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Mr. Ebrahim Alkazi (1925-2020) was a legendary figure of Indian theatre whose remarkable achievements have earned him the Padma Vibhushan, among a vast number of Lifetime Achievement Awards.

His work in theatre ran parallel to the Independence Movement, and the birth of Indian Modernism in the theatre. He introduced revolutionary ideas in theatre, as early as the beginning of 1950s, which include scenic design, as well as modern ideas of acting drawing from the West as from Bertolt Brecht and linked these ideas to traditional folk theatre of India. He evolved new training methodologies for actors and stagecraft students alike, and spoke about a new ‘ethics’ and philosophy in theatre.

In 1962, he was invited to be the Director of the National School of Drama, which he turned into the leading and premier theatre institution in the country, producing great actors like Om Shivpuri, Manohar Singh, Surekha Sikri, Uttara Baokar, Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Anupam Kher, and Pankaj Kapoor among the vast number of luminaries on the Indian stage and screen. Star directors like B.V. Karanth, Mohan Maharishi, Ranjeet Kapoor, Ratan Thiyam, Amal Allana, Neelam Mansingh, M.K. Raina, and many others who went back to work in the small towns and villages they came from, made their mark on the National theatre scene in India.

Extracted from the introduction to the 2016 Retrospective of The Theatre of E Alkazi. Designed and Curated by Nissar and Amal Allana.
His legacy is being carried forward by The Alkazi Theatre Archives.

The Alkazi Theatre Archives (ATA), established in 2016 and located at the Alkazi Foundation for the Arts, New Delhi, includes photographs and print material in the form of original scripts, director’s notes, brochures, reviews, seminar papers, theatre magazines and audio-visual material including interviews, rehearsals, and performances.
While the Alkazi Theatre Archives contain materials from post-Independence, modern theatre in India, it believes that a dialogue with contemporary practices allows for a telescopic view of how historical contexts and the legacies of theatre practices have informed different theatre content and form; further, allowing us to trace historical chronologies, ideologies, methods, processes as a map that is complex, networked, and hypertextual.

The archive poses productions and practitioners in terms of their own biography as well as in the contexts of other productions of the same time and creates casebooks for productions. It also contextualizes productions within broader social, cultural and political histories. Can theatre be considered a lens through which history can be read? Linking theatre and history is to consider artistic practice as a methodology and a tool.

Since its inception, the Alkazi Theatre Archives has engaged, through intensive research and creative intervention, in new ways of exploring narratives through a body of archival materials. Often taking up alternative forms of practices under scrutiny, the archive has opened up critical dialogues about shared and personal histories, subsequently developing revised interpretations of socio-political and cultural milieus in history. The archive has been working on several projects and programmes.

For more information, log on to alkazifoundation.org.