A stage of her own

A stage of her own

DH PIC BY DINESH S K

Aliyeh Rizvi, (39), has rarely walked the trodden path and is a storehouse of experience in diverse fields like advertising, designing stores and brand communication. She has been a director with Bangalore Little Theatre for 10 years and holds a Masters degree in Film Studies.

It was her interest in Indian crafts that got her involved with the non-profit sector in Bangalore. She says, “During the 90s, this sector was disorganised in terms of design inputs and presenting products to a contemporary market. I felt the need to connect the loose ends.” She travelled across the country and continued to work in the sector for a few more years. “The job  required building on an identity and playing it across space, product, publicity material and promotions to unite everything cohesively,”  adds Aliyeh.

In the late 1990s, she went on to work with Zanav Home Furnishings in Koramangala, a design studio and retail store. The store introduced the concept of minimalism to Bangalore. People hadn’t seen anything like it before so they would ask, “Are you running out of stock?” and she would say, “No it is meant to be just one vase on that shelf.” Her boss/mentor Ravi Khemka taught her how retail is about people and that no professional institute could spoonfeed a newcomer.

Aliyeh recalls her stint with 100ft, the Mediterranean restaurant quite fondly. At that point of time, they had a concept termed ‘Eat and Shop,’ which was logistically difficult. She worked on the re-launch and changed the look to focus on living spaces with systematic relocation of the products.

Aliyeh considers her work to be “lateral”, not “vertical”. Her experience of working in stores inspired her to be an entrepreneur herself. “I started ‘Native Place’, a small Bohemian and hippie store in Koramangala and then in the Only Place. Today I have a lot of angry customers who demand to know why I have shut it down.”

Her store had a product range which had a traditional root but contemporary and quirky look. “I designed the products myself using the fusion of Indian fabric and a western look. But, due to recession, we could not move on with the store,” says Aliyeh .

She has also been associated with the Bangalore Little Theatre (BLT) for over 10 years now. She took part in the yearly workshop of BLT which trains one to become a director. The themes are based on folk story-telling traditions. They have done a lot of children’s productions like Magic Drum, Panchatantra, Ali Baba in the last three years.

On the making of Tenali Rama, her latest production for BLT, she says, “Most of the artists have never performed earlier but the performance should be such that the audience does not know about it. We got an overwhelming response as we ran five full houses in Ranga Shankara.”

Personally, she adores physical theatre for its vigorous movements and the use of  physical stamina. The awareness of the body and using it in an expressive way always fascinated her.

As a woman who has played   multiple roles, Aliyeh considers herself lucky to be in a free-thinking, emancipated, forward-looking zone. “While directing, it helped being a woman as you understand the concepts from different points of view. I had to deal with a lot of manipulation and scheming as a woman which I could see through and had to crack the whip,” adds Aliyeh.

 She also faced challenges along her journey as a woman,  to which she says, “I tried hard  not to burst into tears when I got angry while directing plays. During my advertising stint, I would go to meetings with my boss and make presentations and the questions would be directed at him and not me.”

Aliyeh plans to do a project based on Mahashweta Devi’s work Till Death Do Us Part which has been retitled as 5 Women. The story takes place against the backdrop of a railway station where the lives of five women are played out.

Aliyeh signs off saying, “50 years from now I would like to be remembered as somebody who did something meaningful in life. I would be comfortable giving rather than taking.” 

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