As we stepped into the premises of the Kids Central school in Kotturpuram and entered the practising arena, we were completely bowled over by how an animated Feisal Alkazi explains a certain scene to a bunch of children, all listening to it with rapt attention. He was narrating to them how a prince and a princess flee from their homes on the eve of their wedding because their fathers are feuding due to the schemes of an ambitious guru. On a dangerous forest journey, the princess loses her amazing performing monkey, Zmarti, and is kidnapped by Gumba, a cloddish thief. After numerous chases and mistaken identities, there is a happy reunion with family and a surprise coronation! The script focuses on gender issues, individual independence and the relation between man and animal. The play called The Princess Who Became King, also has subtle messages of accepting who you really are. It is a part of the series of plays directed by Feisal Alkazi for the third edition of Kadhai Carnival.
Having extensively worked in the area of children’s theatre, regularly directing for schools across India, he said he loves working with children. “I have often been asked about how I deal with children, especially since they are moody. But I actually find it a lot of fun. You sit with these brilliant kids, narrate to them a particular scene and you should see their enthusiasm. It is interesting how these children often share their ideas about how a particular scene can be performed or add a certain improvisation to it. I like them to re-construct scripts till they’re more true to the individual situation. It is thrilling to work with them and of course, I also have another agenda while working with them,” said the theatre veteran. He shared how the sights and sounds of the past are vanishing rapidly and kids these days do not have access to things which were intrinsic part of our indigenous culture. “For instance, I remember how we woke up to the cries of the hawker back in the days. But nowadays, it is a rarity as most of us live in gated communities or societies that obviously do not allow them. While kids know about all Disney characters and superheroes, they are completely unaware of local folk tales like Panchatantra. Through theatre, I also intend to create awareness about the vast treasure trove that exists in the indigenous culture. I also like to use Indian colours, Indian fabrics bought on the road for my productions. My combinations are Indian yellow, Indian red,” he explained.
Apart from being a theatre and television director, he is also the author of popular books for children, such as The Danger Within: An Activity Book On Occupational Health Hazard, Naina’s Vil lage, The Raindrop and Chilka Lake Ad venture, among others. His theatre work ties his pursuits as an educationist, counsellor, trainer and a costume designer.
Son of legendary theatre director Ebrahim Alkazi, he has over the past 40 years carved out a niche for himself in Indian theatre with over 200 plays he has directed. His most notable productions include Strindberg’s The Father, Dorfman’s The Women, Kurosawa’s Rashomon, Marsha Norman’s Night Mother, Goldemberg’s Letter’s Home, Dario Fo’s FemaleParts, Mohan Rakesh’s Aashad Ka Ek Din and Lehron ke Raj Hans, Mahaswata Devi’s Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Ma, Elkunchwar’s Rakt Pushp, Vijay Dan Detha’s Odhni, Jaywant Dalvi’s Rishte Naate and works by several other Indian playwrights.
“Theatre for me is a medium to grow personally. It helps me in showcasing my creativity and imagination on a platform. One gets to express something of their own world. It is almost therapeutic for me. And since I work with children mostly these days and expose them to a lot of indigenous stories and culture, it helps me connect with the past, something I truly cherish,” he added.
For somebody who has worked on so many plays through the years, how does he find the theatre scene in the country now? “It is terrific. There are new voices coming up every year. New things are being tried regularly onstage and so many nuances being explored. It is a great time to be part of theatre,” he said.