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Early Master

His First Intaglios

Ebrahim Alkazi was an artist before becoming a theatre director of genius. An exhibition of early canvases show the confidence, sureness of touch and ambition of a major talent.

His First Intaglios
From The Archive | Image Courtesy: Art Heritage
His First Intaglios
outlookindia.com
2019-11-01T12:48:49+05:30

“What art lost, theatre gained.” This is the epigrammatic manner in which I first heard, as a teenager, of Ebrahim Alkazi’s paintings and drawings. The assessment came from my mentor, the poet and art critic Nissim Ezekiel, one of Alkazi’s closest friends from the late 1940s to the mid-1960s. The two men remained in touch, although one would migrate to Delhi and transform the National School of Drama into a powerhouse of creativity in theatre, while the other would anchor himself in Mumbai and sustain a vibrant ethos for poetry around the PEN All-India Centre.

To most people, Alkazi—who turned 94 on October 18—is a foundational figure of postcolonial Indian theatre, a mentor to several generations of actors on stage and screen. The art world knows him as a champion of Indian modernism. A serial institution-builder, he founded, co-founded or transfigured the Theatre Group, the Theatre Unit, the National School of Drama, Art Heritage, Sepia International, and the Alkazi Foundation for the Arts. These achievements have, however, eclipsed the fact that Alkazi was a visual artist in his own right. Visitor after visitor to Opening Lines, the exhibition of his works from 1948 to 1971, which I have curated at Art Heritage and the Shridharani Gallery, New Delhi, has much the same look of amazement and the same response: “I had no idea he was a painter.”

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