is one of South Asia’s most famous folk theatre performances, especially in northern India. Nautanki was the most significant source of entertainment in most of the cities and villages in north India.​1​ Nautanki’s rich musical compositions and humorous storylines hold a strong influence over rural people’s imagination. Nautanki, also known as svang, originated in the late 19th century in Uttar Pradesh and steadily gained popularity.​2​ Nautanki’s origins lie in the Saangit, Bhagat, and Swang musical theatre traditions of Northern India. One Saangit called Saangit Rani Nautanki Ka became so popular that the whole genre’s name became Nautanki.​1​

File:DevendraSharma SultanaDaku.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Nautanki performances can be performed anywhere where some space is available that can accommodate a few hundreds or thousands of people. Sometimes this place is made available by village Chaupal or the village community centre.​3​ Other times the school playgrounds can also be used as a performance site. A Nautanki stage is usually elevated and is made up of wooden cots that the local villagers generally provide. A few decades ago, since there was no electricity in Indian villages, the light was provided either by giant lanterns or Petromax, a device run by kerosene oil. Traditional Nautanki performances usually start late at night and go until dawn the next day without any intermission.​4​

North Indian Folk Theatre - Nautanki - Melodramatic rendition of popular or  historical tales accompanied by musical sco… | North indian, The  incredibles, Orchestras
India: Rangapat Theatre's "Dharmashoke": A New and Fresh Look into  His/Herstory | The Theatre Times

Traditionally storylines of nautanki performances were inspired from folklore or are sometimes based on mythological themes, stories of contemporary heroes etc.​3​ For example, nautanki plays such as Bhakt Moradhwaj and BSatya-Harishchandra are based on mythological themes, whereas Indal Haran and Puranmal originated from folklore. ​2​Pandit Ram Dayal Sharma, a renowned Nautanki maestro and Dr Devendra Sharma have co-authored many new Nautankis.​2​ These recent Nautanki performances focus primarily on social messages such as health, women’s empowerment, dowry etc. These issues generate awareness among the poorer sections of society and create a sense of togetherness. It brings locals together to stand against the atrocities of the community and fight for their rights.

Bidesia" - The Folk Theatre of Eastern India | The Theatre Times

Nautanki was introduced in America by Dr Devendra Sharma, a Nautanki artist, singer, writer and director. The participants in his nautanki performances are usually engineers, doctors, and other Indians living in America, who are given a rare opportunity to connect with their cultural roots.​2​ At the same time, these performances have exposed other communities in America to Indian culture.
Nautanki has undoubtedly been a valuable part of our hearts and will survive in the future and flourish in multiple contexts to secure a special place in our culture.

_________________________________
Independent Project by Sezal Chug
Guide: Prof. Manohar Khushalani
__________________________________

  1. 1.
    devnautanki H. devnautanki. A Brief History of the Nautanki Performance Tradition. http://www.devnautanki.com/about_history.html

  2. 2.
    the free encyclopedia W. Nautanki. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nautanki

  3. 3.

  4. 4.
    sahapedia S. shades-nautanki-north-indias-operatic-theatre. sahapedia. https://www.sahapedia.org/shades-nautanki-north-indias-operatic-theatre




Folk Theatre of India: Yakshagana

Hidimba Kalyana - Yakshagana Part I 2019 - YouTube

Yakshagana is a traditional folk art developed in the western parts of Chikmagalur districts in Karnataka and Kasaragod district in Kerala. Yakshagana comprises music, dance, theatre, costumes, and makeup with a blend of unique style and forms.​1​ It is said to have evolved from pre-classical music forms and theatrical arts during the Bhakti movement. Yakshgana is referred to as ‘Thenku thittu’ towards the south from Dakshina Kannada to Kasaragod in Tamil Nadu, whereas it is referred to as ‘Badaga Thittu’ north of Udupi.​1​ Both of these forms are equally played all over the region. Yakshagana is inspired by ancient Hindu literature like Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagavata and other Hindu and Jain epics. Yaksha-gana means the song (gana) of a Yaksha. Yakshas were an exotic tribe mentioned in Sanskrit literature.​1​

Yakshagana is a product of the Vaishnava bhakti movement, which originated in southern India from the fifth to the seventh centuries. It emphasizes the love and devotion for Lord Vishnu as the chief means for spiritual perfection.​2​ Existing folk music and dances were adopted to create new performing arts to spread and propagate the message of love and devotion among the common folk. Yakshagana is also a result of this blend of existing dance and drama.

