Alkazi: Saudi-Indian theater icon star attraction at Dammam fest

Updated 18 February 2015

Alkazi: Saudi-Indian theater icon star attraction at Dammam fest

It is a classic case of believe it or not. Ebrahim Alkazi, the celebrated Indian theater director, has his roots in Unaiza in Qassim.
Alkazi’s businessman father, Hamad, came from Saudi Arabia and did business in India in the 1960s and 1970s. That was before the oil boom changed the face of Saudi Arabia.
Alkazi, now 90, went to St. Vincent’s High School in Pune and St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai. He went to London for training at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
On Feb. 20, when Alkazi will be honored at the 2nd Saudi Film Festival in Dammam, it will be like a homecoming for the prodigal son.
“We want to honor pioneers in the field of theater,” said Ahmed Al-Mulla, director general of the festival. “And Alkazi is top on that list.”
Alkazi has played the role of a bridge between Indian and Arab cultures. “We consider him as a treasure and a maker of history. We want to present him as a role model to our Saudi youth,” said Al-Mulla.
He said a documentary on Alkazi will be screened during the opening ceremony, and a book is also being published illustrating his remarkable life and achievements.
Early on in his career, Alkazi got associated with the Bombay Progressive Artists Group, which included M.F. Husain, F.N. Souza, S.H. Raza, Akbar Padamsee, Tyeb Mehta, artists who were later to paint from his plays and design his sets.
As the director of the prestigious National School of Drama, Alkazi revolutionized Indian theater by the magnificence of his vision, and the meticulousness of his technical discipline. He trained many well-known film and theater actors and directors, including Om Puri, Naseeruddin Shah and Rohini Hattangadi. He also founded Art Heritage Gallery in Delhi.
Alkazi’s father spent his life trading between Pakistan, India, Turkey, Kuwait and Lebanon. He settled for some time in India, when his son Ebrahim was born in 1925 in Pune.
His daughter Amaal and son Faisal are also associated with theater.
Alkazi speaks highly about his father and takes immense pride in his Saudi roots and considers his early days in Pune as “the richest moments in my life.”


Solid gold toilet stolen from English stately home

Updated 14 September 2019

Solid gold toilet stolen from English stately home

  • Toilet was created by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan and estimated to be worth around £1 million
  • A 66-year-old man was arrested following the burglary at Blenheim Palace

LONDON: A gang of thieves on Saturday stole an 18-carat gold toilet from Britain’s Blenheim Palace, police said, causing flooding that damaged the world-famous stately home.
The fully-functioning toilet, dubbed “America,” was created by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan and estimated to be worth around £1 million.
A 66-year-old man was arrested following the burglary, which took place before dawn at the 18th-century estate near Oxford, southern England.
The toilet was one of the star attractions in an exhibition of Cattelan’s works that opened on Thursday at the palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Visitors were able to book time slots to use it — but only for three minutes each, to limit the queues.
More than 100,000 people used the loo during the year it was on display at New York’s Guggenheim Museum.
“The offenders broke into the palace overnight and left the scene at about 4.50am (0350 GMT). No-one was injured during the burglary,” police said in a statement.
Detective Inspector Jess Milne of Thames Valley Police said she believed “a group of offenders used at least two vehicles” — and left a mess behind them.
“The piece of art that has been stolen is a high-value toilet made out of gold that was on display at the palace,” she said.
“Due to the toilet being plumbed into the building, this has caused significant damage and flooding.”
Blenheim Palace said it was “saddened by this extraordinary event, but also relieved no-one was hurt.”
It closed on Saturday but said it would reopen on Sunday.

The palace is home to the 12th duke of Marlborough and his family, and was also the birthplace of British wartime leader Winston Churchill.
The duke’s brother, Edward Spencer-Churchill, who founded the Blenheim Art Foundation, said last month he was relaxed about security around the gold toilet.
“It’s not going to be the easiest thing to nick,” he told The Times newspaper.
“Firstly, it’s plumbed in and secondly, a potential thief will have no idea who last used the toilet or what they ate. So no, I don’t plan to be guarding it.”
He added: “Despite being born with a silver spoon in my mouth I have never had a shit on a golden toilet, so I look forward to it.”
Cattelan, who is known for his provocative art, has previously described the golden toilet as “one-percent art for the 99 percent.”
The Guggenheim had offered the loo on loan to US President Donald Trump, but he declined.
The Italian artist’s exhibition at Blenheim runs until October 27 and includes a taxidermied horse hoisted onto the ceiling of an ornate reception room.
Blenheim has previously hosted exhibitions of work by Ai WeiWei, Yves Klein, Jenny Holzer, Michelangelo Pistoletto and Lawrence Weiner.
Police said they were looking at CCTV footage to help them in the search for the gold toilet, adding that nothing else was believed to have been stolen.