Once I first interviewed Om Puri in 1991, on the units of Metropolis of Pleasure, he was an actor to reckon with for his mind-blowing performances. And after I requested him to what or whom he attributed this, he named two folks: Richard Boleslawski, whose Performing: The First Six Classes remained his performing bible; and Ebrahim Alkazi, who taught him these classes virtually… and far more.
When a legend speaks so extremely of his mentor, the mentor little doubt is a legend. So, I used to be already in awe of Ebrahim Alkazi lengthy earlier than I met him. Along with his passing, it’s actually the tip of a theatre period in India.
If it hadn’t been for Alkazi saab, Om would have left the Nationwide Faculty of Drama (NSD) and wouldn’t have been an actor, and in that case I wouldn’t have gotten to interview him or meet him. So, I stay not directly grateful.
NSD was a remodeling expertise for Om Puri in 1970. Nevertheless it didn’t start with a bang. Coming from a small city close to Patiala, he couldn’t comply with the teachings in English. Even his Hindi had a heavy Punjabi accent. This left him tongue-tied and he determined to return dwelling after a painful six months, to change into an overseer or a clerk. However the particular person chargeable for averting this was Alkazi, who was then the director of NSD.
“If it hadn’t been for Alkazi, Om Puri would have left the Nationwide Faculty of Drama (NSD)”
As an alternative of asking him immediately, he despatched a senior scholar, M Okay Raina to befriend Om and study the issue. When Raina reported to Alkazi, the latter known as Om and stated, “You might be hardworking and a very good scholar and if in any respect you get caught for phrases in English, simply proceed to talk in Hindi, don’t maintain again. However you will need to learn the English paper aloud every day, hearken to the English information and discuss to associates in English.”
That was Om’s first lesson in performing.
And when his as soon as tongue-tied non-English talking scholar was awarded the OBE (Order of the British Empire) Queen Elizabeth II, in 2005, for his contribution to British cinema, Alkazi was over the moon. He despatched Om a handwritten letter: “I regard you as an actor of nice emotional energy and extraordinary vary. You might be an earnest particular person, and with the searing depth of your performances you could have raised the dramatic ability on this nation.”
For Om, this was the very best award.
Instructor by ardour
Born to Saudi Arabian-Kuwaiti mother and father and rising up in Pune, Alkazi’s father was a rich service provider with homes in Mumbai and London. After the early days of English theatre with Mumbai’s Theatre Group and Sultan Padamsee within the 1940s, Alkazi was one of many earliest Indians to graduate from RADA (the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts) in London.
Enthusiastic about theatre as an actor and director, Alkazi was much more obsessed with instructing. His roll name of scholars reads just like the who’s who of Indian theatre and movies. After taking over the directorship of NSD, he turned it round and Alkazi grew to become synonymous with NSD at its finest.
Ebrahim sitting with Om and Nandita Puri, alongside together with his daughter Amal Allana and spouse Roshan, sitting far proper and left, respectively
“Alkazi saab was a hardcore disciplinarian, authoritative and really critical about instructing,” recalled Om Puri in his biography, Unlikely Hero: Om Puri. “He by no means missed a category, was seldom late and dominated his college students with an iron hand. As soon as when Indira Gandhi was a bit of late for the efficiency of Razia Sultan at NSD, Alkazi insisted the efficiency start, however the absence of the Prime Minister of India!
In his ebook, Om stated: “He taught Western and Absurdist theatre and his lessons have been the most well-liked. He invited Fritz Bennewitz and different worldwide administrators to work with us. He inspired us to widen our horizons by attending music and dance performances on the Triveni Kala Sangam. He additionally launched the idea of ‘library interval’ twice per week the place we needed to sit within the library and browse no matter we wished. There was a ‘listening class’ the place you may choose up your favorite music and hearken to it with earphones on. These lessons have been Alkazi saab’s contribution in the direction of making the scholars ‘well-rounded’ of their information of the positive arts.
However most of all, he taught us the dignity of labour. Many a time he would choose up the broom and begin to clear the school rooms and corridors in the event that they have been soiled, though he can be impeccably dressed. I by no means noticed him put on a bush shirt!”
Om was specifically touched when, throughout a rehearsal of Chekhov’s Three Sisters, the place he essayed the lead position of Vershanin, Alkazi stopped at a selected second and requested Om to repeat the scene. He then introduced to the category, “That is the second of reality in performing.”
And that was additionally the second of immense gratitude a scholar may have for his grasp. It’s certainly Ebrahim Alkazi who proved formative in making Om Puri the actor.
The author is an creator and chairperson of the Om Puri Basis. Parts of this piece have been extracted from Unlikely Hero: Om Puri by Nandita Puri, revealed by Roli Books.
From HT Brunch, August 9, 2020
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