Let muktesaras run Yakshagana Mela: Karnataka HC | Deccan Herald

A Yakshagana performance usually consists of background music played by a group of musicians and percussionists, also known as the himmela and a dance and dialogue group known as the mummela, who together enact poetic epics on stage.​1​

Yakshagana Bayalata (Open-air Field Drama) “Mahishasura Mardhini” – A true  physical sensation!!

In the early 19th century, Yakshagana began to see a significant change from its traditional strict forms. Practitioners of the day produced several new compositions. The early 20th century saw the birth of ‘tent’ troupes, giving performances to audiences admitted by ticket only. Gas lights were replaced with electrical lights, seating arrangements improved, folk epics and fictional stories formed the modern thematic base of the discipline.​3​
The Yakshagana form that we witness today results from a prolonged evolution that drew its essence from ritual theatre, temple and secular arts, and the artists’ imaginations—all interwoven over several hundred years.​3​

_________________________________
Independent Project by Sezal Chug
Guide: Prof. Manohar Khushalani
__________________________________

  1. 1.
    wikipedia Y. Yakshagana. wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yakshagana

  2. 2.
    karnatakatourism yakshagana. yakshagana. karnatakatourism. https://www.karnatakatourism.org/destinations/yakshagana/

  3. 3.




Folk Theatre Forms of India: Tamasha

Tamasha is considered a major traditional dance form of the Marathi theatre, which includes celebration filled with dancing and singing and is performed mainly by nomadic theatre groups throughout the Maharashtra region. The word “Tamasha” is loaned from Persian, which in turn loaned it from Arabic, meaning a show or theatrical entertainment.​1​ In the Armenian language, “To do a Tamasha” means to follow an exciting and fun process or entertainment. Unofficially, this word has come to represent commotion or display full of excitement.​1​ The traditional form of Tamasha was inspired by a lot of other art forms like Kathakali, Kaveli, ghazals etc.

The region of Maharashtra had a long theatrical tradition, with early references to the cave inscriptions at Nashik by Gautami Balashri, the mother of the 1st-century Satavahana ruler, Gautamiputras Satakarni. The inscription mentions him organizing Utsava’s a form of theatrical entertainment for his subjects.​1​ Tamasha acquired a distinct form in the late Peshwa period of the Maratha Empire and incorporated elements from older traditional forms like Dasavatar, Gondhal, Kirtan etc. Traditional Tamasha format consisted of dancing boys known as Nachya, who also played women’s roles, a poet-composer known as Shahir, who played the traditional role of Sutradhar, who compered the show. However, with time, women started taking part in Tamasha.​2​

Marathi theatre marked its journey at the beginning of 1843.​3​ In the following years, Tamasha primarily consisted of singing and dancing, expanded its range and added small dramatic skits known as Vag Natya.​3​ These included long narrative poems performed by the Shahir and his chorus, with actors improvising their lines. There are two types of Tamasha dance forms: dholki bhaari and the older form known as sangeet baari, which contains more music and dance than drama.​4​

The government of Maharashtra has instituted annual awards in the memory of the late Vithabai Narayangavkar Lifetime Achievement Award for those who had extensively contributed to the preservation of the Tamasha Art form throughout the world.​1​

_________________________________
Independent Project by Sezal Chug
Guide: Prof. Manohar Khushalani
__________________________________

  1. 1.
    encyclopedia wikipedia. wikipedia. Tamasha. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tamasha

  2. 2.
    encyclopedia britannica. tamasha. tamasha. https://www.britannica.com/art/tamasha

  3. 3.
    tourism maharashtra. tamasha. maharashtratourism. https://www.maharashtratourism.net/culture-lifestyle/dances/tamasha.html

  4. 4.




