14 May , 2014
Love Of The Arts: From Mumbai To Kuwait!
Director and writer Arif Kazi (left), and Kuwaiti local TV star Dawood Hussein (right)
Director and writer Arif Kazi
A few years ago, when I started my TV program “The Other,” which hosts non-Arab cultural figures to be introduced to an Arab audience, I met Mr. Arif Kazi for the first time. A mutual friend suggested him to be my guest for our new episode. Mr. Arif Kazi is the director of Fankaar Arts, a theater company that produces Hindi plays. Arif has written and directed 28 plays for the theater. He has a few upcoming projects as well and still believes as he did from the start that “stage is his life and is the mother of all.” He is from Ratnagiri, Maharashtra state, India, and settled down in Mumbai, but was born in Saudi Arabia.
When he was in the 12th grade, he had the opportunity to meet his mentors Kader Khan, Shafiq Emandar and Mustaq Merchant — great theater personalities. He completed his BSc from Bombay University. In his first year of college, he met Mahmood Sahab and became very close. He also acted with him in a few movies like Kuwara Baap, Ek baap Cheh bête and Junior Johnny.
A Fankaar Arts show
“Every person on earth is an actor”
During his course, he joined the Doordarshan in 1978. There he shared acting space with personalities like T.P. Jain and Sudha Chopra. After completing his BSc, he came to Kuwait and got a job at Kuwait International Company. In 1985, he started Fankaar Arts. He trains artists, writes plays and directs them.
After recording our interview, he invited me to attend an annual performance of the group, which was attended by the chief guest, H.E. Ambassador of India. The local TV star, Dawood Hussein, is a regular guest of honor in all shows and then, with the huge presence of Hindi families I felt I was in India, not Kuwait.
The members of Fankaar Arts were keen to show Mr. Arif Kazi’s belief that every person on this earth is an actor and God is our mega audience. God sees how we act in this world, and the director is trying to send out positive messages through his plays from which people can learn something.
The group is well known in local Indian schools in Kuwait. It has performed several plays. The most recent one was staged at Salmiya Indian Model School auditorium near where I live in the district of Salmiya. Its super hit play “Phir bhi Mumbai Meri Jaan,” along with dance and singing performances enthralled audiences and gave them a variety of entertainment.
In times of “mega” events, the comedian Fankaar Arts needs to make sure that audiences get more than they expect to satisfy them. The audiences here are great, he says, and we feel they are touched by feelings of patriotism and memories of their motherland, probably because they are missing these elements in their life living away from their country. We found that people were moved when we play to emotional lyrics such as “Kal khel mein hum ho na ho” and so on, he continued to explain. Starting with humorous scenes that leave audiences in splits of laughter, the play transforms into depicting some actual tragic incidents that have occurred in Mumbai like the riots, terror incidents, hate crimes, and eventually ends by giving out strong social messages of peace and harmony, which has always been the real spirit of Mumbai.
Fankaar Arts plays are staged in Kuwait, and cater to a particularly community. In all years of directing and writing, Mr. Arif Kazi had only one challenge that he had faced. It was when Hasan Sadat Sahab of Pakistan, a friend of mine, wrote a script on the partition between India and Pakistan. This short script was called “Hum Panchi ek daal ke.” In this film it was shown how a partition could be made in everything from things to people, but they only could not separate the mad people from the mental asylum. The play received quite a bit of success, but Arif faced some problems due to the sensitive nature of the subject between communities. It would be great if art was perceived for what it is, instead of being given political colors.
Mr. Arif Kazi (second from the right) with the members of Fankaar Arts
Influence of films expanding
Among the emerging trends in the theatres, from his experience, Mr. Arif thinks there is a big influence of films that are being played in the theaters. For example, if we take the theater scene in India, Marathi and Gujarati theaters were at the forefront for some time. However, recently Hindi theaters are catching up and setting a new trend. This he thinks is definitely due to the Bollywood industry, which churns out hundreds of films every year, impacting art and style in a big way in all areas of society and life, including politics.
Television is also full of reality shows and serials in Hindi, he adds. Because of this overriding Hindi influence, other theaters have taken a backseat and are not making much of a stir in terms of trends. On his upcoming projects in the Fankaar Arts Studio, he mentions the title “Biwi Jawan Miya Pareshan” for which he is auditioning for actors. This play will also be promoted in Qatar and Dubai once it is done. Another one of his projects is “Budha Chalo hai” in which he shows how older people, especially those who are 40 years and above, feel they are much younger and try to act that way.
Mr. Arif criticizes actors nowadays who mouth vulgarity on stages and focus on drawing crowds. He says: “Such plays are not written for the purpose of social change, and there’s hardly any message in them. As long as you have rigged up a script to whet the appetite of the people, such as risqué dialogues, slapstick comedy and so forth, it’s good to go. It is this trend that Fankaar Arts is trying to break. In that sense we are trying to break a new path. Especially, there is a play called ‘Hum Zinda Hai’, a social drama on the people who live on the streets. We were happy to see our audience shedding tears in the gallery every time Fankaar Arts actors trod the boards. This shows how plays too influence the people who come to see them.”
From time to time, Mr. Arif showed me his photo gallery as an actor and a director. He could embody all characters just as seen during directing. His favorite comedy is called “Phir bhi Mumbai Meri Jaan,” a play about the hard realities one faces in the city of Mumbai. He recalls the days of his beloved city:
“Mumbai is a melting pot of diversity. It is the financial capital of India, but also a place rocked by religious riots, bomb blasts, floods, riches, films and so on. And there was this play called ‘Biwi Jawan Miya Pareshan,’ which is also a comedy, and a favorite of mine. In this play, I make people laugh a lot but in the end we also pack a positive message.”
Arif made first Bollywood film shot in Kuwait
Arif has also made a film shot entirely in Kuwait. The film was titled Kahin na Kahin Milenge starring Shakti Kapoor, Raza Khan, Manisha Kilkar and Arif Kazi himself and the first Bollywood film shot entirely in Kuwait. The film is based on a well-crafted story about the friendly relations between India and Kuwait presented in the form of a father and daughter relationship. Indian Ambassador Shri Ajay Malhotra said that it is satisfying that the producer and director of this film felt that the ties between India and Kuwait were a subject eminently worthy of devoting an entire feature film to.
He added that Indians have been in Kuwait for many, many decades, and have participated in its development and made Kuwait their home away from home. It is this laudable aspect that has inspired the film. Kahin na Kahin Milenge showcases several of the famous landmarks and attractions of Kuwait, bringing them to the notice of a larger world audience. The Indian man in the film, who worked for decades in Kuwait, discovered that his own daughter did not want to go back home to India, as she was born, grew up and studied in Kuwait, and considered the country her home.
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