THE SANGEET Natak Akademi’s move to rename its Meghdoot theatre after former National School of Drama chief Ebrahim Alkazi has sparked a stir with the Culture Ministry seeking an internal report on the decision, sources told The Indian Express. The Akademi is holding a function on Wednesday to mark the renaming with Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan as the chief guest. While Mahajan confirmed her participation, the akademi’s chairperson Shekhar Sen said one of the sample invitations for the function “got leaked” and its wording “has been misinterpreted by people”.
The “leaked” invitation stated: “Shekhar Sen takes pleasure in inviting you to the dedication ceremony of Meghdoot theatre complex as Alkazi Rangpeeth complex.” A revised invitation letter, issued later, said: “Shekhar Sen takes pleasure in inviting you to the naming ceremony of Meghdoot open theatre performance space as E. Alkazi Rangpeeth.”
Speaking to The Indian Express, Sen said, “We cannot change the name that was given to the theatre by Alkazi sahab himself. The akademi had called for several invitation samples and one of them got leaked, which has been misinterpreted by people.”
Sen said, “We are naming the whole complex as a peeth, which is a seat of learning. The four theatres we have are still called Meghdoot. The complex will be called E Alkazi rangpeeth. This is a tribute to the man who established the National School of Drama and gave impetus to theatre. The effort is to show respect and commemorate his contribution to theatre.”
The function on Wednesday will also see the screening of a short film and an exhibition on Alkazi.The Akademi, which comes under the purview of the Culture Ministry, was established as an autonomous institution in 1952 and its executive council is empowered to take such decisions without consulting the ministry, even though it is fully funded by the government.
Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma, who is in Lucknow for a BJP meeting, refused to comment on the issue. But sources in the ministry said that an internal report has been sought on the matter, and “once it comes, some action could be taken”. A BJP leader, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, “At a time we are trying to reclaim our ancient Hindu legacy from the Britishers and the Mughal rulers, this is like a step back. Is Alkazi bigger than Kalidasa?”
The renaming has also sparked a debate on social media. Historian D K Hari tweeted: “Why is the name of #Meghdoot of #MahaKaviKalidas being changed to Ebrahim in Delhi by #SangeetNatakAcademy.” However, the akademi’s move has received support from Sanskar Bharti, a cultural affiliate of the RSS.
”Alkazi himself had named the theatre as Meghdoot. His personality should be celebrated, otherwise that would be unfortunate,” said Amir Chand, a senior office-bearer of Sanskar Bharti.
”Alkazi knew that English cannot be the only language of art as Delhi is an amalgamation of cultures. He learnt Sanskrit first and then Hindi and decided to make NSD a place of excellence,” said Atul Tiwari, an executive board member of the akademi.