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Dramatic revival

The Qadir Ali Baig Theatre Foundation promises a resurgence of meaningful theatre.



Mohammed Ali Baig and Vani Ganapathy at the launch of the foundation. - Photo: Mohd. Yousuf

THERE HAS long been a lull in the theatre scene in Hyderabad. A few like-minded people headed by advertising wiz, Mohammad Ali Baig, decided to change the status quo with the Qadir Ali Baig Theatre Foundation.

Describing the Foundation as "a serious attempt at revival," Baig, who is the president, said people from different artistic disciplines have been bought on board including danseuse Vani Ganapathy, artistes Rohini Hattangadi, Suhasini Mani Ratnam and Urmila Matondkar, lyricist Javed Akhtar and director M. S. Sathyu. Named after Baig's father, Qader Ali, who was a doyen of Hindustani theatre, the Foundation in the words of Sathyu, would "not only stage plays but also impart basic training in all aspects of theatre so that young talent gets nurtured."

Between 1970 and 1984, Qader Ali strode the Hyderabad theatre scene like a colossus. His historical pageants were eye-popping.

He formed the New Theatre of Hyderabad (NTH) in 1970 and enthralled with plays like "Sakharam Binder," "Adhey Adhoore," "Khamosh Adalat Jaari Hai" and "Kehron Ke Rajhans."

His period plays were mind-boggling spectacles where sets and props recreated the magnificence of the Mughal and the Asif Jahi eras in performances like "Quli Qutb Shah," "Tana Shah," "Mahboob-e-Deccan" and "Kohinoor ka Lutera."

Close to reality

Once he even took the audience to the Golconda Fort and staged a play there! Qadir Ali passed away in his prime at 48 on June 3, 1984.

Begum Razia Qadir Ali Baig, wife of Qadir Ali, is the chairperson of the foundation while Sathyu is the national director and Lakshmi Devi Raj is the regional director.

A series of popular plays would be staged including Rohini Hattangady's "Aparajita," Sathyu's "Andhi Galli" (an adaptation of "Blind Alley"), Qadir Ali's "Resham ki Dor," a historical based on the love between the Mughal emperor Humayun and the Rajput queen Karmavathi and Shabana Azmi's "Meri Awaaz Suno."

Explaining the need to import plays, Baig commented that by "staging these plays we hope to get people to the theatre. Otherwise it is the classic chicken and egg syndrome - performers say there are no audience and the audience say there are no performances."



Qadir Ali Baig strode the Hindustani theatre scene like a colossus.

Vani Ganapathy spoke of the importance of patronage. "Now corporates prefer to put money into sports and popular events like Bollywood or fashion shows - things that are popular."

"What we artistes have to do is to tailor our presentations to suit the modern audience. Now nobody has time to sit through a two-hour long performance. So it would be perfect if the presentations are shorter and crisper."

"We should look at performing on weekdays as well as in the weekends we have to compete with all the popular entertainment options."

Rohini Hattangady whose "Aparajita" kicks off the revival says, "I am eagerly waiting to enthral Hyderabadi audiences" and we of course are waiting to be enthralled!

MINI ANTHIKAD-CHHIBBER

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