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Stage, his world

Feroz Khan, the man behind path-breaking theatre productions, talks about his commitment to the stage



Feroz Khan: Sense and sensitivity. Pic. by N. Sridharan

FEROZ KHAN jolted us out of our lethargy with his power-packed play "Mahatma vs. Gandhi" a few years ago. The acclaimed theatre director and writer dared to humanise the Mahatma in this path-breaking production that portrayed the Father of the Nation's turbulent relationship with his eldest son Harilal Gandhi. The play ends on an emotional note — the man who touched the soul of the nation could not transform the troubled soul of his son.

"This play is the closest to my heart," said the suave and articulate Feroz speaking at the Duchess Club programme recently.

"It evoked mixed feelings. Some were amazed, others were annoyed, but the truth is, it has certainly been an arresting theatrical experience for all those who watched it."

"I direct plays that are true to my sensibility," he averred. Not surprising, the young director has been linked with thought-provoking and intellectually stimulating plays.

His latest "Kucch Bhi Ho Sakta Hai" [staged recently in the city], an account of Anupam Kher's life, narrated and enacted by the ace actor himself, is one more remarkable work for discerning theatre-lovers.

Going by his record — "All the Best", "Salesman Ramlal", "Tumhari Amrita", "Saalgirah", "Mahatma vs. Gandhi" and now "Kucch Bhi Ho Sakta Hai"— Feroz is far removed from stereotypes, and is also not the kind who likes to play it safe to draw a full house. Not just the story, script and direction, his quality-consciousness extends to choosing his actors too. So he has the best in the field, such as Shabana Azmi, Farooque Sheikh, Naseerudin Shah, Kiron Kher and Anupam Kher working with him. And we have heard most of them raving about his directorial skills.

"Every play is given a unique treatment, without complicating the grammar and tempo." The sets are just symbolic. There are neither frills nor relief sequences. "Once a story is chosen, it is important that it finds a wider relevance. For instance, plays such as `Mahatma vs. Gandhi' and `Tumhari Amrita' are relevant today, would have been so 20 years ago and will be so 20 years later," says this spokesman of modern theatre.

He continues, "For an average viewer, theatre is pretty much like films, but only the discerning know that you have magnified the gestures, movements and the articulation."

His date with drama began when he was in college. Next scene was the Prithvi Theatre [the second home for theatre activists], of which he became the first artistic director and along with the late Jennifer Kapoor pioneered the International Prithvi Theatre Festival in 1983, and steered it till 1992. "I couldn't have got a better guide and guru than Jennifer Kapoor."

Feroz sees stage as a research lab, where every serious actor should work to hone his skills. "In art parlance, it's like the riyaaz that vocalists do." Aesthetically satisfying, fine. But what about economics? Pat comes the reply, "You get what you give. Believe me, it's not difficult to get the audience if the work is superior." And the number of shows (sometimes more than 1,000) and the number of places that his productions have toured prove it.

Doesn't Bollywood beckon him? "Offers keep coming, but the stage is my world."

CHITRA SWAMINATHAN

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