Capturing Timeless Legacy: “Ebrahim Alkazi: Holding Time Captive”

The recently-released biography, “Ebrahim Alkazi: Holding Time Captive,” derives its evocative title from poignant words scribbled by Alkazi himself, the doyen of Indian theatre. Discovered on a scrap of paper that unexpectedly fell out of one of his notebooks on the day he passed away, these words reflect Alkazi’s contemplation on the fleeting nature of time and his desire to capture its essence.

Penned by biographer Amal Allana, daughter of Alkazi, the book opens with a profound reflection on the significance of these three words. Allana recounts the moment when her son, Rahaab, read aloud the shaky handwriting and incoherent ideas, sparking a realization of their profound meaning. The title encapsulates Alkazi’s desires, his love for life, and his relentless pursuit of artistic excellence.

From its ideal beginning, the biography delves into Alkazi’s expansive vision and monumental contributions to Indian theatre. Allana’s depiction of his sophisticated worldview is not only captivating but also fundamental to understanding his impact on Indian theatre and art.

The book stands out for its comprehensive coverage, encompassing virtually every aspect of Alkazi’s life: from private moments and experiences to challenges, interviews, and anecdotes. Allana paints a vivid portrait of Alkazi’s colorful life, infusing her narrative with warmth and radiance.

Born in Pune on October 18, 1925, Alkazi was one of nine siblings. While the rest of his family migrated to Pakistan in 1947, Alkazi chose to remain in India, setting the stage for his illustrious career in theatre.

A significant chapter of Alkazi’s life unfolds during his tenure as the longest-serving director of the National School of Drama (NSD), where he laid the foundation of India’s first professional theatre institution. Allana highlights Alkazi’s pivotal role in shaping the NSD and mentoring renowned figures such as Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, and Rohini Hattangadi.

Alkazi’s deep interest in the arts led to fruitful collaborations with visual and performance artists, exemplified by his close bond with Sultan Padamsee in Bombay. Through dialogues and exchanges of ideas, Alkazi left an indelible mark on Indian theatre, earning him the title of the “undisputed patriarch of Indian theatre” by celebrated actors like Sushma Seth.

In “Ebrahim Alkazi: Holding Time Captive,” Amal Allana pays tribute to her father’s timeless legacy, capturing the essence of a visionary who dared to hold time captive through his artistry and passion for life.


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