New Delhi: Veteran theatre director-actor Aamir Raza Husain, known for his larger-than-life outdoor stage productions, died here at the age of 66.
Husain was suffering from a heart-related ailment and passed away on Saturday, his son said.
“He was hospitalised for two days and had undergone heart surgery, but wasn’t able to recover. He passed away yesterday,” Husain’s son Ghulam Ali Abbas told PTI.
Having produced and acted in several plays, including over 91 productions and 1,000 plus performances with Stagedoor Theatre Company as its creative director, Husain was best known for stage spectacles such as “The Fifty Day War”, based on the 1999 Kargil War, and “The Legend of Ram”, inspired by the Hindu epic Ramayana.
He also appeared in the English film “Kim” (1984), based on Rudyard Kipling’s novel of the same name, which starred Peter O’ Toole in the lead, and the 2014 Bollywood movie “Khoobsurat”, featuring Sonam Kapoor Ahuja and Pakistani actor Fawad Khan.
While “The Legend of Ram”, first staged in 1994, created waves with its multiple outdoor sets spread over 3 acres and a 100-member crew, “The Fifty Day War” went a step further — featuring 140 actors, including Indian Army personnel, sets that move on rails, a life-sized helicopter exploding and a revolving platform taking an audience of 660-plus from one scene to another.
Theatre director Feisal Alkazi, son of the late theatre doyen Ebrahim Alkazi, remembered Husain as “a wonderful director” who could visualise in a different way.
“He would do things on a grand scale. Perhaps the comparison can be with Feroz Khan’s production which is ‘Mughal-E-Azam: The Musical’ which has gone abroad. So, he would visualise things in a very different kind of way. He had enough drive and ambition to find funds and the backing,” Alkazi told PTI.
Hailing from an aristocratic Awadhi family of Lucknow, Husain was born in 1957 and was sent to Ajmer’s Mayo College at the age 10 in 1968.
After finishing his schooling, he went on to study history at St Stephen’s College, New Delhi, where he acted in various plays, rubbing shoulders with noted directors such as Joy Michael, Barry John, and Marcus Murch.
Husain was honoured with Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in India, in 2001 for his immense contribution to theatre.
In 2010, the Delhi-based thespian revived his production “Move Over”, first staged at the official farewell function of President Shankar Dayal Sharma in 1997.
It was staged in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata and several cities across India.
Several noted personalities took to social media to mourn the death of the eminent theatre personality.
“Aarya” actor Vikas Kumar took to Instagram to pay homage to “one of my theatre gurus”.
He played multiple roles in Husain’s “The Fifty Day War” and “The Legend of Ram”.
“Thank you, Aamir, for all the entertainment, for all the opportunities, for all the learnings. Alas, my wish to be directed by you in one of your comedies will stay unfulfilled,” Kumar wrote in a heartfelt tribute.
Notably, Husain once served as vice president of Delhi BJP.
He resigned from the post in July 2013 after his statement against the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi anguished the party leadership.
Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, who was also Husain’s senior at St Stephen College, remembered him as a “larger-than-life” personality and recalled the time when he directed the “theatre giant” in an adaptation of the court-martial scene from American author Joseph Heller’s classic play “Catch 22” .
“I met him at St Stephen’s College when, as a talented fresher, he was cast in “Antony & Cleopatra”. I then directed him in an adaptation of the court-martial scene from “Catch 22″ in a one-act play competition. Decades later I had the pleasure of meeting him again as a theatre giant & watching a couple of his plays. His passion & commitment defined him. He was larger than life, & today it seems life could not contain him & all that he offered it,” Tharoor wrote in a tweet.
Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav too condoled Husain’s demise.
“He was a true icon of Indian culture and his contributions to the world of theatre will be remembered for generations to come. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends during this difficult time,” he tweeted.
Husain is survived by wife-actor Viraat Talwar, and their two children Kaniz Sukaina and Ghulam Ali Abbas.