Editor Manohar Khushalani got Natsamrat Best Critic Award this day in 2019

Left to Right Jaidev Taneja, Prof Manohar Khushalani, Shyam Kumar

9th March 2019. The Glittering night of Natsamrat Theatre Awards. This was the most memorable moment of that year for StageBuzz Ed, Manohar Khushalani To be Awarded The 2019 Natsamrat Best Theatre Critic Award. It was indeed a fulfilling moment and an acknowledgement of his decades of consistent and persistent work as a critic for Pioneer (Column: Foot Lights), Mid Day (Culture Cocktail) and of course StageBuzz (Editor). The Award Ceremony was Organised by Shri Shyam Kumar, who is the driving force of the event . Well Known thespian Jaidev Taneja was the Chief Guest

Please listen to Prof. Manohar Khushalani’s Award Citation in the video above
Audience at the Awards
Excited Audience at the Glittering Award Ceremony

Winners of the 11th Natsamrat Theatre Awards:
Best Writer – Danish Iqbal
Best Director – Kichenassamy Madavane
Best Actor – Mohit Tripathi
Best Actress – Mona Chawla
Best Back-stage (Lights) – Himanshu B. Joshi
Best Critic – Manohar Khushalani
Lifetime Achievement – Feisal Alkazi
Theatre Promoter – Lalit Jaiswal

Natsamrat Awards List
Natsamrat Awards List

During that festival there was never a dull day in Delhi !
16th Natsamrat Natya Utsav included
10 plays in 5 days | 6 – 10 March | All plays in Hindi
6:30pm and 8pm everyday

Acceptance Speech of Prof. Manohar Khushalani




Pierrot’s Troupe presents a new play on Sahir and it’s all time popular comedy on Ghalib

Sharique Aziz as 29 year old Sahir in SAHIR KA KHAYAL AAYA

After Lockdown Pierrot’s Troupe’s is now returning to ‘Stage’ with its all time popular COMEDY – GHALIB IN NEW DELHI after Lockdown The troupe is also premiering a new play – SAHIR KA KHAYAL AAYA. The latter coincides with Sahir Ludhianvi’s 100th Birth Anniversary on March 8, 2021

The two plays are being staged on MARCH 7, 2021, Sunday, at the LTG Auditorium, Copernicus Marg, New Delhi.

GHALIB IN NEW DELHI – After Lockdown is arguably India’s Longest Running Comedy. Post Lockdown, the play has Mirza Ghalib dealing with newer issues; from Corona to Rihanna to the Kisaan Aandolan.

SAHIR KA KHAYAL AAYA dramatizes the ‘Best of the poet’s Best’, Parchhaiyan, his anti war poem, the longest anti war poem in the last 100 years.

DATE, TIME, PLAY, VENUE

March 7, 2021, Sunday

GHALIB IN NEW DELHI – After Lockdown — 4 pm

(Hindi)

Script & Direction – Dr M Sayeed Alam

SAHIR KA KHAYAL AAYA – 7 PM

(Urdu – the PREMIER show )

Script: Sahir Ludhianvi

Direction – Dr M Sayeed Alam

Conceptualized and Produced by Sundeep Pahwa

LTG Auditorium, Copernicus Marg, Mandi House, New Delhi

Tickets: Rs 1000/750/500/400/300/200/100

Tickets are available at 9810255291, www.bookmyshow.com and the venue

About the Plays:

Ghalib In New Delhi – , After Lockdown (Hindi Comedy): It is India’s most successful and the longest running comedy, being performed since 1997. The play is an extremely funny account of the re-birth of the renowned 19th century poet Mirza Ghalib’s in the 21st century in New Delhi, highlighting his trials, travails and tribulations – from his second birth at the ISBT in Delhi; to staying in a Servant Quarter with a Delhi University student from Patna; to dealing with a Punjaban land lady; to becoming a Page-3 celebrity. 520 shows to its credit.

Script & Direction: Dr M Sayeed Alam

Featuring – M Sayeed Alam, Rahul Paswan, Sumit Bhardwaj, Aarifa Noori, Aman Jha, Aryan Kumar, Sharique Aziz, Asif Khan, Mehu Grover, Yash Malhotra

Sahir Ka Khayal Aaya (Urdu) – The play celebrated Sahir Ludhianvi’s 100th Birth Anniversary on March 8 this year. It is presented as a ‘Monologue’ (performed by Sharique Aziz) as it showcases young Sahir in the state of crafting his long poem Parchhaiyan, arguably the best and definitely the longest anti-war poem of the last 100 years.

