New Delhi, Aug 4 (PTI) Theatre doyen, legendary drama teacher and connoisseur of the arts Ebrahim Alkazi died on Tuesday after suffering a heart attack, his son said. He was 94.
Alkazi, who was the longest serving director of the National School of Drama and mentored generations of actors, produced plays such as Girish Karnad's 'Tughlaq' and Dharamvir Bharati's 'Andha Yug'.
He is survived by his son Feisal Alkazi and his daughter Amal Allana, both well known theatre directors.
'Dad died this evening at 2.45 pm after a massive heart attack. He was admitted to the Escorts hospital the day before yesterday,' his son Feisal told PTI.
Alkazi, who tutored acting greats such as Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri, had been unwell for a few days.
Tributes poured in for the man, who was NSD director from 1962 to 1977, and was described variously as 'father of modern Indian theatre' and 'last of the Romans'.
President Ram Nath Kovind said his death leaves a void in the world of performing arts.
'Ebrahim Alkazi, doyen of Indian theatre, mentored and inspired generations of artists... A Padma Vibhushan recipient, his legacy will live on. My condolences to his family, students and art lovers,' the president said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed sadness at Alkazi's demise and said he 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,' Modi said.
The film and theatre industry also mourned the death of the man who strode like the proverbial Colossus across the stage.
'He was the father of modern Indian theatre, he established Indian theatre the way we know it. He only emphasised the importance of training in theatre, if you look at all the famous artistes in the country, you will find so many of them were trained under him,' said Suresh Sharma, director in-charge of NSD.
'Many like me owe our passion for theatre to this formidably knowledgable man. His contribution to sophistication and polish in staging and imparting a sense of discipline to every aspect of theatre work is unequalled,' Naseeruddin Shah told PTI.
Alkazi was the 'true renaissance man', 'the last Roman', added film and theatre actor Amol Palekar.
Palekar's guru, Satyadev Dubey, was trained under Alkazi.
“Alkazi sahib was, I can say, the renaissance man in true sense. He was the one who showed us new ways of looking at theatre. I can very well imagine because before he left for Delhi to start the National School of Drama, he was closely connected with the renaissance moment in visual arts, what is known as the Bombay group of M F Hussain, S H Raza, Akbar Padamsee. So his connection, not only with theatre but also with visual arts, was something which gave a different perspective.
'The way he built up the National School of Drama with Nemichand Jain and Shantaben Gandhi. All these people not only built the National School of Drama but a new contemporary theatre culture. And that’s his finest contribution. He was the last Roman I would say,' Palekar said.
For his contribution to theatre, Alkazi received awards including the Padma Shri in 1966, Padma Bhushan in 1991, and India's second highest civilian award, the Padma Vibhushan, in 2010.
He also received the Sangeet Natak Akademi award in 1962 for 'Direction', and later honoured with the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship for his lifetime contribution to theatre.
Apart from revolutionising Indian theatre, Alkazi was also a photography enthusiast, painter and art curator. Alkazi founded the Art Heritage Gallery in Delhi with his wife Roshen Alkazi in 1977.
Remembering Alkazi's connection with visual arts, curator Uma Nair said India has lost 'a blue-blooded collector'.
'Alkazi was known not just for his visual eye but his mastery over theatre and love for art and photography. His contribution to cultural life of Mumbai and Delhi are equally important...India has lost a blue blooded collector who had a philatelic eye for the best,' Nair said.
Theatre director and playwright Danish Iqbal said Alkazi 'patronised arts' in India by contributing in the fields of performing arts, painting, and photography.
'He patronised arts in India, the performing art, theatre, painting and sculpture and set making. And the way he motivated writers, that's absolutely incredible. Take the example of Girish Karnad, he was writing in Karnataka, in Kannada, Marathi and English, if we know him in the Hindi heartland and throughout India, the whole credit goes to Alkazi sahab,' Iqbal said.
Crediting Alkazi for his 'madness for theatre', film and theatre veteran Raghubir Yadav said that he learnt 'to be never satisfied with your work' from the late director.
'When I was in NSD, I worked under him for three years. It was because of him that I developed the craze...the madness for theatre. I started enjoying theatre because of him, his techniques,' Yadav said.
Film and theatre personalities including Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, both alumni of NSD, took to Twitter to pay homage.
'The true architect of the Modern Indian Theatre. The Doyen who possessed the extreme knowledge in all the aspects of ART. The magician who nurtured many greats of theatre. May your brightest spark from the heaven keeps us enlightening,' Siddiqui tweeted.
'Just got the sad news...#EbrahimAlkazi sahab passed away...end of an era for sure...one of the pillars of modern Indian theatre....RIP sir,' wrote Ayyub on the microblogging website. PTI MAH/TRS/BK/KKP MIN MIN