Early architects of Delhi’s theatre circuit
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Early architects of Delhi’s theatre circuit

Delhi’s culture helped it to become a hub for theatre

Early architects of Delhi’s theatre circuit

Theatre has always proliferated in Delhi because of its strong cultural presence. Later with the establishment of the National School of Drama by the Sangeet Natak Academy in 1959, the movement gained momentum.

Actress, theatre teacher, and NSD alumni, Geetanjali Kulkarni defines the institute as a culture in itself. Plays by Ebrahim Alkazi and Barry John were being revisited, new auditoriums were being launched and young theatre groups of the time staged their productions.

Here are some of the early architects of Delhi's theater circuit:

Ebrahim Alkazi

Credit: National Herald

After refusing several offers post his degree from Royal Academy for Dramatic Arts, Ebrahim Alkazi came back to Mumbai to pursue a different kind of theatre. He joined the National School of Drama in 1962 as the director. Alkazi not only expanded the syllabus but also had the students dig and build platforms for a theatre in the backyard of a rented Kailash Colony house, where NSD had moved. He also designed two theatres for NSD, including a 200-seat studio theatre, and the open-air Meghdoot theatre, under a banyan tree. He was also a member of the
Progressive Artists' Group (PAG).

In a lifetime of 94 years, Alkazi has trained actors such as Naseeruddin Shah, Anupam Kher and Satish Kaushik; and directed critically acclaimed plays such as Dharamvir Bharati’s Andha Yug (published in 1953), Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot (1952), Mohan Rakesh’s Ashadh ka Ek Din (1958) and Karnad’s Tughlaq (1964), the last of which is generally considered Alkazi fine.

Ram Gopal Bajaj

Credit: clapnumber

Ram Gopal Bajaj is a Hindi film actor, diretor and teacher. After a specialisation degree in acting from NSD in 1965, Bajaj became a faculty member and finally, director where he honed his theories on theatre education. Since his initial breakthrough, Bajaj has gone on to act in 36 plays and direct 45 productions.

He has directed numerous plays with the National School of Drama, starting with Surya Ki Antim Kiran Se, Surya Ki Pehli Kiran Tak in 1974, Jai Shankar Prasad’s Skand Gupta in 1977, followed by Quaid-E-Hayat in 1989. His other noted production was Ashadh Ka Ek Din by Mohan Rakesh in
1992. He translated Girish Karnad's Rakt Kalyan (Taledanda) into Hindi, first directed by Ebrahim Alkazi for NSD and then by Arvind Gaur (1995) for Asmita Theater

Barry John

Credit: HT

Barry John is a Britain born, Indian director and writer. He was the founding member of 'Theatre Action Group' (TAG) in 1973. The group performed various forms of drama till 1977 when he joined as a faculty of the National School of Drama, Delhi, and later became the Founder-Director of the NSD's Theatre in Education Company (TIE)(1989). He has been conducting theatre workshops ever since and in 1997, opened the 'Imago Acting School' in Delhi.

In the three decades in Delhi with Theatre Action Group,  he has taught a legion of actors like Shah Rukh Khan, Manoj Bajpai, Mira Nair, Pamella Rooks, and Liliette Dubey. He also appeared in a few films, like Satyajit Ray's Shatranj Ke Khilari (The Chess Players) (1977), Richard Attenborough's Gandhi (1982), Massey Sahib (1985). He also acted in several of his own productions, as well as that other director, including Roysten Abel's Othello, a play in Black and White.

NK Sharma: N.K. Sharma is an Indian theatre director and acting teacher. After being a government employee, he founded a theatre group Act One in 1990 with Manoj Bajpayee. Among the notable members of Act One were Piyush Mishra and Swanand Kirkire. They wrote, acted, and staged many plays in Delhi during the 1900s. In his career, NK Sharma has groomed Shoojit Sircar, Huma Qureshi and Deepak Dobriyal among others.

Saeed Alam

Credit: Twitter

Described as “a pioneer of unconventional and fresh theatre in India,” Saeed Alam is the founder of Pierrot’s Troupe theatre group in Delhi. Pierrot's troupe has performed more than 2000 plays touring throughout India and has staged its dramas in the USA, Dubai and UK. Their productions have included Indian theatre, cinema, and television actors including Tom Alter, Rakesh Bedi, Saleem Shah, Simple Kaul, Uday Chandra, Chander Khanna, and Hareesh Chhabra. The group has staged several original successful plays including “Ghalib in New Delhi,” “Big B,| “Maulana Azad” and “Sons of Babur” among others.

In the aftermath of the pandemic, there remain challenges to see a stage full of actors in Delhi once again.