Featuring – Sharique Aziz, Abhinav Chaturvedi, Naveen Anand, Poonam Malhotra

For further details:

Call 9810255291 / email: sayeedalam@ymail.com




The significance of props on stage

Loosely described as, “objects used by the actor and those that are placed on stage” props are considered important as long as they serve on the stage.  After the show is over very little attention is given over them and they are loosely packed and kept until further usage.  How many of us have wondered about its deeper significance?  Do we even for one look closely at “ the skull held by Hamlet” or the “ crystal glass unicorn held by Laura” in Glass Menagerie?  Even once does the director care to explain to the actor for him/her to closely touch and feel the object as not only a part of the text but also beyond the whole text.  It should provide a moment of heightened emotion not only for the actor themselves but also for the audience.  Every object is to be placed by the set designer and the director with great fortitude and understanding.

The Natyasastra states that Natya was created to meet the demand of a plaything, it’s a “ Krida” (a source of pleasure and diversion to boredoms, wants the miseries of daily existence).   Therefore an art form can induce a temporary state of diversion of one’s immediate sorrow and an escape into a world of pleasure and happiness. Nataka or drama can do this more efficiently than other art form, because unlike other arts, it is both drisya and sravya, it has visual and aural appeal. It can satisfy us by graceful or spetacular senses presented on the stage, can gratify our ear or heart.  This is efficient only through props that makes the experience of the audience go beyond his reality.

Andrew Sofer, in his book, “ The Stage life of Props” says that, “ the object must be seen as having a sign.” The stage props hence has a strong presence, sometimes as strong as the actor themselves.  As Felix Bossonnet sees the props they are much more than the physical presence they hold.  Props have to be read between the complex relationship between the actor the text and the audience.  It provides a complete whole experience of transmission of the audience into the world of the “ play or krida”.  As Sofer sees the distinctions between the props and the characters should become more and more blurred, it should be amalgamated as one whole.  The responsibility of this hence is not just within the text but by the directors as well as the actors.




A Battle of Life That I Will Win| Bansi Kaul

Celebrated Theatre Director Designer Padmashree Bansi Kaul’s letter of courage and determination on Social Media, as he fights cancer and exhorts everyone to build a better world

A scene from Saudagar Directed by Bansi Kaul

My very dearest friends!
My best wishes and love to all of you… to all those performers from across the country who have the cultural events I designed the most amazing spectacles… and to every person I have met on this journey called life. I have not been able to thank all of you for good wishes on my birthday.

I have been unwell and have been detected with cancer of the brain as well as the lungs. Yet I am sure I will pull through and that we will soon meet again. Your good wishes are my strength.

There is a little folk metaphor, which I think is important for all of us. Nature has given us the choice to call it God or faith to create your own heavens for yourself. Therefore, what you do… you do all kinds of bad deeds to reach that heaven. For this you kill each other… and therefore, when we reach heaven, we realize that our rules and conditions do not work thee. We come face to face with two gates. One leads to the heaven that you have created for yourself… and the other gate is one that gives you the entry to inner peace. There is none of the worldly joys that give us only momentary joy and satisfaction.

This second gate leads to an amazingly beautiful world. So, thus, here too you must decide whether you will enter the gate for which you have fought? The world here no longer works according your whims and fancy. Your rule works so long you are a part of this transient world. In this short-lived world one wants to reach heaven at any cost, be it murder, plunder, or cheating. One is foolish enough to believe that this is best path to heaven.

Every community has its own imagination of what heaven might be. But when one is confronted with those two gates, one must decide which gate to enter… the gate that leads to the heaven that you have imagined or the gate that leads to inner peace, love, kindness and faith, where being there for each other is most important.

There will be no space for making mistakes in this final choice. The decision to enter one of the gates will only, and only, be yours! We are in times where displacements are the rule… displacements from physical spaces, nature, and natural sounds, from cultures, from one’s own family and friends. Scenes of daughters and sons carrying their aged parents across the country to a safer place during the lockdown, and children falling asleep on suitcases being rolled along are etched in my mind. All these painful experiences must be stopped.

Children falling asleep on suitcases being rolled along are etched in my mind – Bansi Kaul

This can happen only when there is a sense of general well-being. Lal Ded says,

“In the midst of the sea, with unspun thread I am towing the boat; would that God grant my prayer and, ferry me too, across…” .

(Lal Vakh. No. 23)

We all need to hold a single rope to tow the boat of goodness, peace, mental and physical well-being, gratitude, kindness, and magnanimity across the sea of life.

So, dear friends… killing, hating, plundering, and cheating… all in the name of belief and faith will bring nothing. All of us must love each other, which can happen only if you get rid of hatred. The act of throwing a stone of hatred at someone has its repercussions. It will rebound. The hurt ultimately comes to oneself.

And so, we must make more and more friends to make the world a better place to live in. We need to pave a strong, durable long-lasting path for the coming generations. Let’s give them a better world. When we say we are 60% young India, let us not forget that after twenty years or so there will be a 100% old India! We must start thinking about this… and think fast. There must be a sense of collective strength. Strength can only be in togetherness, and in togetherness there are memories.

Padmashree Bansi Kaul

I smile reliving these memories. My smile turns into laughter. Laughter celebrates the miniscule cosmic interval between birth and death. In laughter I see celebration and protest at once. It becomes force to cut through every form of negativity. Therefore, laughter must be celebrated! – Bansi Kaul




Theatre Legend Ebrahim Alkazi Passes away / Manohar Khushalani

Ebrahim Alkazi

Theatre doyen and legendary Pedagog Ebrahim Alkazi, who shaped proscenium theatre in India, died peacefully on Tuesday afternoon after suffering a heart attack, his son, Feisal Alkazi, informed us. Feisal told me the whole family was proud of his fathers humongous achievements. A career spanning 74 active years he passed away at 94.

The funeral will take place tomorrow at Jamia Milia VIP Grave Yard. But outsiders have been politely told to stay away, for their own safety, away due to the prevailing pandemic. The entire family comprising among others Feisal Alkazi, Radhika Alkazi, Amal Allana, Nissar Allana were present in Delhi.

Mr. Alkazi, has been the longest serving director of the National School of Drama, produced plays such as Girish Karnad’s “Tughlaq”, Mohan Rakesh’s “Aadhe Adhure” and Dharamvir Bharati’s “Andha Yug”. He mentored generations of actors, including Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri. M.K. Raina, Bhanu Bharti, Sonu Krishen, Manohar Singh, Surekha Sikri, Uttara Baokar, Dolly Ahluwalia, Ram Gopal Bajaj, the list is endless.

According to Wikipedia, He was born in Pune, Mahrashtra, Alkazi was the son of a wealthy Saudi Arabian business man trading in India and a  Kuwaiti mother.[8] He was one of nine siblings. In 1947, the rest of his family migrated to Pakistan while Alkazi stayed back in India.[9] Educated in Arabic, English, Marathi & Gujarati Alkazi was schooled in St. Vincent’s High School in Pune and later St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai. While he was a student at St Xavier’s, he joined Sultan “Bobby” Padamsee’s English theatre company, Theatre Group. Thereafter he trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London in 1947.[7] There he was offered career opportunities in London after being honored by both the English Drama League and the British Broadcasting Corporation, however, he turned the offers down in favor of returning home to rejoin the Theatre Group, which he ran from 1950 to 1954.[3]

Early on in his career he got associated with the Bombay Progressive Artists’ Group, which included M.F.Husain, F.N.Souza, S.H.Raza, Akbar Padamsee, Tyeb Mehta, artists who were later to paint from his plays and design his sets.[7] In addition to his directing, he founded the Theatre Unit Bulletin in 1953 which was published monthly and reported on theatre events around India. Afterwards, he established the School of Dramatic Arts and became the principal of Bombay’s Natya Academy.[3]

As the director of the Nationa School of Drama Alkazi revolutionised Hindi theatre by the magnificence of his vision, and the meticulousness of his technical discipline. Here he was associated with training many well-known film and theatre actors and directors. While there he created the Repertory Company in 1964 and directed their productions until he left.

He also founded Art Heritage Gallery in Delhi with his wife, Roshan Alkazi.

Alkazi won many of India’s most prestigious awards, creating an awareness of theater’s sensibility and successfully mixed modern expression with Indian tradition.[3]

He was the first recipient of Roopwedh Pratishtan’s the Tanvir Award (2004) for lifetime contribution to the theatre.[11] He has received awards including the Padma Shri (1966), the Padma Bhushan (1991), and India’s second highest civilian award the Padma Vibhushan in 2010.[12]

He has also been awarded twice by the Sangeet Natak Akademi, India’s National Academy for Music, Dance and Drama. He received the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in Direction in 1962, and later the Akademi‘s highest award the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship for lifetime contribution to theatre.